Successful Academic Dismissal Appeal Letter – Sample & Tips
August 10, 2023
College is demanding. Okay, that’s a banal opening, but still. Obviously, there’s coursework to contend with. But there’s also the stress that comes along with roommates, dorm life, and a new social setting. Then there’s financial stress. Almost half of full-time undergrads—and a massive 81% of part-time undergraduates—hold a job. And let’s not forget that students are human—they get sick, or they have family members that get sick. They have relationships that require attention. They have to manage their own psychological well-being, too. My goal in making these observations is not to portray college as a joyless stress dream. Rather, it’s to point out that, as a result of these factors and many more, academic performance sometimes suffers. And when academic performance suffers beyond a certain point, students may be dismissed. That’s where an academic dismissal appeal letter comes in.
Academic Dismissal Appeal Letter
Most schools set standards for academic performance. Fordham University, for example—where I was an undergrad—requires students to maintain a cumulative and in-semester GPA of at least 3.0. If students fail to meet that benchmark, they’re placed on academic probation. And if, after their probationary period, students still fail to meet the school’s academic standards, they may be dismissed from their program.
The good news is that even if a student is dismissed on the basis of poor academic performance, they will most likely have a chance to appeal the decision. An in-person appeal is ideal, but if that’s not possible, students will have to write an academic dismissal appeal letter. And sometimes schools require an appeal letter in addition to the in-person appeal process.
Keys to writing a successful academic dismissal appeal letter
1) Be Honest
Without a doubt, honesty is the key to any successful academic dismissal appeal letter. The letter should be honest in that it candidly describes the circumstances that explain the poor academic performance. Those circumstances might be embarrassing, or uncomfortably personal, or painful. But the appeals committee will need to be familiar with all the details of the case in order to make an informed decision. Plus, it’s a sunlight-is-the-best-disinfectant kind of situation. The appeals committee wants to get a sense that you’re owning up to mistakes, taking responsibility, and not sugar-coating the facts.
2) Pay Attention to Tone
The be honest maxim extends to the tone and content of the letter as well. Successful academic dismissal appeal letters will be personal to the students writing them. So avoid stock phrases and clichés. Above all else, make sure the letter is your own. Don’t copy and paste the example appeal letter you found via Google, and don’t have your English major roommate write it for you. The tone you want to convey is contrite, open, honest, and willing to admit fault. And that definitely won’t come across if the writing isn’t your own.
3) Take Responsibility
The appeals committee won’t want to read a litany of excuses. Of course, extenuating circumstances that contributed to poor academic performance are an important part of the story. But it’s important to strike a balance here. Avoid blaming the circumstances that contributed to the semester’s bad grades—your part-time job, your long commute to class, your obnoxious roommate. The appeals committee will want to be aware of these extenuating circumstances, but first and foremost they’ll be looking for you to take responsibility for your academic shortcomings.
4) Propose Actionable Solutions
The previous point bleeds into the last one. It’s not enough to own your mistakes. The appeals committee will also be keen to see that you’re taking steps to solve the problems that led to the dismissal in the first place. If your grades suffered as a result of mental health problems, you’ll only bolster your case by pointing out that you’re now working with an on-campus counselor to help address the underlying issue. Or if you were losing crucial study time because your job is an hour’s commute from campus, maybe you’ve decided to look for a job closer to school, or an on-campus job. Laying out a plan as to how you’re going to improve your grades is a must if your academic dismissal appeal letter is going to succeed.
Academic Dismissal Appeal Letter – Example
Now that we’ve examined the characteristics of a good academic dismissal appeal letter, let’s take a look at an example.
Dear Dean So-and-so and Members of the Academic Standards Committee,
I am writing to appeal my academic dismissal from Blank University. I was extremely disheartened when I received the letter informing me I’d been dismissed, but I can’t say I was altogether surprised as I am well aware that my grades have been poor this semester. My goal in writing this letter is to explain some of the circumstances that contributed to my poor academic performance and lay out a plan to ensure that these mistakes won’t happen again. Ultimately, my hope is that I’ll be reinstated next semester. No matter what the outcome, though, I appreciate the opportunity to appeal my case.
My grades suffered this semester largely due to a decision I made to accept a job working at a restaurant in Brooklyn. The job required me to open the restaurant at 6 AM, and the commute to and from campus could sometimes exceed two hours total. I thought I’d be able to handle the workload and responsibilities of a demanding job and full-time studies. But not only did the commute and work hours eat into my study time, I also found that I was increasingly unable to stay focused in class.
Academic Dismissal Letter (Continued)
I attribute this to my early hours at the restaurant and corresponding lack of sleep and exhaustion. I became lackadaisical with my assignments and I fell behind and failed to communicate with my professors. In some cases, I even failed to go to class altogether. I hope these facts provide a little more context as to why my grades suffered this semester. Of course, I take full responsibility for the outcome. It was my prerogative to accept the job knowing it had the potential to interfere with my coursework. Moreover, I could—and should—have taken steps to address the problem as it was emerging.
Since receiving the letter of dismissal, I have taken steps to make sure that I will have enough time and energy to devote to my studies. For example, I spoke to my manager about working a different shift—one that doesn’t require me to get up at 4 AM. She informed me that that would be no problem. She also assured me that I could have my shifts covered while I refocus on my schoolwork and look for a job much closer to campus. In fact, she promised she’d be a reference for me as I apply to jobs at restaurants on or around campus.
My low GPA this semester is a result of my decisions and a failure to confront their consequences. I hope I have demonstrated an awareness of the problem and a willingness to ensure that it doesn’t recur. I am extremely proud to be a student at Blank University, and sincerely hope you will give me a second chance. Thank you very much for the opportunity to explain my circumstances and appeal my case.
Academic dismissal appeal letter – strengths and weaknesses
Let’s go through the example one piece at a time to really break down its strengths and weaknesses.
The introduction is concise and contrite. It’s not indignant, annoyed, or outraged. It comes across as serious and sincere. It clearly lays out the aims of the letter while also acknowledging the problem. Importantly, it expresses gratitude for the opportunity to appeal. However, it could have been a little more direct in taking ownership of the problem. Instead of the somewhat glib, “I am well aware that my grades have been poor this semester,” the sentence could be rephrased to reflect regret and responsibility—for example, “My grades have been poor this semester as a result of my decisions and their consequences.”
Academic Dismissal Letter (Continued)
The next paragraph provides an honest explanation of the circumstances that contributed to the student’s poor performance. It comes across as candid, and it doesn’t seek to pawn off responsibility. The final sentence of this paragraph could be improved, though. It’s commendable that the student admits they should have intervened to solve the problem earlier. But this is a perfect opportunity for the student to explain how they could have done so. Here’s my fix: “Moreover, I could—and should—have taken steps to address the problem as it was emerging. My professors made it clear to me at the beginning of the semester that they’d be open to communication throughout the course. I should have reached out to them when my grades began to slip. I also should have made use of the school’s many support resources.”
The third paragraph is successful because it lets the appeals committee know that the student is being proactive in addressing the problem. It further demonstrates an awareness of the problem, and it proposes a solution—finding a job on or around campus. The conclusion once again makes it clear to the readers that the student is taking responsibility for their actions, and it wraps up the letter on a note of gratitude.
Academic Dismissal Appeal Letter – Final Thoughts
When students are dismissed on academic grounds, it’s because the administrators have come to believe that the student is no longer making good use of the school’s time and resources. An academic dismissal appeal letter is your opportunity to convince them otherwise. And the best way to do that is to write a letter that’s contrite, proactive, and truthful.