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Appealing a College Rejection

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Like it or not, letters of rejection come with the college application territory. While it's rare for colleges to revisit their admissions decisions, students who have significant new information to share may potentially find an ear.

While it's never pleasant or easy to open a letter of rejection, a disappointing college admissions decision should never be considered an indication of a student's worth or potential.  With record numbers of applications at all selectivity tiers of colleges and universities, there can be minute differences between two applicants, one of whom receives a "yes" and the other a "thank-you-for-applying" response.  

Numerous factors go into an application review, some of which are objective, like grades and test scores, and others that are purely subjective, such as community impact or letters of recommendation.   On top of all the mystery is the part that is completely opaque: the pool of other applicants and their application stories. 

The best approach after receiving a rejection notification is to calmly acknowledge the decision, even if it is surprising or feels "unfair." Assuming the student had applied to a reasonable list of colleges and had already received acceptances, then it's time to appreciate those "you're in!!" notifications and how much those schools value the applicant and what they would bring to the college's community.  

Unlike reconsideration after a deferral, a denial is typically a final decision and rarely overturned. Still, if an applicant has a signficant or material information to share with Admissions that never was included in the original application, it may be worth a "Hail Mary" for the student to contact their regional admissions representative.  First step: Find out if a re-read is even possible.  Suggested approaches for when it would be reasonable -- and not desperate -- to contact Admissions are all about being positive and specific.  

What not to do includes:
  • telling the college that they made a mistake
  • demanding an additional review
  • making excuses around poor past academic performance
  • submitting additional recommendation letters or essays
But doing these could support the student's case:
  • pointing out factual errors in the application that were discovered following submission
  • explaining extenuating circumstances that would present the student in a more positive light
  • informing Admissions of significant recent accomplishments or awards
  • clarifying strong interest in the school and a (truthful) commitment to attend if admitted
Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC and can be reached via

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