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This year more than any other, applicants returned to have me help them with their “Letter of Appeal.” Two specific applicants I worked with on these letters were both applying to UC schools – one to UC Davis, the other to UC Berkeley. Neither applicant understood exactly what admissions officers wanted in this letter, what they should or should not say, or how much it would even help them gain acceptance to their preferred school.

Applicant “A” had missed much of his sophomore year because of an illness in his family. His mother had been diagnosed with chronic asthma and needed constant care. Applicant A’s brother and father each worked full-time and were unable to provide the care the mother needed. Applicant A switched some classes at school, dropped a few extra-curricular activities, and became the primary caregiver his mom needed. This experience was life-changing for him and he grew tremendously from it. He learned the importance of a caregiver’s job. He learned how to budget his time so he could continue with his studies. And most importantly, he grew as a person. The essay was carefully crafted. We did NOT want it to come off as one filled with excuses; rather we wanted it to be fact-based and to convey a tone which sounded upbeat and positive, not whiny. We were both thrilled with how his “Letter of Appeal” turned out.

Congratulations to Applicant A who wrote me two days ago that he was accepted at Davis! (And thankfully, his mom’s health is getting better every day!)

Applicant “B” had another story altogether. Diagnosed with dyslexia as an adolescent, Applicant B had much to overcome personally and academically. Applicant B switched schools twice, nearly failing out once. His letter would be explaining many things: his difficulties in class, the toll that took on his life, and how he ended up turning things around raising both his grades and his standardized test scores. We crafted the letter with a matter-of-fact tone, with a tinge of humor which never hurts. We also emphasized how much he wanted to attend Berkeley, but with an exuberance I felt would impress admissions officers there. We did three revisions and with each draft the letter got stronger. In the end, we were all proud of the result.

Applicant B wrote me this morning that he was accepted to UCLA.

Until an applicant receives an official letter of rejection, it’s not too late to make his or her case. I’m proud of these two applicants, their stories, and that they will be attending the school of their dreams.