Tips for Appealing a College Rejection Decision

Be Sure to Follow These Tips When Appealing a College Rejection

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If you've been rejected from a college, there's a chance that you can and should appeal that rejection letter. In many cases, however, an appeal is really not appropriate and you should respect the college's decision. If you decide that you do want to attempt an appeal, be sure to consider the suggestions below. A poorly executed appeal is simply a waste of your time and the admissions office's time.

Should You Appeal Your Rejection?

It's important to begin this article with what is probably a discouraging reality check: In general, you shouldn't challenge a rejection letter. Decisions are nearly always final, and you are most likely wasting your time and the time of the admissions folks if you appeal. Before you decide to appeal, make sure that you have a legitimate reason to appeal a rejection. Being angry or frustrated or feeling like you were treated unfairly are not reasons to appeal.

If, however, you have significant new information that will strengthen your application, or you know of a clerical error that might have hurt your application, an appeal might be appropriate.

Tips for Appealing Your Rejection

  • First, try to find out why you were rejected. This can be done with a polite phone call or email message to your admissions representative. When contacting the admissions office, a little humility can be helpful. Don't challenge the admissions decision or suggest that the school made the wrong decision. You are simply trying to learn about any weaknesses the college found in your application.
  • If you find you were rejected for something that hasn't changed—grades, SAT scores, lack of depth in extracurricular activities—thank the admissions officer for his or her time, and move on. An appeal isn't going to be appropriate or helpful.
  • The admissions officers weren't wrong in their decision, even if you think they were. Suggesting they were wrong will simply make them defensive, make you appear arrogant, and hurt your cause.
  • If you are appealing because of an administrative error from your high school (grades reported incorrectly, a misdirected letter, miscalculated class rank, etc.), present the error in your letter, and accompany your letter with a letter from your high school counselor to legitimize your claim. Have your school send a new official transcript if appropriate.
  • If you have new information to share, make sure it is significant. If your SAT scores went up 10 points or your GPA climbed .04 points, don't bother appealing. If, on the other hand, you just had your best quarter ever in high school by far, or you got back SAT scores that were 120 points higher, this information is worth sharing. 
  • The same can be said for extracurricular activities and awards. A participation certificate for a spring soccer camp is not going to make the school reverse a rejection decision. Learning that you made the All-American team, however, is worth sharing. 
  • Always be polite and appreciative. Recognize that the admissions officers have a tough job, and that you realize how competitive the process is. At the same time, reaffirm your interest in the school and present your meaningful new information. 
  • An appeal letter need not be long. In fact, it is best to respect the busy schedules of the admissions folks and keep your letter brief and focused.

A Final Word on Appealing a College Rejection

These sample appeal letters can help guide you as you craft your own letter. You'll find examples of bad and good content for appeal letters. Use these samples wisely and make sure your letter is all your own. A plagiarized appeal letter is not going to make a college reverse its decision.

Again, be realistic when approaching an appeal. You are unlikely to be successful, and in most cases an appeal is not appropriate. Many schools don't even consider appeals. In some cases, however, an appeal can succeed when your credentials have changed measurably.

In cases of a significant procedural or clerical errors, it is worth talking with the admissions office about an appeal even if the school says it doesn't allow them. Most schools will give you a second look if you were hurt by a mistake made by your school or the college.