How to Write an Effective University Appeal Essay

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Every semester, college appeals committees review letters from students who have--for whatever reason--failed enough courses to lead to their suspension from the school. There are several ways you can make sure that the letter you write will be effective in outlining your particular situation and ensuring that the committee will be able to see your case in the most favorable light possible.

  • Paper
  • Envelope
  • Dictionary
  • Laptop or PC
  • Printer

1 Be honest

2 Begin writing an appeals letter

Before you begin writing an appeals letter requesting reinstatement as a student after an academic suspension, be sure to research the policy regarding such appeals. Each college may have a slightly different appeals process; the policy will be found in your student handbook or manual and is usually available online, too. Don't appeal for reinstatement unless you are confident that you can do better in the future, otherwise, you are wasting your own time, as well as the committee's. Be realistic about your potential for improving your grades.

3 In the opening paragraph

In the opening paragraph, state your request first: "I would like to be readmitted to [department] for this coming semester. Next, state your current situation ("currently on academic suspension"). Use clear, direct language to show that you understand exactly what your situation is. Next, state the reason why the college has suspended you ("failed to maintain adequate GPA"). If you have been suspended for another reason, state what it is in clear, direct language.

4 In your second paragraph

In your second paragraph, state your reason for failing. Be honest, but be concise. There are many reasons for failing classes, from family emergencies, to personal injury, to too much partying. The appeals committee has heard them all before. Stating your situation clearly and concisely is important: it shows the committee that you are mature enough to know why you have failed. If you are sure you can do better if given a second chance, then say so. The committee will consider your case fairly.

5 Next

Next, state any mitigating factors that stand in your favor, such as the fact that this is the only semester you have failed to earn less than a 3.0 or that you will be working only one job next semester, not two. The committee needs to know that you understand how to do well in school, and that you have a good understanding of how to make your situation better so that you can be an effective student. Of course, in cases of personal injury this statement won't be necessary.

6 Make spelling and punctuation

Make sure spelling and punctuation in the letter is all correct. Do not write by hand unless you have very good handwriting--rather, print the letter on fairly good paper and use spell-check. Address the letter and date correctly; many computer programs have templates for formal correspondence; use one. If you are injured and can't type, have a professional do it for you.

7 Don't assume anything.

8 Don't be long-winded

Don't be long-winded. The committee will respond better to phrases such as "coping with newborn baby" rather than "my baby cries and cries every night and I can't sleep; it's torture and it makes me sleepy in class." The chances are that your professors have been through a similar situation and still have had to show up for work. Keep your reasons for failure concise and to the point; the committee does not need to know all the details unless they are directly pertinent to your case (such as "having my fingers eaten by a polar bear has limited my ability to type," or "transition from a small town to a large city has been difficult").

9 Address the fact

Your closing paragraph should address the fact that you realize the committee may decide either way. Don't assume that the committee will lift your suspension just because you think you have a good reason for failure and are pretty sure that you will be able to do well in the future. Again, stating this realization on your part will show the committee that you are mature enough to be given another chance.

10 Try to wait calmly for the response

Try to wait calmly for the response to your appeal. The committee understands you might need to know soon, for purposes of applying for financial aid, for example. But don't call or write to check on your appeal unless you are certain that the review date is past; no one likes to be hassled, especially when you are asking for a special exception to be made.

  • Don't be long-winded, even if you are in a very complex situation.
  • Be clear, honest, and sincere.
  • Be humble--you are asking for a special exception to a rule.
  • Double check spelling and punctuation in your letter.

Sheila Tombe holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish; and a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in comparative literature. She has published poetry in several print and online venues, such as "Rosebud" and the "Southern Poetry Anthology."