Everything You Need to Know About College Appeal Letters

There’s nothing more frustrating than being applying to your dream school and getting deferred or waitlisted. Being stuck in limbo can be excruciating, however, there are steps you can take while you wait for the final answer. In this post, we’ll answer all of your burning questions about writing college appeal letters:

When should I write an appeal letter?

When you receive a rejection, it can be tempting to wonder whether there’s anything you can do to change it. Unfortunately, we do not recommend that you write an appeal letter if you are rejected from a college. Your time is valuable, and it’s vanishingly rare for a school to reverse an outright rejection. The only exception to this rule is if you believe a rejection occurred as a result of an administrative issue, such as your guidance counselor forgetting to send your transcripts. In that case, you should immediately fix the issue and appeal the decision. But those cases are rare, and the vast majority of rejections are final.

That being said, you should definitely write an appeal letter if you are deferred, waitlisted, or accepted to a different campus or major than the one you applied for (ie being “capped” at UT Austin). In these cases, the admissions committee is signaling that they are choosing between you and other candidates, so it could make a difference to provide new information about your qualifications.

What should I write in my appeal letter?

In your appeal letter, you should thank the committee for considering your application, reiterate your interest in the school, and most importantly, provide new information about why you’re a good candidate. Have you received any awards, or improved your GPA and/or class rank? Have you started participating in any new extracurricular activities, or taken on any new leadership roles? Have you gotten a new job or internship? It can be difficult for students to come up with anything substantial, since there are often only a few months between applying and getting deferred/waitlisted. But it’s essential to make a real case for your acceptance, so think outside of the box!

To whom should I address my appeal letter?

You should address your appeal letter to the Office of Admissions. Ideally, you should do some research and find the name of the Dean of Admissions, to make your letter a little more personal.

How should I format my appeal letter? How long should it be? Where should I send it?

Each school has its own appeal process. Some will have a form with specific short answer questions and/or specific word counts, while others simply instruct you to send your own letters. These instructions will also tell you where to send the letters. If the college doesn’t specify or has a more informal process, then format the letter like an actual letter (including an address at the top), keep it concise at approximately 500 words, and email it to the Office of Admissions.

Should I include letters of recommendation?

While writing appeal letters, the most important thing is that you follow the individual college’s instructions. Some schools will allow you to submit letters of recommendation, while others explicitly disallow it. If they allow it, then ask 1-2 people who know you well and did not write recommendations the first time around. Don’t send letters if they don’t ask for them – they have enough paperwork as it is!


When writing your appeal letter, remember to be humble, follow instructions, and provide new information that couldn’t be found on your original application. This part of the process is stressful, but you have all the tools to succeed. If you’re looking for personalized guidance on the college process, check out our college counseling services here!

-Janey T.

Assistant Director of College Counseling

Columbia University (MFA), Brown University (BA)

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