How to Write an Appeal Letter for College

Crafting an effective college appeal letter
Updated:
May 13, 2024
6 min read
Expert Reviewed
Contents

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/13/24

Facing a college rejection and considering an appeal letter? Read on to discover how to write a persuasive college appeal letter effectively.

College applications can be tough, especially when facing rejection from a preferred school. Writing an appeal letter is a bold move to prove the admissions team wrong.

Learn all about writing an appeal letter for college to increase your chances of acceptance in this article.

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. It helps to demonstrate your continued interest and commitment to the school, highlighting why you are a valuable addition to their community.

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. Those are other reasonable factors for filing an appeal if you’ve experienced extenuating circumstances like a medical issue or other significant life changes. 

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 if the school you’re appealing to is your first choice. Your letter must be highly motivated to want an education at a specific school.

How to Write An Appeal Letter for College Admission

When writing your appeal letter for college admission, start off by clearly stating your intention to appeal their initial decision. Make sure to include any new achievements or correct any misunderstandings from your first application. 

Keep it direct and back up your points with updated documents if you can. Stick to the essentials and maintain a professional yet approachable tone. Wrap up by reiterating your interest in the school and thank the committee for reconsidering your application. Lastly, give your letter a good proofread to ensure it’s error-free before sending it off. 

Let's take a closer look at the process to give you a well-rounded look.  

1. Structure

The structure of an appeal 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, 2024

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. 

2. 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. 

For example, instead of writing, “I really want to get into [this school],” try something like, “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.

3. 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. 

4. 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

How you start an appeal letter is crucial to its overall success. The introduction is where you can acknowledge that you were initially rejected and provide 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  have valuable updated information that wasn’t available when I initially submitted my application. I have since received my SAT retake score, and it has improved considerably.”

In the introduction, you don’t have to go into too much detail about your circumstances. 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 discuss 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 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

  • Know the Appeals Process: Check your school's website or contact the admissions office to understand the appeals process. It’s important to know the deadlines and whether an appeal is even possible at your school.
  • Timing Matters: Schools generally review appeal letters for a few weeks after their admissions decisions. Give yourself a few days to cool off and collect your thoughts before you start writing. This helps ensure you’re clear-headed and your arguments are well thought out.
  • Include New Information: Your appeal letter should provide new facts that weren’t in your original application. Remember, the goal here is to present information that might have led to a different decision, not to ask for a favor.
  • Be Specific: Focus on why you're a great fit for the school and why it's your top choice. Generic letters don’t stand out. If you’re really passionate about the school, make that clear by mentioning specific programs or opportunities that caught your eye.
  • Have a Plan B: Keep in mind that most appeals don't lead to a change in the admissions decision. It’s smart to have an alternative plan, whether that’s another school or applying again next year.
  • Explore More Resources: Look into college guides and other resources that can help you navigate the application process more effectively. For more detailed help, you can email andreja.alimehaj@inspirafutures.com to get a PDF version of an example appeal letter.

Appeal Letter for College Sample

Here’s an excellent sample of an appeal letter for college. It’s important to note that our samples are only meant for use as a point of reference when crafting your own letter. Plagiarism is not a good idea in any scenario, especially when you’re trying to appeal a college decision!

