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Articles / Applying to College / Should I Appeal Stanford Denial With New Test Scores?

Should I Appeal Stanford Denial With New Test Scores?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Dec. 14, 2020
Should I Appeal Stanford Denial With New Test Scores?


I was denied from Stanford last week, and I have a question about appealing. I took the ACT this fall, but my scores weren't back in time to submit them with my application (which was due Nov. 1) so I applied to Stanford test-optional. Between the time I applied and the time I got rejected, I received my ACT score back, which was a 36. Can I appeal the denial with the test score? I'm thinking maybe I was denied because I applied test optional.

While "The Dean" can't say "Don't appeal," because it may be an itch you feel you simply have to scratch, I will say that I think you'll be wasting your time ... and for two reasons:

1. Stanford receives nearly 50,000 applications each year and admits barely 2,000. This means that gazillions of qualified candidates with perfect — or near perfect — test results were turned away. In fact, tip-top test results are almost a given at Stanford, so the admission officials quickly look beyond them to ask, "What's special?" or "What will this student bring to our community that we most need?" Thus, even an ACT of 36 doesn't mean a whole lot at Stanford when those hair-splitting decisions are made.

2. The colleges that shifted to a test-optional policy this year due to COVID-19 have made a pledge to not penalize students who apply without test results. So if Stanford rejected you already but were to say, "Okay, we'll reconsider" once you send your ACT score, it would be as if the Stanford admission folks were conceding "Well, actually that pledge to accord no disadvantage to test-optional applicants didn't really mean a whole lot, did it?"

Granted, chances are good that there was at least one admission official at Stanford who lobbied for your acceptance and would be happy to proclaim, "I told you so!" if you were to send your ACT score now. But even so, it won't make any difference in your verdict. So instead, I suggest that you move on and focus on the rest of your college list. Over the eons, "The Dean" has accumulated tons of anecdotes about rejected Stanford applicants who went on to garner other great acceptances and then to do great things. Best wishes for you to be among them.

About the Ask the Dean Column

Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean please email us at editorial@collegeconfidential.com.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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