Appealing an Admissions Decision

There are no guarantees in the college admissions game.  Sadly, qualified candidates get rejected all the time.  Though most students usually accept their fates and move on, some applicants won't give up the dream.  And those individuals might look to appeal their decisions.  But is an appeal the right move?

While we understand the impetus, there are a few points to consider before rushing off to appeal.  To begin with, you must research the policy of the school in question.  Some institutions have specific protocols and/or parameters established for this process.  Other colleges might not allow for it at all.  Look up this information and then begin crafting your appeal immediately as this is not a decision that can linger.

Of course, you need to think carefully about the content of the appeal.  Simply writing (and believing) an admissions committee has made a grave mistake is not reason enough.  You don't want to write a letter that merely second-guesses the school's decision.  Universities put a lot of time and care into evaluating candidates; it's not prudent to suggest otherwise.

Additionally, you do not want to compare yourself to classmates who have received an acceptance letter and insinuate that you were actually the stronger applicant.  It makes you appear both bitter and petty (not attributes schools want to see in their student bodies).  Similarly, there's no need to highlight the fact that your rank, test scores, etc. fall within the mean for admitted students.  The college likely had to reject a number of applicants who fell within those same figures.  Plus it's a good rule of thumb to avoid reiterating information that was included with your original application.  After all, it won't really strengthen your argument.

However, there is reason to appeal if you've uncovered an error or an issue with your application.  Was it incomplete through no fault of your own?  Perhaps incorrect GPA calculations were sent in or the wrong SAT/ACT scores submitted?  While these are rarities, they do happen.  If the admissions office evaluated your candidacy based on erroneous information, it certainly makes sense to reach out.

You may also consider appealing if you have new, significant information that could boost your candidacy.  For example, perhaps you received remarkably improved test scores after the deadline.  Or maybe you just won a prestigious award or have begun conducting important research in the field you wish to pursue.  We can't guarantee that any of these will alter the decision, but they could be worth mentioning.

Regardless of your specific reasons for appealing, you want to be very careful with the tone of your letter.  Make sure you don't beg, whine or make excuses.  Be polite, direct and mature.  State your case in a friendly and thoughtful manner.  And, of course, be sure to proofread.  Typos won't do you any favors!

We do feel compelled to mention that it's rare to see an admissions decision reversed.  Sadly, the vast majority of the time, appeals don't work.  Of course, just because something is difficult or unlikely doesn't mean you shouldn't follow through.  But it is important to head into this process with realistic expectations.

Look - rejection is difficult.  However, as you already know, life will be full of ups and downs.  Getting turned away by your top choice isn't necessarily a commentary on who you are or your ability to find success, both in college and beyond.  If you choose to appeal a decision, that's fine.  But, we also urge you to begin looking closely at the schools to which you were accepted and to start getting excited about the opportunities they offer.  We assure you - they will be just as great!

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