Urgent help needed with academic suspension appeal letter, honest feedback required

Dear Members of the Scholarship and Advising Committee,

My name is xx and I attend University. I am an international student from Pakistan who enrolled here in 2019 as a Computer Engineering major. I thank you for this opportunity and for your time.

I understand that my academic progress for the year of 2020-2021 has not been not up to mark and I take full responsibility for that. I have been placed on academic suspension and I understand the reason behind that and again I take full responsibility for my actions that led up to this point. Firstly, I blame myself for getting such a low GPA and if I tried harder by utilizing the school’s resources wisely then I would have never been put into this predicament. I feel ashamed and disappointed in myself for getting a suspension letter for not being able to maintain a 2.0. These last few semesters have been really difficult for me, it has been mentally and physically exhausting for me. I am writing this appeal letter with the hope to express the importance of my academic future and that I may be given a second chance at my dream of earning a degree from the esteemed University and to outline the steps I plan to take in order to step back onto the path for academic success.

I do not wish to make excuses for my poor academic outcome but I will do my best to explain the circumstances surrounding this drop in performance. The main issue that contributed to my academic conflicts was my financial situation. When I began my semester at the University in the spring of 2020, I was dependent of my family to provide me financial support. Due to the recent and ongoing pandemic caused by COVID-19, me, my studies and my family have been affected and have suffered a lot. My academics were severely affected due to multiple reasons that did stem from the pandemic situation. My father runs a food business which is our main source of income, due to COVID my family not earning as much as they were pre-pandemic and they could not help me out here with matters involving money. And this cut down my family’s source of income by almost 60%. The financial situation also urged me to take a job near campus on the weekdays to support myself to pay for the tuition and my apartment. Even when I was at school, I was very distracted with the financial situation and was unable to focus on my schoolwork The financial situation urged me to take a job on campus on the weekdays and the weekends to support myself to pay for the tuition and my entire rent and food here. Even when I was at school, I was very distracted with the financial situation and was unable to focus on my schoolwork. These responsibilities fell on me and as I am an international student who is only allowed to work 20 hours a week and getting a little over minimum wage, I found it really hard to support myself as I was barely making enough and also trying to manage my classes at the same time. I was terribly unprepared to take on such responsibility at such a young age as when I enrolled I was only seventeen years old and when I moved off campus I quickly fell behind on rent and bills. I hadn’t prepared financially to pay for my expenses through school and was afraid to show my family my failure. I tried for the first few weeks of the semester but it just got too overwhelming and I found it really difficult to afford my rent and my food. This led to increasing mental stress day by day as the professors issued more new assignments while I was catching up with the last ones. During this period, I was late for paying my tuition as we were using family assets and savings to pay for it and there was always a delay and this can be confirmed from Ms. Wendy Dimaio from the student accounts department. Fortunately, my father had money that was supposed to be collected from the food market which has been received now and will be used towards my studies from now onwards. My mother has also been able to obtain a new job to support the family and me. In a result of this I will not be working any part time job and will be focusing on my studies and my classes. I have talked to my parents regarding my situation at the University and they have agreed to support me financially.

I also have not been back to my country ever since I came here, and not being able to see my family did not help in any way resulting in me being extremely homesick. My mother suffers from hypertension and she is diabetic and has blood pressure issues and because of me not being able to go attend to her and take care of her, this was a constant mental stress for me all throughout the year. I also could not share any of my problems with her due to her condition, and here I had no one whom I could talk to or explain my problems to. When covid started I was forced to be in quarantine by myself from end of March, all the way to late august, and not being able to talk to anyone or to have any interaction anyone made me fall into depression as my problems kept on piling up on me with no one or no way for me to let it out or solve them. As the school year went on, I slowly began retracting myself from society and the people I loved. As the semester progressed I found it extremely difficult to even get out of bed in the morning let alone concentrate on my studies. My attendance began to drop significantly and consequently so did my grades. I felt like a failure and hid my depression from my family. In addition, I was too embarrassed to reach out to my professors to ask for help or guidance. During this time, I gained a significant amount of weight, began losing contact with my close friends and had little to no interest in any sort of self-improvement. I seeked out the school therapist regarding my situation as my mental health really deteriorated along with extremely severe depression and lack of self-confidence, which affected my physical health as well. Having no classmates whom I was comfortable with or friends with also did not help in this situation. My mother is now doing better and I have become more comfortable being away from home. My family has been supporting me now and with the help of a school therapist I am on the path to overcome these problems and feeling better and being more focused towards my studies.

