How to Write an Appeal Letter for College


The deadline to accept a college admissions offer is May 1.

While you're celebrating your child's college acceptances, you may still be lamenting their rejections from their dream schools. 

Perhaps you've heard that students can appeal college rejections. You may even know of someone who successfully changed an admissions committee's mind.

That's the good news.

However, there are two main pieces of not-so-good news:

  • Not every school accepts appeal letters. Therefore, you should check with each school before sending a an appeal.

  • Appeal requests are rarely granted.

Despite these points, your child may still want to appeal their rejection.

However, before they prepare their appeal essay, your child should understand what admissions committees consider good (and not-so-good) reasons to appeal. That way, your child can write an appeal request with a significantly higher chance of being granted.

Reasons Not to Mention In an Appeal Letter

1) The reviewers missed the memo about your parents donating money to the school.

Any piece of information already contained in your child's college application was already evaluated.

2) You're more qualified than your classmate who got in.

College admissions committees review applications holistically. Therefore, it's impossible to pinpoint the one reason for your child's rejection, or for another student's acceptance.

3) You got into another prestigious school, so the school that rejected you should feel lucky to have you.

Unfortunately, colleges have a limited number of spots for every entering freshman class. In addition, different colleges have variable admissions priorities, so some may not feel that your child will be an excellent fit at their institution at this time.

4) It's just plain unfair.

College rejections can be very difficult to accept, but writing an appeal letter that stresses unfairness is unlikely to work.

5) Listing things from your application in paragraph form.

Again, everything in your child's original college application was already evaluated, so this approach is highly unlikely to work.

Good Reasons to Appeal

If your child decides to appeal, they should make sure to write a very polite and positive letter. Moreover, they should acknowledge the admissions committee's difficult task and thank them for considering their original application and appeal.

Below are the most compelling reasons included in successful appeal letters:

1) Your child has a major accomplishment to report since submitting their original application (improved grades do not count).

Accomplishments such as winning the state science fall under this category.

2) Your child achieved a significantly higher SAT or ACT score.

100+ points on the SAT or 2+ points on the ACT would be considered meaningful, as long as your child's new high score is at least within the middle 50th percentile of what the college typically accepts.

3) Your child left out a significant experience about themselves in their original application that may change the way an admissions committee views their accomplishments.

This is the approach I took with my successful appeal request in 2004.

I disclosed growing up with Tourette Syndrome, and how so many individuals with this condition don't end up going to college, let alone use their experiences to serve others (it's no a coincidence that I'm a psychologist).

You may wonder why I didn't write about this in my original application. I wonder the same thing.

Next Steps