Appeals

Appealing a Decision

My career in college counseling started with an appeal. One of the top students in a math class I was teaching was rejected from UCLA. He was distraught. Worst of all, he was my best student. He was an avid learner and the president of the student body. After the lecture, he came down the steps and told me his story about how UCLA was his dream school and how he dedicated each day of his pursuit of community college in the prospect that he would, one day, graduate from UCLA.

Few students in my career as a college professor had impressed me as much. He was truly a leader in class, in school, and in the community. I forget now whether or not his college GPA was a 3.8 or 3.9. He was an A student in my class.

It was 1984. Booklets that contain the application had specific requirements and the paper applications were handwritten or typed on a typewriter. Transfer applicants did not have much space to explain their circumstances.

I told him that there had to be a way for him to attend. I told him what I often say, “It is never over until it is over and, even then, it is not over until you quit.” I have always held onto the belief that anything is possible one way or another at one time or another….until you quit believing.

The class ended at 10pm, it was now 10:30pm and the huge parking lot was mostly empty. I suggested that he meet me at another time to sit together and figure out how he could get this decision reversed. He had faith and so did I. We spent a few hours the next day in the college math lab writing an explanation and talking on the phone with UCLA admissions. He scheduled a time to meet with an admissions counselor at UCLA. We collected and organized documents, letters of recommendation, and evidence of his passion for education and success as a school leader. During that week, both of us were focused on the idea that he would be accepted.

Weeks later, he received a letter in the mail that said that he was accepted. That feeling of actually changing the course of a person’s life was the spark that told me that I needed to be a college counselor. While I have always been passionate about tutoring, SAT/ACT/GRE prep, and helping students in any academic subject, college admissions seemed to be a way I could spend additional time I had helping people. After that, I told any student who was rejected from college that if they had what it took to get accepted, I would help them with their appeals. Of the first one hundred appeals I helped students develop, all but one was accepted. This led to my voracious pursuit of college admissions counseling.

My point is that it is possible to earn admission after rejection. While I certainly do not want to convey false hope that anyone can be accepted, what I can say is that great students with eclectic talents and dedicated leadership can be accepted even when they receive a rejection letter.

Legal appeals happen. Okay, not often, and it takes work, but appeals are granted. In fact, the original decision occasionally gets overturned. To be sure, this does not happen all the time and there is no guarantee the decision will be overturned. However, it would be really unfortunate if all people wrongly accused gave up and accepted their fate. Fortunately, there are legal teams, like the Legal Assistance to Institutionalized Persons Project, (similar to the The Innocence Project) a program comprised of law students at University of Wisconsin Law School who work pro bono with prisoners to “offer the incarcerated a chance to fix injustices.

You might say that college admissions is different. A student could choose another college. Even a community college would not be the end the world. You might also contend that the example of the legal appeal does not even apply. That is fine, but I will never give up hope. And yes, I might even guide students to find another, better place, but the flame that fires our hearts and minds must remain burning. I keep that flame alive so that they do not stop dreaming, trying, and succeeding.

The vast majority of counselors simply say give up. They say that appealing is a waste of time. Colleges do not care. They made their decision. Move on with your life. Go somewhere else. Be reasonable. Accept that they are not going to admit you. They reviewed your application and you are simply not accepted. Okay, stop there. How many times have you met someone you did not like at first, but, over time, you learned more about them and they became a good friend? Most people can point to at least one person. I cannot tell you that all schools will reconsider and many will not, but you only live once and this life is yours. You can quit believing that your life can be magical, but I believe that anything is possible.

If you are really good, do not give up. If you are not up to the school’s standards, reinvent your life. People do reinvent themselves at least once in their life. I help students develop skills, envision their future, and work hard to make their dreams come true. Nothing will be handed to you. You have to earn respect, skills, and admission.

For the nuts and bolts, the process to appeal varies from school to school and some schools will not consider appeals. Furthermore, recently, colleges have created extensive waitlists, which has changed the process significantly.

Typically, a student must have new information. There are various types of new information that are substantive enough. Next, most colleges do not reveal their process or if they even have a process.

Appeals typically require a letter from a school counselor or administrator. If there is a regional representative, contact that person to get more information. If there is any way to get an interview with a school representative, do so. Present your case in person. Know who you are and be able to explain what brought you to appeal this decision.

If you want an appointment to discuss this further, contact collegeguide@mylizard.org


University of California Application in 2003-2004