It’s natural to be upset if you receive a rejection letter from a college you wanted to attend.

After all, you’ve invested time and energy into applying to the schools on your college list. But, even with a rejection, all hope of attending that school isn’t lost. Some colleges offer the option of appealing a rejection, and while a reversal is rare, it could be worth pursuing. If your initial admissions circumstances have changed significantly, and you feel you have a strong case, there’s a chance your appeal might prevail.

1. Research the School’s Admissions Policies

The process to appeal a rejection is not always clearly laid out. To be as effective as possible, you need to pay attention to any existing official protocol or recommendations from the admissions office. While some colleges offer a formal process, complete with forms and deadlines on their websites, there are many that have little or no information at all.

You may have to call the admissions office and ask about their policy and guidelines. During that call, create a clear and concise list of the steps you must take. Also, find out if there is anything they specifically don’t want you to send or do. You may be making an appeal during the intensity of admissions season so you don’t want your appeal set aside because it contains unnecessary information.

Some schools won’t accept appeals and consider their admissions decision final. If that’s the case, don’t try to negotiate. There’s nothing you can do but gracefully accept the situation, move on, and focus on schools that accepted you.

2. Build a Thorough Case for Acceptance

To make the case for a review of your application, it’s critical that you have new information to offer the college’s admissions team. Make sure your appeal includes materials like:

  • Corrections to your first application
  • Significantly improved grades or test results
  • Awards and honors you’ve received since you first applied

You can personalize your appeal by expressing your thoughts and feelings too. Letting the admissions team know why you believe that you’re a good fit for the school is one way to begin, but it’s important to avoid implying that they made a mistake by rejecting you in the first place. If there are any mitigating factors that have enriched or impacted your life, such as volunteer or service work, training that’s given you a unique skill set or a new perspective on how you see yourself, you may want to include those experiences as well.

3. Find Out Who You Should Make Your Appeal To

Frequently, your appeal will begin and end with the admissions office. But if you’ve made sure there are no restrictions on who you can communicate with during an appeal, or if the school has no specific guidelines as to who you can appeal to, you don’t have to limit yourself to that department.

However, there is a crucial caveat with making an appeal beyond the admissions representatives. You should only use this option to submit secondary letters and only if you’ve already been in close contact with department heads or faculty in your major. If those relationships haven’t been clearly established, keep your communications to the admissions office.

Also, since schools are wrapping up final decisions for the upcoming year, it’s in your best interest to act quickly and deliberately to get your case to the right person.

4. Be Prepared for Another Rejection

Keep in mind that challenging an admissions decision is not the norm and changing the school’s decision is unlikely. Information shared by officers at several different schools across the country reveals that only two to four percent of applicants successfully appeal an admissions decision.

While the final resolution may be disappointing, take some pride in your ability to persevere against the odds. Shift your focus to the schools that accepted you and concentrate on choosing the best choice among that group. And remember, if you remain dedicated to attending your first-choice school, you’ll still have the option to attend another school and transfer later on.


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