How To Write an Appeal Letter for College Admissions

Updated July 5, 2023

Applying to colleges can be a challenging but rewarding process, and sometimes you won't initially get admitted into a university you want to attend. Many colleges have an appeals process for admissions, where students can appeal decisions and provide additional information for consideration by the school. Writing an appeal letter for college is one of the possible ways to request an appeal when you are initially not accepted into a university.

In this article, we explain what an appeal letter for college is and how to write an appeal letter for college, and we include an example to use as a guide.

What is an appeal letter for college?

An appeal letter for college is a type of letter you send to a college admissions office when they have not accepted you into their school and you feel there is a reason why they should. This letter might be to express that there were extenuating circumstances to why you didn't perform as well academically as they ask of students or to point out an error in transcripts that were sent. Appealing an admissions decision can vary depending on the college or university, so understanding the process is important.

Related: 9 Benefits of Going to College

How to write an appeal letter for college

Here are the steps you can take to write an appeal letter for college:

1. Understand the appeals process

Colleges may have a formal appeals process with instructions listed on their website or in the communications they send you, but they may not. Colleges that don't have an official way to appeal a decision might have a more flexible approach to appealing, or they may not consider appeals at all. When you're preparing to appeal an admissions decision, you should research what the appeals process is at the college you want to attend. This might require some digging on your part, and you might even need to reach out to someone at the university to get more information.

Once you know what the process is, you can plan what you'll do. If you have to fill out an appeal application, you might not need to write a letter, or you might have to submit the information you would've included in a letter in the application. If you have information you'll need to include with your appeal, such as transcripts or other paperwork, you'll want to gather that, following the guidelines of the admissions office. However, if your potential school doesn't offer any guidance on their expectations, you'll want to gather whatever you feel is most relevant and important.

Related: How To Write the Best College Admissions Resume

2. Appeal quickly

Once you've determined how to appeal and know you definitely want to appeal, you'll want to do so quickly. Appealing quickly shows the university that you are eager to attend their school and that you aren't waiting around to hear from other schools. This can help them see that they're your top choice. Additionally, there are likely admissions deadlines and other aspects of admissions planning that the admissions office is managing, so you want to get them all the information they'll need without delay.

When you send your appeal letter and it's going to people directly rather than submitting a form online, you can choose to send it to department heads as well as the dean and admissions office, which can help give them information about you as they're deciding about incoming students. These busy university professionals will be making decisions about admissions on a timeline scheduled by the school, so it's important to get your information to them quickly.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Writing a Professional Letter

3. Represent yourself

It might seem tempting to ask an adult to handle this task for you, whether that's a parent, guardian or even guidance counselor. However, it's best that the university hears directly from you, in your own words. You're the one who took part in your education and took admissions tests, will be attending the college and are the one who wants to appeal their admissions decision, so you know the situation best. Additionally, by representing yourself and taking responsibility for writing the appeal letter for college, you're showing your potential school that you're ready to be responsible for your education.

4. Explain the situation with details

Once you're ready to draft the appeal letter, you'll want to have plenty of details about the points you're making in the letter. If you're saying there was an error with your transcripts, you'll want to provide the correct transcripts and reference in your letter exactly what was incorrect. If you have had a change in your academic resume since you initially applied and you feel you meet the school's criteria better now, whether that's through better grades, new test scores or added extracurricular activities, include proof of those.

Your letter should explain the situation and you shouldn't feel worried about including too many additional documents, as long as they're relevant to what you're discussing in your letter. It's also a good idea to mention in your letter if you plan to attend definitely if you are admitted as a student, as this shows the school that their efforts to review your appeal won't be potentially for nothing if they accept you but you decide to attend a different school.

Related: How To Create a Resume for a College Application

5. Reveal your reality

If there are extenuating circumstances you feel have led to you not fitting the criteria set by the university, you can discuss those in your letter. For instance, if you have an illness that has impacted your education, including any type of learning disability, you can mention that and explain how you've learned to manage it or why the situation would be different when you attend college. If you went through a difficult time due to a move, the loss of a family member or any other personal situation that affected your education, you can mention that.

If there's anything about you personally that has affected your previous education that has been documented, you can include that documentation as well. This might include a doctor's note or a statement from one of your teachers. Just like having evidence to correct errors regarding your academic record, it's helpful to have evidence to support your personal struggles. Additionally, if you want to attend that particular school due to its fit with your personal challenges, such as remaining close to family or keeping costs down for your education, you can mention that as well.

Related: How To Request a Letter of Recommendation for College

6. Be kind and friendly

Your letter should be professional and appropriate, but also show your personality and be friendly. Avoid being accusatory towards the admissions office or angry about the need to appeal. Focus instead on the positives as to why you want to attend that school, why you feel qualified and the details of why you want your admission reconsidered. Being polite and approachable in your letter can make you seem more human to those considering your admission, and can help you avoid offending them.

7. Make an alternate plan just in case

Depending on the university you want to attend, appealing might be effective, but it might not. It's a good idea to have a plan for what you'll do if your appeal doesn't work. This doesn't mean you're giving up on the potential for your admission to that university, but once you submit your appeal, you'll likely have some time to think before you hear from the university. Waiting to hear about such a big decision can be stressful, so making alternate plans can help distract you and give you something positive to look forward to regardless of the university's decision.

While you're waiting, you can consider the alternatives. Consider if there are other colleges you've been accepted to that you want to learn more about, or if there are colleges you're interested in but haven't applied to yet and you still have time to do so. This is a good time to start thinking about what would be a good fit for you of the other options and learn more if you need to.

Example of an appeal letter for college

Here is an example of what an appeal letter for college would look like:

Sage Jackson
9365 Forest Glen Rd.
Los Angeles, CA 91201

February 19, 2021

University of Southern California
9005 Brand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90253

Dear Jacob Franklin,

I am writing to you today to appeal the admissions decision regarding my application to the University of Southern California. I very much want to be a University of Southern California student, and I feel there are some reasons why I was not admitted that deserve deeper consideration.

The primary reason I would like to appeal being admitted to the University of Southern California is that my academic record has changed since I initially applied. Due to some family issues, specifically my family moving across the country to help after my grandmother's Alzheimer's diagnosis, my academics were affected. When I applied, I had a 2.9 GPA, which I understand is a little lower than the University of Southern California prefers. Now that things have settled down a bit, I have been able to concentrate on my schoolwork more, and my GPA has gone up to 3.2.

Additionally, I have become active in three extracurricular activities, which are Band, Trivia Club and Debate Team. I have also earned two scholarships that I can apply to the university of my choice, which for me is the University of Southern California. If I am admitted to your program, I will definitely attend. The University of Southern California has the academic programs I want, the culture I am eager to be a part of and allows me to remain close to my family at a difficult time.

I have attached my transcripts, information about my scholarships and a letter from my school guidance counselor about my academic and personal life for your consideration. Please consider my appeal, as I am eager to be a student at your university.


Sage Jackson

Download Appeal Letter Template

To upload the template into Google Docs, go to File > Open > and select the correct downloaded file.

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