Test Prep

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.

Congrats on your perfect ACT score, but condolences on your Stanford news. Of course, I'm sure you know you're in good company — with many amazing applicants denied by Stanford in both the Early and Regular rounds.

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.