How to Write an Appeal Letter for College

Hand writing letter outdoors
October 3, 2022
What Is An Appeal Letter for College?How to Write An Appeal Letter for College AdmissionTips for Writing a College Admissions Appeal LetterCollege Appeal Letter FAQs

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/22

Think you can make a great case for why your admissions decision should be overturned? Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to write an appeal letter for college.

We’ll just come out and say it: applying to college can be challenging and stressful, especially if you get rejected from one of your top school choices. 

Deciding to write an appeal letter is a dedicated and courageous choice. You need to persuade the admissions team they were wrong about you, and your appeal letter must include all the right elements.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to include in your appeal letter and how you can make it as strong as possible, with the goal of getting accepted. Read on to learn more!

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What Is An Appeal Letter for College?

You may choose to write an appeal letter if your application is initially rejected by a school you want to attend. An appeal letter is your chance to make an excellent case for why your admissions decision should be overturned. 

You should only write appeal letters to one or two of your top schools because your goal is to make a strong case for why a specific school should accept your application and letter. Most colleges will only consider reversing an admissions decision if you have new information that wasn’t on your initial application. 

Janet Gilmore, senior director of strategic communications at the University of California-Berkeley says: 

“Examples of significant new information may consist of semester grades, additional achievements for us to consider, or information that has come to light between the time of the application submission and the delivery of the office's decision.”

Since you applied, maybe you’ve aced your final AP course or retook the SAT and achieved a higher score. These would count as significant pieces of new information for which you could write an appeal letter. If you’ve experienced extenuating circumstances like a medical issue or other significant life changes, those are other reasonable factors for filing an appeal. 

It’s also important to understand that writing an appeal letter doesn’t mean admissions committees automatically reverse their decision and accept you. Gilmore says that UC Berkeley admitted just 3-5% of freshman appeals in the last three admission cycles.

But don’t let this discourage you. It’s worth the effort it takes if the school you’re appealing to is your first choice. You have to be highly motivated to want an education at a specific school for your letter to be accepted.

How to Write An Appeal Letter for College Admission

Appeal letters should be well-crafted. This section goes over precisely what a well-crafted appeal letter looks like, so you can use these examples to guide your writing. 

Structure

The structure of your letter should be similar to other letters you’ve probably written. Include the date, your name, phone number, and address at the top. Like this:

January 1, 2022

John Smith

123 Fourth Avenue

Your Town, MA 55555

(555) 555-1234

Then you want to include the name, title, and contact information for the person you are writing to:

Jane McDonald

Admissions Counselor, Smithtown University

789 Tenth Street

College Town, CA 44444

(444) 123-4567

Below their contact information, you can start your letter with a greeting. Appeal letters are formal, so you should address the contact person as Mrs., Mr., or Ms. If you are unsure whether the person you are addressing is a Mrs. or Ms., use Ms. For example:

Dear Ms. McDonald,

After the greeting, you can start writing the body of the letter. 

Tone

Your appeal letter should be treated as a formal or business letter, with a less conversational tone. You can still be friendly, but don’t use slang or other casual types of language that you would only use around your close friends and family. Be direct and clear in why you’re appealing their decision. 

As an example, instead of writing “I really want to get into [this school],” try something along the lines of, “I’m writing today to request an appeal on my initial application decision.” You can see the difference in tone and how one is more direct than the other. 

Your tone should also be positive. Don’t dwell on the fact that you were rejected because that can be off-putting. Instead, use an optimistic tone that shows you are passionate about attending this specific school.

Length

An appeal letter should be four paragraphs with an introduction, two body paragraphs, and a conclusion. You should aim to keep your letter between 250 and 300 words total. You want to keep it concise while still touching on everything you need to cover. Try not to add any fluff or unnecessary information. 

Content

The exact content of your letter will ultimately depend on what has changed since your  application. Here is a general overview of what you should cover. 

Introduction

The introduction is where you can acknowledge that you were initially rejected and an overview of the new information you plan to present in the body of your letter. 

For example:

“I understand that you must receive hundreds if not thousands of appeal requests, but I do have updated information that wasn’t readily available when I initially submitted my application. I have since received my SAT retake score and it has improved considerably.”

You don’t have to go into too much detail about your circumstances in the introduction. Just touch on what you plan to discuss so you can grab their attention right away. 

Body

The body of your letter is where you get into the details of what’s changed since you first applied. Include any new information that’s come to light or been presented since you submitted your application. 

For example:

The SAT score that I submitted on my initial application was 1250, and on a retake I scored a 1500.

The body is also where you would also provide specific details about why this wasn’t part of your application or how your circumstances have changed since then. 

For example:

When I initially took the SAT, I was experiencing a medical issue that affected my focus and study ability. At the time, I didn’t have answers from doctors about what was causing my symptoms that ranged from excruciating migraines to incessant nausea. Once I was able to get help from doctors and begin treatment to keep my illness under control, I knew I could improve my score and that’s what I set out to do.”

Then you want to explain why they should reconsider you for admission.

