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Submitting Student Academic Appeals: What to Know and Do

If you haven't read our article on academic probation and what to do, start there to understand what students and mentors can do if/when a student is placed on probation. 

Each university's policy is different, but academic warning or probation  are both warnings that the student’s performance falls below the institution’s requirement for “good academic standing”.  Academic standing is most often measured by GPA (grade point average), but may also be determined by academic progress, or the number of credits completed.  It is possible, at some schools, that a student may have a decent GPA, but may have dropped or withdrawn from too many courses during the semester.  

When placed on probation, students should first understand the university's policy and the appeals process. 

When faced with the decision to submit an appeal, encourage students to considering the following:

  • There is nothing to lose! Students should always appeal. 
  • Research and follow the college’s rules for submitting appeals. 
  • Some colleges require the submission of specific forms in addition to a written appeal statement.
  • Appeals often must be submitted both to the committee on academic standards and the financial aid office.
  • Get supporting letters from people (ideally from other campus community members like an affinity group president, opportunity program or academic advisor, department chair person, professor, social worker in the counseling office, etc) who can:
    • Verify their statement for why they performed poorly.
    • Vouch for their character, and co-sign on their ability to turn things around (citing evidence of times   they’ve done so previously).
    • Make an ongoing commitment to continuing to support them.
  • Adhere to deadlines. Committees are unforgiving of missed deadlines.
  • Check their college email account daily for updates.
  • Ask someone to copy edit their statement before submitting the appeal. 
  • Make a contingency plan in case the appeal is denied.

In the appeal statement, students should:

  1. Cite real and specific reasons for poor performance (unless the reasons disclose a serious, unresolved legal issue).
  2. Include supporting evidence (doctor's notes, third party letters of support from within and outside of the college, invoices, pay checks, death certificates). College’s rarely take a student’s word for it without additional documentation.
  3. Include background information about themselves to tell their story.  Remember, the members of the appeal committee likely have never met them.
  4. Present an action plan for improvement that is realistic. “I know I’ll do better” is not enough to satisfy a committee. 
  5. Use correct grammar and punctuation.

Recommended Structure for an Appeal Statement

Paragraph 1: this is who I am (name, ID #, class year) and why I am writing 

Paragraph 2: background info; the cause for my academic decline 

Paragraph 3: how this year will be different; cite a specific, measurable and realistic action plan (instead of I will get tutoring, I will visit the tutoring center every Wednesday for one hour) 

Paragraph 4: summary restatement; thank the committee for their consideration

Remember to reach out to academic advisors and your Program Manager for support!