Dismissed from College? Tips for an In-Person Appeal

If Allowed to Appeal Your Dismissal In Person, Be Sure to Avoid Common Mistakes

A man being interviewed by three people
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If you've been dismissed or suspended from college for poor academic performance, you should appeal in person if given the opportunity. Unlike an appeal letter, an in-person appeal allows the scholastic standards committee to ask you questions and get a fuller sense of the issues leading up to your dismissal. Even if you know you will be nervous, an in-person appeal is usually your best bet. A shaky voice and even tears aren't going to hurt your appeal. In fact, they show that you care.

That said, an in-person appeal can turn sour when the student makes some missteps. The tips below can help guide you so that you have the best chance of being readmitted.

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Dress Nicely

If you walk into your appeal wearing sweatpants and a pajama top, you're showing a lack of respect for the committee that is going to determine your future. Suits, ties, and other business attire are perfectly appropriate for the appeal. You may very well be the best-dressed person in the room, and that's good. Show the committee that you're taking the appeal very seriously. At the very least, wear the type of clothes you'd wear to a college interview (women's interview dress | men's interview dress).

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Arrive Early

This is a simple point, but you should get to your appeal at least five minutes early. Arriving late tells the appeals committee that you don't really care enough about your readmission to show up on time. If something unplanned happens — a traffic accident or delayed bus — be sure to call your contact person on the appeals committee immediately to explain the situation and try to reschedule.

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Be Prepared for Who Might Be at the Appeal

Ideally, your college will tell you who will be at your appeal, for you don't want to act like a deer in the headlights when you see who is on your actual committee. Dismissals and suspensions are not something that colleges take lightly, and both the original decision and the appeals process involve multiple people. The committee is likely to include your Dean and/or Assistant Dean, the Dean of Students, staff members from academic services and/or opportunity programs, a few faculty members (perhaps even your own professors), a representative from student affairs, and the Registrar. The appeal is not a short little one-on-one meeting. The final decision about your appeal is made by a sizable committee weighing multiple factors.

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Don't Bring Mom or Dad

While Mom or Dad might drive you to the appeal, you should leave them in the car or have them go find coffee in town. The appeals committee doesn't really care what your parents think about your academic performance, nor do they care that your parents want you to be readmitted. You're an adult now, and the appeal is about you. You need to step up and explain what went wrong, why you want a second chance, and what you plan to do to improve your academic performance in the future. These words need to come from your mouth, not a parent's mouth.

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Don't Appeal if Your Heart Isn't in College

It's not unusual for students to appeal even though they really don't want to be in college. If your appeal is for Mom or Dad, not for yourself, it's time to have a difficult conversation with your parents. You won't succeed in college if you have no desire to be there, and there's nothing wrong with pursuing opportunities that don't involve college. College will always be an option if you decide to go back to school in the future. You're wasting both time and money if you attend college with no motivation for doing so.

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Don't Blame Others

The transition to college can be difficult, and there are all kinds of things that can impact your success. Obnoxious roommates, noisy residence halls, scatter-brained professors, ineffective tutors — sure, all of these factors can make your path to academic success more challenging. But learning to navigate this complex landscape is an important part of the college experience. At the end of the day, you are the one who earned the grades that got you into academic trouble, and plenty of students with nightmare roommates and bad professors managed to succeed. The appeals committee is going to want to see you taking ownership of your grades. What did you do wrong, and what can you do to improve your performance in the future?

That said, the committee does realize that extenuating circumstances can have a major impact on your performance, so don't shy away from mentioning significant distractions in your life. The committee does want to get a full picture of the circumstances that contributed to your low grades.

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Be Honest. Painfully Honest.

The reasons for poor academic performance are often personal or embarrassing: depression, anxiety, excessive partying, drug abuse, alcohol addiction, video game addiction, relationship problems, an identity crisis, rape, family problems, paralyzing insecurity, trouble with the law, physical abuse, and the list could go on.

The appeal is not a time to shy away from your particular problems. The first step to academic success is identifying exactly what has caused your lack of success. The appeals committee is going to have more compassion if you are forthright about your problems, and only by identifying the problems can you and your college begin to find a path forward.

If the committee feels you are providing evasive answers, your appeal is likely to be denied.

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Don't Be Overly Confident or Cocky

The typical student is terrified of the appeal process. Tears aren't uncommon. These are perfectly normal reactions to this type of stressful situation.

A few students, however, enter the appeal as if they own the world and are there to enlighten the committee about the misunderstandings that led up to the dismissal. Realize that an appeal isn't likely to be successful when the student is cocky and the committee feels as if it is being sold swampland in Florida.

Keep in mind that the appeal is a favor being extended to you and that numerous people have taken time out of their lives to listen to your story. Respect, humility, and contrition are much more appropriate during the appeal than cockiness and bravado.

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Have a Plan for Future Success

You won't be readmitted if the committee isn't convinced that you can succeed in the future. So along with identifying what went wrong in the past semester, you need to explain how your are going to overcome those problems in the future. Do you have ideas about how to better manage your time? Are you going to quit a sport or extracurricular activity to allow more time for study? Are you going to seek counseling for a mental health issue?

Don't promise changes that you can't deliver, but the committee will want to see that you have a realistic plan for future success in place.

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Thank the Committee

Always remember that there are places the committee would rather be at the end of the semester than listening to appeals. As uncomfortable as the whole process might be for you, don't forget to thank the committee for allowing you to meet with them. A little politeness can help with the overall impression you make.

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