Should I Appeal a Rejection? If So, How?

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Gelyna Price
Gelyna Price

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Maybe you’ve just heard back from your early decision application; or are you planning ahead for next spring’s regular decision responses? Either way, it’s important to know how to handle a rejection. Of course, you’ll want to do so with grace rather than responding with anger or bitterness. With that said, though, there’s a slim chance that the rejection may not be final. Some, though not all, colleges allow you to appeal your rejection.

To be honest, there isn’t much chance of getting in with an appeal — but even a slim chance is better than none if you have your heart set on a school, right?

In this post, we’ll explore some of the issues surrounding appeals to help you decide whether it’s the right course for you, and to help you do so if you decide to follow this path.

Do I Have a Good Reason to Appeal?

Again, most appeals are unsuccessful. Of those that do succeed, though, most have one thing in common: a compelling case for the appeal. The three basic categories we’ll discuss here are omissions/mistakes, new information, and personal information.

If there were any omissions or mistakes in your original application, a letter of appeal may be a great choice. If your scores or GPA somehow ended up being reported inaccurately to the school, for example, an appeal letter will give you a chance to clarify the situation and ask the admissions committee to review your application once more with this new information.

Speaking of new information, if you have any of significance, you may be a good candidate for an appeal letter. Did you take the SAT or ACT again and dramatically improve your score since you originally applied? Have your grades gone up significantly? Have you won an award or had a piece of writing published? This kind of thing can significantly impact your application and may justify the effort of writing an appeal letter.

Previously undisclosed personal information is a final reason to potentially appeal a rejection. Kevin Adler notably discusses how his mother’s battle with cancer helped him successfully appeal a rejection from UC Berkeley. If you have compelling and serious personal reasons that attending a particular school would make a big difference for you, and you didn’t include them in your original application, this is your chance.

What to Include:

Before you start, confirm that the school in question is willing to review appeals. Some simply do not accept any rejection appeals, meaning all your hard work (and valuable time) would end up in the recycling bin instead of giving you a chance at acceptance.

Once you’ve established that the school does review appeal letters, here’s what you should include in yours:

  • A compelling reason. Your appeal letter shouldn’t just be something like, “I really have my heart set on attending Vassar, and I’d be so grateful if you’d review my application to make sure you aren’t able to accept me.” It needs to present a compelling case for why the admissions team wouldn’t just immediately come to the same conclusion (a rejection) as they did the first time around.
  • Supporting information. If, for example, you’re appealing because of a mistake in your GPA on the application, included a corrected transcript showing your new GPA.

What Not to Include:

  • Anything negative. You may feel upset, hurt, frustrated, or disappointed about being rejected by this school. It may seem unfair. It’s okay to feel that way, but don’t wallow in it for too long, and definitely don’t let these feelings show through in your appeal letter. Keep the appeal letter positive in tone to show the admissions team how mature, stable, and grounded you are.
  • Comparisons (to other schools or other students). Making comparisons in your appeal letter won’t help, so steer clear. If you happen to know that a friend with lower test scores and grades was accepted, don’t point that out to the college. Similarly, if you were accepted to a more prestigious school, there’s no need to include this information in your appeal letter. Either type of comparison will sound like a variation on “this is unfair, and you made a mistake,” which isn’t something that will win you any points.

Questions? Let us know!