Example #1

January 1, 2024
Academic Appeals Committee    
Benedict College 
1600 Harden Street Columbia, 
SC 29204 
“Dear Appeals Committee: It has come to my knowledge that I have not met Benedict College’s standards for satisfactory academic progress and it is due to my cumulative grade point average 1.5 which is below the required minimum of 2.0. During the spring semester of 2011, it was a real struggle for me physically, mentally, and emotionally, while trying to maintain my academic progress. 
Financial duress has made this semester difficult. I have a single parent with six children, including me, she does her best but money has been hard to get. I was so worried about the spring semester and about how my mother was going to pay the bills and the loans she had taken out for us. Knowing my mother was struggling, not having a stable car, and had to stretch money between us to meet the needs of all her children had a major effect on my academics. She called me everyday checking on me to see how I was making sure I had money, even though sometimes I told her I had money and nothing was bothering me so she would not worry herself. 
I have been looking for jobs this whole semester and even applied for work study a couple of times, but it is hard to get hired with the economy like this. I want this second chance to better myself and be successful because of her and to put her in a better position. I don’t want my mother to worry or struggle anymore and an education for me will help me accomplish that and more. 
Transportation has been a bother, even though during the semester they had buses to get us to and from campus it wasn’t always reliable because I would go out and wait for the bus two hours before class some times and still end up being late. Being I do not have a vehicle, trying to get home from school on breaks to check on my family so I would not be worrying about them and can focus on school has been hard and even going job searching. Between financial problems and death of loved ones my academics dropped below the university’s standards.
This letter was a wakeup call for me as an adult student in the real world. I now realize it is time to get back on track. I plan to study harder until I get a better understanding of things or ask the teacher if I can stay after class so he/she could explain it more, set up meetings to go by their offices, and get a tutor to help me improve my academic status. The spring semester of 2013 was a major setback that I plan not to have again. If given this second chance I plan to do whatever it takes to be successful. I promise there will be a major improvement in my academic grades and progress. 
This second chance will give me the opportunity to prove that I really want an education and will do everything and anything in my power to get one. You can expect nothing but the best from me this time around. Another chance will benefit me and help me push my education to even greater levels. Getting a good education will make me a better person and I am sure it will make my mother, family, and loved ones in heaven so proud of me. I plan to put my academics first and make a better future for me because this is really what I am in school for so it will be my first priority always and forever. I now have a better understanding of life and education is the one and only thing on my mind. 
Sincerely, 
Signature 
Student Name 
Student Number 
Student Address 
Student Phone Number”

Example #2

Peter Anteater
123 ABC Street
Irvine, CA 92616
Email address: [your-email@example.com]
Phone number: [your-phone-number]
November 20, 20XX
Dismissal Appeals Committee
UCI School of Social Ecology
Office of Student Services
102 Social Ecology I
Irvine, CA 92697-7055
Subject: Request for Appeal of Dismissal
Dear Committee,
I am writing to formally request an appeal of the decision to dismiss me from the School of Social Ecology. Unfortunately, several significant factors have negatively impacted my academic performance, which I would like to explain.
Firstly, I experienced [describe any family or life hardships such as a death in the family, family crisis, or significant life changes]. These events took a considerable toll on my mental and emotional well-being, directly affecting my ability to focus and perform academically.
Additionally, I faced [mention any health-related issues or disabilities that affected your studies, such as a diagnosed illness or mental health struggles]. These health challenges were unexpected and required a significant portion of my time and attention, detracting from my studies.
In response to these challenges, I have taken several steps to ensure my future academic success. I have [describe any therapeutic measures or academic support services you have engaged with, such as counseling, tutoring, or study groups]. I am also actively working on [mention any strategies you are implementing to manage your time and responsibilities better, such as time management workshops or working with an academic advisor].
I am committed to my education and am eager to demonstrate my true capabilities. I respectfully request that the committee consider my appeal and provide me with the opportunity to continue my studies in the upcoming semester.
Thank you for considering my request. Please do not hesitate to contact me at [your-email@example.com] or [your-phone-number] should you have any questions or need further information.
Sincerely,
[Your Signature, if sending a hard copy]
Peter Anteater

Example #3

Dean of Faculty/School
University of Lethbridge

Dr., Mr., Mrs., Ms., _____________________

I am appealing my (grade/status) in (course name & number) on the following grounds.

The reason for my appeal is (describe your situation in as much detail as possible, start right from the beginning and continue to the present. You must include photocopies of all documentation such as medical notes).

As a result of this situation, I would like to request the following; (what you feel would be a fair resolution, e.g. a paper remarked, a grade recalculated or status changed to incomplete. Be as direct and honest as possible. False inaccurate or misleading information will result in guaranteed loss of your appeal).

Sincerely,


(Your Name)

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 Berkeley 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 school’s website could give you the name of someone in the department who 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 letter should clearly state which pieces of information were inaccurate on your application. An explanation of why the info was incorrect is beneficial too. 

Some appeals are granted if a student has major health or personal issues to deal with during the application cycle that are 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. 

7. How Do You Write a Strong Appeal Letter?

Consider your reasoning when asking how to write an appeal letter for school. A strong appeal letter can only be strong if your reason for writing the letter is clear and valid. For example, you may struggle to write a strong letter if you simply missed the deadline. 

However, if you experienced a difficult life event, you may have a very valid and strong reason for writing your letter.  As for formatting, typical professional letter formatting is generally preferred. 

8. What Are Good Reasons for an Appeal for College?

You can write an appeal letter for college if your poor grades can be explained by a challenging life event or if you have more valuable information that would improve your application that you weren't able to submit previously. 

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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