Sample Appeal Letter for a College Rejection

'Rejected' written with a typewriter
David Gould / Getty Images

If you've been rejected from college, you often have the option of appeal. The letter below illustrates a possible approach for appealing a college rejection. Before you write, however, make sure you have a legitimate reason for appealing a rejection. In the majority of cases, an appeal is not warranted. If you do not have significant new information to report to a college, do not write an appeal. Also, check that the college accepts appeal letters before writing one. 

Features of a Successful Appeal Letter

  • Address your letter to your admissions representative.
  • Present a legitimate reason for appealing.
  • Be respectful and positive, not angry or whiny.
  • Keep your letter brief and to the point.

Sample Appeal Letter

Ms. Jane Gatekeeper
Director of Admissions
Ivy Tower College
Collegetown, USA
Dear Ms. Gatekeeper,
Although I was not surprised when I received a rejection letter from Ivy Tower College, I was extremely disappointed. I knew when I applied that my SAT scores from the November exam were below average for Ivy Tower. I also knew at the time of the SAT exam (because of illness) that my scores did not represent my true ability.
However, since I applied to Ivy Tower in January, I have retaken the SAT and improved my scores measurably. My math score went from a 570 to a 660, and my evidence-based reading and writing score increased a full 120 points. I have instructed the College Board to send these new scores to you.
I know Ivy Tower discourages appeals, but I hope you will accept these new scores and reconsider my application. I have also had the best quarter yet at my high school (a 4.0 GPA unweighted), and I have enclosed my most recent grade report for your consideration.
Again, I fully understand and respect your decision to deny me admission, but I hope you will reopen my file to consider this new information. I was tremendously impressed by Ivy Tower when I visited last fall, and it remains the school I would most like to attend.
Sincerely,
Joe Student

Discussion of the Appeal Letter

The first step in writing a letter of appeal is deciding if you have a legitimate reason for doing so. In Joe's case, he does. His SAT scores increased considerably—not just a few points—and his 4.0 GPA for the quarter is the icing on the cake.

Before writing a letter, Joe ensured that the college accepts appeals—many schools do not. There's a good reason for this—nearly all rejected students feel they have been treated unfairly or that the admissions staff failed to read their applications carefully. Many colleges simply don't want to deal with the flood of appeals they would receive if they allowed applicants to reargue their cases. In Joe's case, he learned that Ivy Tower College (obviously not the real name) does accept appeals, although the school discourages them.

Joe addressed his letter to the director of admissions at the college. If you have a contact in the admissions office—either the director or the representative for your geographic region—write to a specific person. If you don't have the name of an individual, address your letter with "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Admissions Personnel." An actual name, of course, sounds much better.

Avoid Whining

Note that Joe is not whining. Admissions officers hate whining, and it won't get you anywhere. Joe is not saying that his rejection was unfair, nor is he insisting that the admissions office made a mistake. He may think these things but doesn't include them in his letter. Instead, in both the opening and closing of his missive, Joe notes that he respects the decision of the admissions personnel.

Most important for an appeal, Joe does have a reason to make one. He tested poorly on the SAT initially, retook the exam, and increased his scores markedly. Note that Joe mentions that he was sick when he first took the important exam, but he is not using that as an excuse. An admissions officer is not going to reverse a decision simply because a student claims some kind of testing hardship. You need actual scores to show your potential, and Joe comes through with the new scores.

The Grade Report

Joe is wise to send along his most recent grade report. He is doing extremely well in school, and the admissions officers would want to see those strong grades. Joe is not slacking off during his senior year, and his grades are trending up, not down. He is certainly not revealing signs of senioritis, and he follows the tips for a strong appeal letter.

Note that Joe's letter is brief and to the point. He's not wasting the time of the admissions officers with a long, rambling letter. The college already has Joe's application, so he doesn't need to repeat that information in the appeal.

Joe's letter does three important things in a concise manner: He states his respect for the admissions decision, presents new information that is the basis for his appeal, and reaffirms his interest in the college. Were he to write anything else, he would be wasting his readers' time.

A Final Word About Joe's Appeal

It is important to be realistic about an appeal. Joe writes a good letter and has significantly better scores to report. However, he is likely to fail in his appeal. The appeal is certainly worth a try, but the majority of rejection appeals are not successful.