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Which universities in the USA accept backlogs?

Amelia Carruthers
Last Updated: 27 October 2021 • 5 min read

America boasts some of the finest universities in the world.

American institutions consistently score highly within global rankings – known for their high academic standards, rigorous teaching quality and pastoral student support.

With a quality education, multicultural environment and abundant employment opportunities, it’s not hard to see why the USA is so popular with international students.

There are many factors impacting your chances of being accepted at an American university, but today we’re looking at the issue of backlogs. 

Many students believe that even having a single backlog means their hopes of studying abroad are over. But this isn’t so!

Today, we cover all the questions students might have about USA universities accepting backlogs. 

From how many backlogs are allowed in the USA to a list of US universities accepting backlogs and do backlogs affect your US visa?

Here’s everything you need to know…

USA universities accepting backlogs

  1. What are backlogs?
  2. Can you study abroad with backlogs?
  3. Do US universities accept backlogs?
  4. How many backlogs are allowed in the USA?
  5. How many backlogs are allowed for a MS in the USA?
  6. Universities accepting backlogs in the USA
  7. Do backlogs affect your US visa?

1. What are backlogs?

Backlogs are simply any exam that you haven’t been able to pass in your first attempt. No more, no less!

If you aren’t able to attend an exam due to sickness or accident (or any other valid reason), it’s essential to let your university know. This will mean that your exam will be marked as “absent” rather than a true backlog.

When you complete your studies, your institution will issue a backlog certificate. This is an important document that includes information on the number of backlogs you have, the number of attempts and whether backlogs are active or inactive.

If you don’t have any backlogs, you won’t automatically receive a backlog certificate. As part of the application process, some US universities may still ask for a backlog certificate however. 

So even if you don’t have any backlogs, it’s always a good idea to ask for a zero backlog certificate just in case.

2. Can you study abroad with backlogs?

The short answer? Yes, absolutely!

Backlogs don’t mean the end of your study abroad dreams. Many countries (not just the USA) accept backlogs, including the UK, Australia, Canada, Germany and New Zealand (we've even written a specific guide for studying in Canada with backlogs). 

We’ve already compiled a list of all the universities in the UK that accept backlogs, so if you’re debating between studying in the US or the UK – check this out.

As a word of caution, it’s important to try and clear any active backlogs (i.e. exams you haven’t passed). This is especially the case if you have backlogs on modules closely related to your next course.

3. Do US universities accept backlogs?

You’ll be getting the picture by now – but again, yes – absolutely!

Most American universities prefer students without backlogs, but there are many institutions that accept students with backlogs on their records. 

We’ll take a look at specific universities accepting backlogs later. First, let’s explore the number of backlogs accepted in the USA…

4. How many backlogs are allowed in the USA?

As universities in the USA are reasonably competitive, most top universities don’t give preference to applicants with backlogs.

Despite this, there are universities accepting backlogs in the USA. There are several institutions that accept 0-5 backlogs. In cases of 5 or more backlogs, admission is entirely at the discretion of the university admissions team. 15 is generally the maximum number of backlogs accepted in the USA.

When counting backlogs, remember that American universities count the number of subjects as the number of backlogs. The number of attempts to pass exams can also play a role when assessing your application.

Universities also take overall Grade Point Averages (GPA), extra-curricular activities and Graduate Record Examination scores (GRE) into account. So if you have a high number of backlogs – you should look at improving your scores and application elsewhere. 

5. How many backlogs are allowed for a MS in the USA?

Many students ask if there are specific backlog requirements for studying a masters degree (as opposed to other postgraduate options) in the USA.

Masters degrees in the USA are similar to those in other countries. Backlog rules are consistent no matter what type of degree you’re applying to. 

There are universities that accept up to 5, 10 or even 15 backlogs for a MS. As before, remember that a great GPA or GRE score will heighten your chances of acceptance.

6. Universities accepting backlogs in the USA

If you’re ready to get started with applications, here’s a list of US universities accepting backlogs. 

USA universities accepting backlogs: 0-5

There are several US institutions welcoming students with up to five backlogs. These include:

USA universities accepting backlogs: 5-10

Universities accepting students with up to ten backlogs include:

  • California State University, San Bernardino
  • Clark University, Massachusetts
  • Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago
  • Missouri State University, Springfield
  • New York Institute of Technology, Old Westbury
  • Pace University, New York
  • University of South Dakota, Vermillion

USA universities accepting backlogs: 10-15

Whilst fifteen is the maximum number of backlogs to be considered for a US university, there are some universities that consider applicants with up to fifteen backlogs. These include: 

  • California Lutheran University
  • Golden Gate University, California
  • Old Dominion University, Virginia
  • Pittsburg State University, Kansas
  • Rowan University, New Jersey

7. Do backlogs affect your US visa?

 As a final consideration, many students ask whether backlogs affect their student visa applications. The good news is that backlogs do not impact your US visa application!

 US student visas are awarded solely on the basis that you are a genuine student, accepted for study at a US educational institution. So if you have received an unconditional offer to study, backlogs should not impact this.

 If you’re currently preparing for your US student visa interview (backlogs or no backlogs), take a look at our USA student visa interview tips and advice.

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Amelia Carruthers
Written By
Amelia Carruthers

With a background in academic publishing, education and digital marketing, Amelia Carruthers is a freelance writer with a love of history, philosophy and the written word.

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