How to Approach Letters of Appeal for CSUs and UCs

In the event that you are denied admission to a Cal State University (CSU) or University of California (UC), don’t panic! You can try to persuade the admissions office to reconsider your application by writing a letter of appeal.

Each of the UC and CSU campuses offer their own appeals process. You can find exact guidelines on their respective websites.

For the UCs and CSUs, a student will need to present “a new, serious, and compelling” reason to be considered for appeals. Of course, this definition is subjective for every committee, so you want to make sure that you do have something to share that has been truly impactful since you applied. This also means that the information you disclose should not have been previously mentioned anywhere in your application already.

A great example of what is considered “a new, serious, and compelling” reason is an extraordinary hardship/circumstance or exceptional talent previously unmentioned in your application. You want to describe, in detail, how the hardship prevented you from performing to your full academic potential, or how the previously unrevealed talent makes you a strong candidate for admission. You need to describe not only why you are a good candidate but also, and more importantly, how you plan to succeed in college, and what resources you will take advantage of to achieve that success. High grades in senior year, recent awards, or new extracurriculars are typically not sufficient reasons to write a letter of appeal, as decisions are based on academic information that was provided by the time of the application.

Examples of good reasons to write a letter of appeal:

  • Personal or family struggle/tragedy (and how you have responded to said struggle)
  • New caretaking responsibilities
  • A skill or commitment that you omitted from your original application (example: experience with coding, or coaching youth athletics, etc.)

In your letter, we suggest including a paragraph that vividly describes your passion for the school and underscores why you would accept a spot at the institution if admitted. Be honest, but composed. Focus on communicating your authentic hopes and feelings in a respectful, confident tone. After drafting your letter, scan the language for anything that sounds too demanding or desperate.

Steps for most UC/CSU appeals:

  1. Appeal within 15 days of admissions decision (typically April 15 is the last day)
  2. Prepare documentation
    • Fill out any Appeal forms the school might provide
    • Write your letter of appeal
    • Supporting documents (to support your appeal)
  3. Submit the appeal
    • Locate the correct email address to send the documents to
  4. Allow time for processing
  5. Receive the decision by email

Also, keep in mind that a letter of appeal is not going to seal your fate. There are many roads to the UCs and CSUs, and this year was especially tough because of enormous increases in the number of UC applicants.

If a university chooses to uphold its decision to deny admission, you can apply later as a transfer student after completing credits at a community college. In fact, for many UCs, transferring from a community college tends to be easier than applying as a first-year student out of high school. For example, UCLA admitted 24% of its transfer applicants in 2020, compared to just 14.4% of its first-year applicants. Similarly, UC Santa Barbara admitted 59% of transfer applicants, compared to just 36.9% of first-year candidates. Those statistics are part of a larger reality: applying as a transfer student is a completely valid, practical, and effective way of gaining admission to a UC or CSU.

This all goes to show that there are many potential routes to an amazing college education in California, and no single admissions decision can prevent you from pursuing your dreams.

As always, we welcome your questions and comments, and you can contact us here.

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