It has been my dream to attend [school name] ever since I can remember. I’ve always known that I want to be a journalist and I’ve worked really hard to create a path for achieving my goal. That includes attending [school name]. The journalism program is one of a kind and I know I could get the best education for what I want to do after college.”

You should also use this as an opportunity to talk about extracurriculars you’ve been involved with to prepare for your preferred program. Or you talk about the schools’ clubs, culture, or other specific attributes that make you so passionate about attending. 

I’ve been part of my school’s newspaper and yearbook staff for the past four years. It’s been a great experience and I’ve picked up a lot of new skills I can take into my journalism classes. While attending [school name] I hope to join the student newspaper club so I can continue building my knowledge and skill set.

Conclusion

Here, you should wrap up what you’ve said and reiterate why you would be a good choice for acceptance at this particular school. Focus on why you should be accepted and what makes you an excellent candidate. Be sure to thank them at the end for taking the time to read your letter. 

Tips for Writing a College Admissions Appeal Letter

As you prepare to write your appeal letter, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. 

Understand Your Schools’ Appeals Process

You may be able to find specific information about your schools’ appeals process on their website. If the information is not on the schools’ website, you should contact the admissions office to learn about the process. 

Some schools have specific timelines for admissions, and those can vary between institutions. In fact, some schools don’t even have an appeals process – meaning you can’t appeal your application. That’s something you’ll want to find out before you start writing.

Take Your Time…But Not Too Much!

While this information isn’t readily available for every school, schools typically only read appeal letters for three to four weeks after they make their admissions decisions. 

But don’t be too hasty. You should take a few days (or even a week) to think about what you want to say. After a rejection, you may feel angry, sad, confused, or a mixture of all three. Wait until you have your emotions under control before crafting and sending your letter. Waiting also gives you time to solidify what you want to cover in your letter. 

Have New Information Ready

As we mentioned earlier, when an admissions officer looks at an appeal letter, they’re looking for new information that either wasn’t known or wasn’t available when you submitted your application. 

An appeal letter isn’t an opportunity to plead with them to change their minds. It’s an opportunity to let them know that they missed an important detail or key piece of information. 

Be Specific

The weight of your appeal letter is lessened if you write generically and without specific details. Save the time and energy it takes to write an appeal letter for your dream school – maybe your top two if there are two schools you are equally passionate about. 

Since these are your first-choice schools, there are probably specific points about them that made them your top school choices. Talk about those points in your letter. Use the format we’ve provided above, but plug in your information.

Don’t Rely on a Reversed Decision – Have a Backup Plan

The unfortunate reality is that most appeals are not accepted. But don’t let this discourage you from trying! Just know that it’s something to keep in mind. If your appeal is not accepted, have a backup plan. 

Whether your backup plan is to attend a different school, or you plan to wait until the next admissions cycle to apply to other schools – make sure you have a plan in place before you send off your appeal letter. Having a plan to fall back on can give you some comfort and peace as you wait for the appeals decision.

College Appeal Letter FAQs

These are a few of the most frequently asked questions about college appeal letters. Find the answers to your questions here!

1. What Are My Chances of Acceptance If I Appeal an Admissions Decision?

It’s dependent on the school, but it’s important to understand that the numbers are fairly low. For example, UC Berkley admitted just 3-5% of freshman appeals in the last three admission cycles. We don’t tell you this to dissuade you from writing an appeal letter – only to prepare you. 

However, if you feel like you have a strong case for an appeal based on the information we’ve provided in this guide, you should absolutely give it your best try and write a letter. 

2. Who Should I Address My Appeal Letter To?

Send your letter to the school’s admissions office – if you can address it to a specific person, even better. A quick search on the schools’ website could give you a particular name of someone in the department that reviews appealed applications. 

3. For What Situations Are Most Appeals Accepted?

Most appeals are granted due to inaccuracies in the initial application. If this is the case for you, your appeal letter should clearly state which pieces of information were inaccurate on your application. An explanation of why the information was incorrect is beneficial too. 

Some appeals are granted if a student had major health or personal issues to deal with during the application cycle that were outside their control. 

4. When Should I Send My Appeal Letter?

Check the school’s website or contact the admissions office for an exact timeline. Most schools will only accept appeal letters for up to four weeks after admissions decisions have been made. 

5. How Long Should My Appeal Letter Be?

Between 250 and 300 words is the ideal length. This length gives you plenty of space to include the right information.

6. What Tone Should I Use In My Appeal Letter?

You should write with the same tone you’d use in a professional letter, like a cover letter. Try to be positive and friendly, but don’t use slang or jargon. Be direct and specific, too.

Final Thoughts

Before you submit any letters, research the school’s appeal process. Each school is different, and some may not even accept appeal letters. Spending just five to ten minutes researching can help you find this information. 

And remember: this article isn’t meant to dissuade you from writing an appeal letter. Our goal is to present you with the facts so you can make your case for appeal as strong as possible. We hope this information has helped you understand appeal letters and how to write them. 

Good luck in writing your appeal letter!

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