UCs takeaway of appeals process makes little sense

April 1, 2010 — by Sulmaan Hassan

The season of college admissions has invaded the lives of high school seniors and, while there have been many acceptances to the typical “target” schools, there has also been an overwhelming and surprising number of rejections.

The University of California confirmed what applicants and guidance counselors already knew first hand: It was harder to gain admission to many of UC’s nine undergraduate campuses this year. Mainly in response to major budget-related enrollment cutbacks for the fall, the percentage of California applicants offered freshman admission by at least one UC campus dropped from 75.4 percent last year to 72.5 percent this year, a decline of 3.85 percent, according to data released in 2009. Statistics predict even steeper declines forthcoming.

Students who had been accepted in previous years were rejected this year. As one can imagine, the ability for students to appeal is especially treasured. But surprisingly, during a year of such disappointment, a few UCs such as UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Irvine, and UC Merced have not disclosed an appeals process on their website or rejection letter as they would normally do. Due to the sheer number of applicants to certain schools, many students who deserve a spot at a university can end up getting rejected. Those who deserve admission should have another option rather than accepting their fate. Appealing was that other option.

There are always stories about two students who seem, more or less, equivalent: same GPA, same AP classes, same extracurriculars; but somehow, the unlucky one gets rejected from one school while the other one gets into it. Without the appeals process, this does not seem just. Students should have the opportunity to be looked at one last time if they feel they were misjudged.

After all, their entire future lies in the hands of an admissions committee. What if someone’s application about their dream to be a doctor was read by the committee after 18 other similar applications written about the same exact dream? Their essay will merit a yawn—skimmed through and tossed unceremoniously into the bin. However, under different circumstances, the essay may have been considered superb. The acceptance process is deeply flawed; while it attempts to establish objectivity by using multiple officers to review an application, it cannot eliminate human error.

There seems to be a belief that by appealing to UCLA or Cal, there is a high chance of being accepted. While it is true that there are several cases of students who are accepted off appeals, the percentage was depressingly low. In 2003, when UCLA alone received 1,300 appeals from a body of 33,650 rejected students, only 95 decisions were reversed, which is about a 7 percent acceptance rate, according to the 2003 Review of Admission Decisions. If the appeal acceptance rate is any sort of prediction for this year’s appeal admission rate and if the economic difficulties the UC colleges are having are taken into account, the rate would be substantially lower, most likely around 3 to 4 percent. Taking this into account, appeals never actually resulted in catastrophic changes in the acceptance of students, but it does allow for that glint of hope that all seniors would like to have.

Since appeals never actually had a significant effect on acceptance percentage, why get rid of it? Students who appeal without any notable achievements or changes to their application are unlikely to get in, but those students who may have been overlooked by their dream school, or may have accomplished something remarkable during their senior year in high school, should have one last chance to make their case to the school. The appeal process is that one last hope students have for getting into the schools that they strived for during their entire high school career. It’s not fair for that hope to be taken away from students, regardless of how few students are actually accepted as a result of it. u

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