Should you appeal a college’s rejection?

Students occasionally ask us about appealing admissions decisions from colleges.  An appeal is really just a  formal request, in writing, that a college reconsider your application for admission.  Some colleges also invite you to include extra material that wasn’t in your original application, such as another teacher recommendation or a report card from the first semester of the senior year.

So, should you appeal?

As unfair as the admissions process may seem, most colleges are very thorough in their evaluation of candidates. That’s why the few appeals that are successful usually bring to light new information that was not available to the college when they were reviewing your application. For example, if your 7th semester grades were a dramatic improvement over your previous grades, or your club that you started raised a large amount of money for a charity event you planned, or the new internship you just secured happens to be in the field you plan on majoring in, these are things that can be taken into account when reconsidering your application.

What not to do

Some students want to appeal a decision because they simply believe they are stronger applicants than other students from their school who were admitted. But colleges won't consider this a valid reason to overturn their original decision. Don't point out the reasons you think you deserve the admission more
than they did.  That just makes you look bitter, and you didn't have access to those applications.  You don't know what their essays were about, or what their letters of rec said, or what their individual circumstances might have been.  Keep your tone positive and focus on what you have accomplished since you applied.

How to appeal

If you decide you want to appeal, carefully read the decision letter the college sent you, and research the admissions section of the college’s website to see if any information about appealing decisions is provided. Some colleges will come right out and tell you that they do not accept appeal requests. Other colleges will not only tell you that they accept appeals, but will also tell you exactly what to do in order to appeal the decision. Follow all instructions the college provides. And if any of their instructions seem to contradict what you read in this guideline, do whatever the college tells you to do.

Write a letter as soon as possible explaining why you want the admissions committee to reconsider your application for admission. Be polite and respectful, and make sure to present new information; don’t just rehash what was in your application. If the college indicates that extra letters of recommendation will be accepted in appeals cases, consider asking a teacher to write a letter of recommendation (a different teacher than you used before). However, you should only do this if you feel this teacher will be able to present new and compelling information.

Final appeal thoughts

I know it’s disappointing not to be accepted to a school you really wanted to attend, but the very best thing you could do while you’re waiting for your appeal decision is to start falling in love with one of your other colleges that said, “Yes.” Visit those schools again. Buy a sweatshirt. Start imagining yourself there. You’ll feel much more positive and encouraged by focusing on a great school that admitted you, rather than lamenting the decision of one who said, “No.”

And remember that the vast majority of college freshmen report that they are happy with their college experience, even those students who were not admitted to schools that were their first choice at the time. Whether or not your appeal is granted, you’re going to go to college with a bunch of 18-22 year-olds and all you have a lot to look forward to.