1. Appeal in Person
If you have the option of making a written or in person appeal, choose the latter. The members of the appeals committee will think you are more committed to being readmitted if you take the trouble to travel back to college to make your case. Even if the thought of appearing in front of the committee terrifies you, it is usually a good idea. In fact, nervousness and tears can sometimes make the committee more sympathetic to you.
If you need to appeal in writing, check out this sample appeal letter. In it, Emma presents the reasons she performed poorly and what her plans are for improving her grades.
2. Don't Let Your Parents Plead Your CaseThe appeal committee members want to see that you, not your parents, are committed to your college success. If it looks like your parents are more interested in the dismissal appeal than you are, your chances for success are slim. Don't have your parents write a letter of appeal for you, and don't let them show up at your appeal with you. The committee wants to see you taking responsibility for your bad grades, and they want to see you advocating for yourself.
3. Be Painfully HonestThe underlying reasons for an academic dismissal vary widely and are often embarrassing. Some students suffer from depression; some tried to go off their meds; some got messed up with drugs or alcohol; some stayed up every night playing video games; some got overwhelmed pledging a Greek.
Whatever the reason for your bad grades, be honest with the appeals committee. Colleges believe in second chances -- it's why they allow you to appeal. If you don't own up to your mistakes, you're showing the committee that you lack the maturity, self awareness and integrity that you'll need to succeed in college. The committee will be happy to see you trying to overcome a personal failing; they will be unimpressed if you try to hide your problems.
4. Don't Blame Other PeopleIt's easy to get embarrassed and defensive when you fail some classes. Still, no matter how tempting it is to point at others and blame them for your bad grades, the appeals committee will want to see you taking responsibility for your academic performance. The committee will not be impressed if you try to blame those bad professors, your psycho roommate, or your unsupportive parents. The grades are your own, and it will be up to you to improve your grades. See Brett's appeal letter for an example of what not to do.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't explain any extenuating circumstances that contributed to your poor academic performance. But in the end, you are the one who failed those exams and papers. You need to convince the appeals committee that you won't let external forces lead you astray.
5. Have a PlanIdentifying and owning up to the reasons for your poor academic performance are the first steps to a successful appeal. The equally important next step is presenting a plan for the future. If you were dismissed because of alcohol abuse, are you now seeking treatment for your problem? If you were suffering from depression, are you working with a counselor to try to address the issue? Going forward, are you planning to take advantage of the academic services offered by your college?
The most convincing appeals show that the student has identified the problem and come up with a strategy for addressing the problem. If you don't present a plan for the future, the appeals committee is likely to think you will end up repeating the same mistakes.
6. Show Humility and Be PoliteIt's easy to be angry when you've been academically dismissed. It's easy to feel a sense of entitlement when you've given a college thousands and thousands of dollars. These feelings, however, shouldn't be part of your appeal.
An appeal is a second chance. It is a favor being offered to you. The staff and faculty members on the appeals committee spend a lot of time (often vacation time) to consider appeals. The committee members are not the enemy--they are your allies. As such, any appeal needs to be presented with the appropriate "thank yous" and apologies.
Even if your appeal is denied, send an appropriate note of thanks to the committee for considering your appeal. It's possible you'll be applying for readmission in the future.