Can I Appeal A College Admission Decision?

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Can I Appeal A College Admission Decision?

Rejection is never fun, and college decisions are no exception. Unfortunately, most students are not accepted into every college they apply to. That means they must confront rejection in the form of a thin envelope or brief email.

In most cases, it is best to respond to a negative admissions decision by moving on. Even if you were not accepted into every college on your list, chances are that you still have some great options--so get excited about them! And know that as soon as you arrive on campus, you will be far too busy--and far too excited--to worry about “what could have been.”

That being said, there are rare cases when you may want to appeal an admissions decision. But first:

Will every college allow me to appeal an admissions decision?

The short answer is no. Many schools refuse to consider any appeals for any reason. If this is the policy at a school that has rejected you, it is best to move on. However, some colleges--such as the UC’s--will allow you to appeal a rejection. If a college does not state their policy online, reach out directly to the admissions office to determine whether appealing is a possibility.

When should I appeal an admissions decision?

There are really only a couple of circumstances that warrant an appeal. The first circumstance involves a clerical error. If a major component of your application was left incomplete or completed incorrectly for reasons outside of your control (e.g. your high school failed to submit an accurate transcript), you may have grounds for an appeal.

Significant new information or accomplishments may also warrant an appeal. Perhaps your SAT score jumped 200 points after you submitted an application. Or maybe you won a national award. In these cases, it might be worth appealing a denial.

When should I refrain from appealing an admissions decision?

Unless one of the above two criteria are met, appealing an admissions decision is simply not a productive use of time. Even if an admissions decision seems unfair or confusing, do not appeal unless you can point towards a clerical error or significant new information.

How do I appeal?

First and foremost, familiarize yourself with the appeals process at your chosen college as soon as possible. Keep in mind that schools may have hard deadlines that you will need to meet for your appeal to even be considered.

In general, an appeal takes the form of a letter explaining why you believe your application should be reconsidered. Tone is important here. Be polite and professional--you do not want to come across as entitled or accusatory. At the end of your letter, thank the reader for their time.

Your letter should also be specific. If your appeal is based on new accomplishments, describe them in detail. For example:

Over the past semester, I’ve continued to prepare myself for a career in engineering. At the Southern California Science Olympiad, I finished 2nd overall in the Mechanical and Structural Engineering category. I also attended the Carnegie Mellon Informatics and Mathematics Competition, where I finished second in the calculus category. My team also won the Team Round, Power Round, and award for Best Overall Team.

Similarly, describe any clerical errors in detail. And whether you are reporting new achievements or a clerical error, you may be asked to submit supporting documentation. Again, closely follow the guidelines of your chosen college.

What are the chances of successful appeal?

In general, very slim. For this reason, it is best to get excited about the school that has already accepted you.

Anything else I should know?

A rejection is undeniably disappointing, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you weren’t a strong applicant--or even that you did anything wrong when you applied. Remember: there is an element of chance when it comes to college admissions. Colleges “shape” a class populated by students with a variety of talents and backgrounds. If you are the only applicant with an “in demand” attribute, this can work to your benefit. For example, if the jazz band is in need of a trumpet player, and you are the only applicant with virtuoso trumpet skills, you are more likely to get in. However, if you apply during a year when several other top trumpet players have also decided to apply, your path towards admission may be a little more difficult. Nothing that you did changed, of course. You just got unlucky.

And even though the application process may bring about feelings of self-doubt, try not to let these feelings overwhelm you. Your values, your background, your passions and triumphs and failures--a college decision cannot change these. To paraphrase the title of an excellent book on college selection: where you go is not you are. 

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