So you’ve received the proverbial thin envelope–or more likely, in this day and age, the brief email. After all the time and effort you put into your application, in the end, you’ve been turned down by the college you really wanted to attend. We at CollegeVine certainly know how much it stings to work hard, put yourself out there, and be rejected.

 

Right now, you’re probably considering your other options and making some hard decisions about which offer to accept. Hopefully, you have other interesting and exciting opportunities to consider at other schools. At the same time, though, if you received a “no” from a college you felt was a perfect fit for you, you’re likely struggling with a great deal of disappointment and the feeling that the admissions committee must have simply made a mistake.

 

Did the admissions committee make a mistake? The answer to that question, as much as no one wants to hear it, is most likely no. Admissions committees at competitive schools have the very difficult task of sorting through a large number of applications from accomplished, qualified, and interesting students seeking to fill a small number of places in the matriculating class. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, your application didn’t make the cut.

 

It’s natural to question why you were rejected, but there is likely a simple explanation. There may have been weaknesses in your application compared to those of other applicants. There may simply have been too many qualified applicants to accept them all. Either way, most admissions decisions are final, and you should devote your energy to deciding which of your other options to attend.

 

However, under certain specific circumstances, such as if there was an error on your initial application, some colleges may be willing to reconsider your application after initially rejecting you. Read on to learn more about whether you’re a good candidate for an appeal, how to write your appeal letter, and some dos and don’ts for crafting your appeal.

 

How do I decide whether to appeal my admissions decision?

 

First of all, as mentioned above, most college admissions decisions are final and cannot be reconsidered. Some colleges, especially major private schools, do not consider appeals for any reason. Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Columbia, among many others, fall into this category. If one of these schools denies you admission, all you can do is accept the rejection with grace and move on.

 

Public schools, however–for example, the schools in the University of California system – are more likely to consider admissions appeals, but policies vary greatly from school to school. Check your chosen school’s admissions website and speak to an admissions representative to determine if appealing is even an option at a given school. Sending an appeal letter to a college that does not consider appeals is obviously not a good use of your time.

 

The reasoning behind why you’re asking to be reconsidered is also important. Even if your chosen college does theoretically accept appeals, you’ll have to meet certain criteria in order to submit a case for reconsideration. It’s hard to accept a rejection, but you can’t submit an appeal solely on the basis of the fact that you disagree with the admissions committee’s decision. (Think of how many appeals there would be if that were allowed!)

 

But what if you know of a student whose application seemed to be weaker than yours, and yet was admitted to a particular college while you were rejected? Though it’s certainly tempting to feel as though this is proof of an error on the admissions committee’s part, don’t fall into the trap of assuming you know exactly why and how they made their decisions. Even if another student had lower test scores or grades than you did, you have no way of knowing what their application looked like on the whole.

 

An admission decision depends on so many different factors that it is be very difficult for an outsider to truly know how or why a decision is made. , In addition, as we said previously,  there are far more qualified applicants to competitive schools than there are spots to be filled. The bottom line is this: don’t compare yourself to other applicants. Believing that someone who appears less qualified than you has received an offer of admission when you haven’t is never a sufficient reason for appealing your admissions decision.

 

In order to have grounds for an appeal, generally, you must be able to prove that your initial application didn’t accurately represent your achievements. Here are some specific circumstances under which a college might be willing to reconsider your admissions decision.

Clerical error

If a major part of your application, such as your standardized test scores or your GPA, was incorrectly reported to the college in a manner that was outside of your control, you may have a case for an appeal. This is not terribly common, but if you suspect it may have happened to you, an admission representative may be able to help you figure out exactly what was reported incorrectly.

 

New information

Some colleges may accept appeals based on your accomplishments after your initial application was submitted. However, the accomplishments would have to be substantial in order to change the minds of the admissions committee. Perhaps you retook your SATS and scored significantly better- typically by 150 points or more. Perhaps you won a major national award. In these cases, an appeal may be possible depending on the individual school’s policies.

 

It’s very important to keep in mind that appeals are rarely successful in reversing a rejection. This is true even if your chosen college does accept appeals in the first place, and even if you believe you have a strong case for reconsideration according to their policies. Most of the time, the admissions committee will decide to stick to its original decision denying you a spot in the first-year class, so you should be prepared for that eventuality. (Don’t turn down those other offers of admission just yet.)

 

It’s up to you to decide whether it’s worthwhile to put time and effort into pursuing an appeal. If you do determine that an appeal is permitted at your particular school, justified in your particular circumstances, and worth your time, there are some additional things you should know in order to craft your appeal letter.

 

How do I ask the admissions committee to reconsider my application?

 

The first step in appealing your admissions decision is to thoroughly research your chosen college’s policies regarding appeals. Every school has its own requirements; even the various schools within the University of California system, for example, have their own individual appeal processes and policies. Make sure that your case fits the school’s criteria for reassessment before putting time and work into an appeal.

 

Keep in mind also that depending on the school, there may be specific and inflexible deadlines to meet. In any case, though, you should start the process of filing an appeal as soon as you possibly can to minimize any schedule conflicts. (Even so, admissions offices cannot always guarantee that appeals will be processed before the response deadlines for other schools, so plan accordingly.)

 

Speaking directly to an admissions representative is always helpful in this situation. That conversation may clarify for you where and how your initial application did not accurately represent you as a candidate. An admissions representative may also be able to help you navigate the appeal process for that particular school, as these processes differ and some are more formal than others.

