While average college acceptance rates hover around 65%, certain ultra-competitive schools boast impossibly low numbers - below five percent, in some cases (Harvard University, we're looking at you). No one likes to be rejected, but it's an unfortunate fact of life in the college admissions game. So what do you do if you get the, "We regret to inform you..." email instead of the, "Congratulations, and welcome to the class of..." email? Let's take a closer look at whether appealing a college rejection is a worthwhile endeavor.
Do colleges allow appeals?
The short answer is - it depends. Appeal policies vary from school to school. Before starting down this path, find out whether the college that rejected you allows appeals by visiting its website or calling the admissions office.
Note, too, that just because the college allows appeals doesn't mean you'll receive a positive result. In fact, the odds remain very high that you are not a viable candidate for admission.
When should you appeal?
While successful appeals are rare, they do happen - but only if you have a good enough reason to compel the admissions committee to overturn what was most likely a very thoughtful decision. These types of reasons include:
You have a new and amazing accomplishment to report. Did you just win your regional spelling bee? Did you receive a special award or honor, or did you experience a dramatic spike in test scores? These are all valid reasons to try for an appeal, although you should be prepared for the likelihood that you'll simply be asked to try again the following year.
Someone else made a mistake. By mistake, we don't mean the college is missing out on a chance to have an amazing student join its community. While this may be true, it doesn't know how to write a reaction paper and make for a valid appeal. However, if a clerical error was made that resulted in the misreporting or misrepresentation of key data, such as SAT scores or grades, your case may well be legitimate.
When should you not appeal?
The college admissions process may be subjective, but it's far from arbitrary. Instead, it's based on a broad range of factors. Most of these are outside your control, as is the formula that resulted in your application ending up in the, "Thanks, but no thanks," pile.
You might think your application deserves a second look, or maybe you see others with comparable grades and scores being accepted. No matter how unfair the decision seems, your objections will likely not make a difference to the admissions committee. Attempting to appeal for unfounded reasons will only be an unfortunate distraction during what should be an exciting time in your life.
While a college admissions committee isn't going to overturn a decision simply because you want them to, appeals do succeed in rare cases. But regardless of your outlook or outcome, it's important to remember that you are not the first to have this heartache, and you won't be the last. Millions of students have been rejected from their first-choice schools, and they have gone on to have fulfilling and fun college experiences. Keep your chin up and prepare to turn this temporary obstacle into an amazing opportunity.