Can You Appeal a College Admissions Decision?

college admission appeals

Even though you might have applied to several colleges, for most students there’s usually one college that stands out as your favorite. But what if, after anxiously awaiting your acceptance letter, you end up receiving disappointing news from your first-choice college?  The most important facts to remember are that you are not alone, and that you still have lots of other great options to continue your education.

You may also wonder if there is any opportunity to appeal an admissions decision.  Is there actually a way for a college to reverse their decision and grant you admission? The short answer: In some cases, yes. For the long answer, read on!

What you should know

The first thing you should know about admissions appeals is that they are a privilege, and not every school will offer the opportunity. To find out whether your first-choice college accepts admissions appeals, check their website. Under a page like “Admissions FAQs” or “Undergraduate Affairs,” many schools will list an answer to this question. If they allow for appeals, you will likely find the steps to appeal on the same page. If you have difficulty locating the information on their website, politely call the admissions office to ask about the possibility.

It’s important to carefully consider whether your case merits an appeal. For most colleges, the only reasons they will consider an appeal are if there have been significant changes in test scores or grade point average in the intervening months, or if there was a clerical error in the application materials. These two situations are relatively rare, and an admission decision reversal is even rarer.

How college admission appeals work

If you decide to try to appeal the school’s decision, the first thing to do is find out why your application was not accepted. Call or email an admissions official to politely find out the reason(s). If it was due to something that hasn’t changed since you applied, you might be better off thanking the official for their time and deciding on one of the other colleges to which you applied.

Admissions officials understand how serious this process is, and they do not deny students for trivial or poorly-considered reasons. But if a test score or your GPA has risen significantly, you have completed an impressive project of which the admissions board was unaware, or there was a clerical error with some piece of your application, you have a better chance of receiving an appeal.

Next steps

If you choose to go forward with your appeal, the best way to do so is to write a detailed, straightforward letter listing the exact errors or changes that have taken place since you submitted your application. Again, do not include subjective accounts of why you feel you belong at the school. Most review boards will not be swayed by these arguments, and it will waste valuable space in your letter.

The news that you did not get into the school of your choice is not something anyone wants to receive. However, unless there is a strong reason to suspect that you did not receive appropriate consideration or there were mistakes in your application, it’s probably best to skip the admissions appeal and begin planning to attend another college or university instead. In the event that you did not apply to other schools, consider using the CFNC College Redirection Pool to ensure that you find a spot that’s a good fit for the upcoming school year.