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How to Write an Effective Appeal Letter to a UC

Having helped community college transfer students now with numerous UC appeal letters, I am seeing a definite trend in the drafts. Without a doubt, losing out on your dream school is devastating.  It takes time to regroup.  If you think you have the grounds for an appeal, go for it.  But first take a few days to think out your strategy. Like any great trial lawyer, it’s all in the pitch. Here are some approaches to avoid and some to embrace:

The Kitchen Sink Mistake
The thought that you might stand a small shot at a reversal leads countless students to throw in every angle imaginable. This strategy is what I call throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. And it won’t help you, it will actually hurt you. It also makes the letter very long, very rambling and very unfocused. Which leads to the next paragraph:

As a writer across all social networks, I can tell you unequivocally that if something is too long, people will not make it to the end. They will bail somewhere after their eyes glaze over, usually about the midway point. Most every draft I see is way too long and kind of all over the map. Instead, pick the item/s of new information, whether it be academics, an accomplishment or a hardship and stay focused on it.  Less is usually more.

Get to the Point Right Out the Gate
In the first paragraph, don’t waste precious real estate talking about how wonderful the school is or how your friends and relatives say you haven’t got a shot, but you’re hoping to prove them wrong.  Write a one-or-two sentence intro simply noting that you are writing an appeal. End of story.

Don’t Choose a UC Because of Convenience
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve read the fervent words of a student, vowing to go to the ends of the earth to attend this, their dream school, only to end with a paragraph about a sick relative who lives nearby, or parents within driving distance, and how convenient the UC will be.  So, what is it? Are you willing to travel to the ends of the earth or are you picking the UC because of travel time? While the UCs sympathize with sick relatives and nearby family, it confuses the dream school message. Leave it out.

And Now for What Works
Compelling information left out of the original application. An appeal letter should present new information missing in the submitted application. This information should be about an academic accomplishment (not previously noted), an accomplishment that sets you apart (not previously noted) or a hardship (not previously noted). And it should be about something that was relevant at the time you submitted the application in November — not something that happened last week. Writing about a new development does not put you on the same playing field as your fellow November applicants, so the UC will not consider it.

A possible misjudgment of a situation. Although not as common, occasionally there is a misrepresentation or erroneous analysis of some key factual information that will cause the UC to reconsider.

So, there you have it. Your appeal possibilities. Ideally, it should be, at most, about 1-1/2 pages, and after the abbreviated open, you should end with a one-or-two sentence wrap, stating that you hope the appeal will be successful.

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Lindy is an independent UC admissions consultant, who works with both transfers and freshmen. She also has just completed her first novel, a supernatural thriller set in San Francisco.

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