 

Your appeal will generally take the form of a written letter detailing why you believe your application should be reconsidered. Along with that letter, you’ll include whatever evidence you can provide as to what was incorrect in your initial application and/or what you have achieved since that application was submitted. We’ll go over what to include and what not to include in your appeal letter in greater detail below.


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What should I include in my appeal letter?

 

The most important part of your appeal letter is the evidence you present to build your case. The admissions committee has already considered your application once, and if they are to reconsider it, they will be looking for new and different information about what makes you a perfect candidate for their school.

 

If your appeal is based on the contention that there was a significant inaccuracy on your original application, you’ll need to provide proof that this is the case. Exactly what that entails depends on the nature of the mistake that was made. The more information you can gather, and the more official that information, the better.

 

If your appeal is based on an accomplishment since the time of the original application, you should be explicit about what you’ve achieved, and back that up with documentation as well. Did you dramatically improve your standardized test scores? Include your score reports. Did your grades rise? Include your transcript. Did you win a major award? Include whatever documents you can provide, from certificates to press clippings.

 

Again, different schools have different policies and procedures, and you should educate yourself fully about your chosen school’s requirements and restrictions. Some schools allow you to submit letters of recommendation or support at this point, but some don’t. Some schools have a very specific online procedure for submitting an appeal, while some leave more of the format up to you. Whatever your options are at your particular college, however, you should exhaust them fully. Too much information is better than too little.

 

When you write to the admissions committee, make sure your tone is mature and professional. (Having a teacher or counselor read your letter before you send it may be helpful.) Keep the focus of your letter on yourself. Your letter should be all about you, your qualities, what you’ve achieved, and why the school to which you’re appealing would be an excellent fit for you. No mention of other applicants should appear in your appeal, and you should maintain a positive attitude throughout your letter.

 

Finally, it cannot be understated how important it is to approach the admissions committee with the respect they deserve. The committee members are professionals with a difficult task on their plates and often an enormous number of applications to consider relative to the number of slots they are able to fill. They have more information and insight on the applicant pool than you do, and the final decision rests with them.

 

In appealing the admissions committee’s decision, you are asking for more of their time and attention during a part of the academic year which is already extremely busy. It may take more time than you would like for your appeal letter to be considered. Unfortunately, the odds are you will  receive an answer that you don’t like: namely, that your appeal has been rejected. If this happens, accept the admission committee’s response with appropriate poise.

 

Through it all, be polite, be gracious, and be appreciative of the work that admissions professionals are doing on your behalf. Thank them for doing you the favor of considering your appeal.

 

What should I NOT include in my appeal letter?

 

First and foremost, you should not include anything in your letter that states or implies that the admissions committee made the wrong decision. That may be how you honestly feel, but it would be highly inappropriate and unhelpful to your case to say so.

 

Being an applicant, your knowledge of the admission decision process is necessarily limited, and you are not in a position to judge whether the committee made the correct choice. If you honestly believe that your initial application did not accurately represent you to the admissions committee for reasons beyond your control, it’s reasonable to ask for a chance to correct the error, but this does not mean that the committee made a mistake in rejecting you.

 

As mentioned earlier in this post, you should not include information about any other applicants in your appeal letter. Even if you feel your rejected application was stronger than that of a particular person who was accepted to your chosen college, don’t assume that you know better than the admissions committee. Many non-quantifiable factors influence admissions decisions – it’s not all about grades and SAT scores. The committee almost certainly has a good reason for making the decision it did.

 

Don’t succumb to the temptation to be negative or accusatory in your appeal letter. This is another reason why it’s helpful to have another person read your letter before your submit it. Besides editing for the basics of spelling and grammar, another reader can help you determine if your tone is appropriate, professional, and respectful.

 

Another adjective that you don’t want your appeal letter to evoke is “entitled.” Remember that competitive colleges attract more qualified applicants than they can admit, and applying to one of these schools should always be considered a reach. There are no guarantees, no matter how much you might feel that you are perfect for that particular school (and vice versa).

 

There are a huge number of smart, dedicated, and accomplished high-school students out there. This doesn’t mean that you’re not a great applicant – you very well may be! All it means is that admissions officers have extremely tough decisions to make, and those decisions will not always work out in your favor.

 

On a more practical level, remember that your appeal letter is supposed to present new or different information about you as an applicant. It should not be simply a rehash of the application that you originally submitted. Remember, the admissions committee has already assessed that application and rejected it.

 

Don’t just repeat what the admissions committee already knows about you. If there was a clerical error on your original application, what is different about your corrected application? If you have improved as a student or achieved grand new things, what are they? Focus on where the information in your appeal letter diverges from that presented in your original application, and give the application committee the opportunity to get to know the real you.

 

If, after reading this post, you’re convinced that you’re a suitable candidate for an admissions appeal, and appeals are permitted by your chosen school, contact your admissions representative for more information on getting started with your appeal letter and supporting information. Good luck!

 

What if you were rejected from all the colleges you applied to? It’s not a frequent occurrence, but it does sometimes happen. Whether or not an appeal is appropriate in your situation, you do have options. Check out our post on What If I Wasn’t Accepted To Any College? for more advice on how to figure out what’s next.

 

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Monikah Schuschu

Monikah Schuschu

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Monikah Schuschu is an alumna of Brown University and Harvard University. As a graduate student, she took a job at the Harvard College Office of Financial Aid and Admissions, and discovered the satisfaction of helping students and parents with the often-baffling college admissions process. She also enjoys fiber art, murder mysteries, and amateur entomology.
Monikah Schuschu

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