As for my studies I found engineering extremely challenging and as the American education system is entirely different from the education system in Pakistan, I found it really hard to fit in and to adjust to the extreme amount of workload that was being assigned to me. And as my native language is Urdu, writing essays in English is not one of my strong talents, and much of my courses during this time were writing intensive courses or had a lot of reading and writing included with them which overwhelmed me. I found time management to be my major issue as I could not make enough time to study and to work and to complete all my assignments. Now I have been familiarized with the college education system and as to what is expected of me from my professors, I will also be switching to a computer science as my major as I am sure I have a definite interest in that and I will be able to excel in this major. I will be working with Assistant Dean as to how I can transfer my credits earned as a Computer engineer towards my computer science degree and I shall be forming a plan which will outline the courses I will take and how I would catch up to the required GPA.

During spring semester of 2021 I got extremely sick because my housemate somehow got COVID, and that led me to be really sick, and as I am by myself I had no one to help me take care of myself. I had extreme headaches, my whole body was sore, I couldn’t get out of bed, I had a sore throat, and a high fever. And as I have no means of transportation I found it difficult to even go see the school’s health center.

I love Valparaiso University and I have been given the opportunity to study at such a prestigious school and it would mean the world to me if I can successfully graduate from this university as I would be the first in my family to complete a college degree from a university like this. Please understand my low GPA does not indicate that I am a bad student, really I am a good student who just had a lot on his plate and couldn’t handle it very well. I was the top 1% of my graduating class of my high school and I achieved top grades in my CIE O-level and A-level exams which led me to earn the scholarship that I got here, which is the only reason I am here. I now recognize that I was provided with an excellent opportunity to obtain an education at a highly esteemed university but due to my ignorance, indiscipline, lack of time management and personal issues my performance was not up to the mark. Since then, I am working towards overcoming my personal obstacles and growing both as a person and as a student.

I realize now that my laxness, along with not attending classes and refusing the numerous resources available to help students did the most to lower my performance academically and lower my overall GPA. Oftentimes I would ignore office hours and decide to do poorly on concepts I didn’t understand instead of seeking help in understanding the topics. I am also a shy and introverted person so reaching out to others for help felt like a really difficult task and I was always afraid of being judged. Alongside all that, my study habits left much to be desired for any standard college student. Taking these mistakes in stride I have a plan that I truly believe will allow me to be successful in this upcoming semester. I have made it a point to be punctual, attentive and most of all driven, so I can correct the mistakes I have made and continue my path for the future. I believe that following this plan will not only lead to more opportunities in the future but allow me to raise both my GPA and my expectations moving forward. My plan to overcome these hurdles that I am facing in my education is to make sure I am attending classes regularly no matter what. My top priority will be studying and doing my homework. I will minimize or remove distractions such as my commitment to the VU soccer club, spending excessive time at the gym and working any type of job. I will be submitting the assignments on time. Stopping by my academic advisor two times every week and making sure everything is in check. My counselor will provide information to my parents every week about my performance in class. Regular study sessions with the assigned TA’s (teacher assistants) for homework for every class. Making use of the academic success center for additional tutoring for homework and classes. Communicating to professors and asking for help. Professors communicate to parents about performance in class. Professors communicate to academic counselors about performance in class. I have no objection that my counselor will provide all the information to my parents every week about my performance in class. I will be communicating with my professors and the advising staff to make sure I understand what is expected of me. Regarding my issue of time management, I will be using an academic planner or google calendar and other online scheduling tools to make sure I am giving ample time to all of my classes and to use my time wisely and efficiently and to restrict procrastination as well as a more solid and earnest work ethic. I have also learned that communication is a big part of being successful, whether it be communicating with my professors, counselors or with the people around me. I thought I could handle all the burdens by myself, but I was wrong. I understand now that I should not avoid my professors and TA’s, and talk to them earlier on in the school year if I’m struggling with my grades or personal issues.

Again I thank the Scholarship and Advising Committee for this chance. Looking back on my actions that resulted in my academic suspension I feel nothing but shame and regret knowing that it is no one’s fault but my own, however every mistake is a learning experience and I am hopeful I can show exactly what I’ve learned from this and I look forward to being back on the course to success. In the end I would just like to say that making mistakes is human nature and this suspension has been a wakeup call for me to get my affairs in order. Please understand that my low GPA that led to my suspension does not indicate that I am a poor student. Other than the in-class activities for the courses, I have good grades in the other aspects of the course work which I submitted. I have improved grades on three courses compared to my previous semester. I just need an another opportunity to show my true potential now that my financial burdens are solved. I have taken many steps to ensure my success for going forward with my studies and pursue my dream of receiving an undergraduate degree from the University. I hope you will give me a second chance. Thank you for considering this appeal.

Sincerely,

This is purely advice on the format of the letter itself.

You need to rewrite this in such a way that no paragraph is longer than the current second paragraph; it is basically unreadable as is. I suspect you can probably cut it way down in general, don’t just go in and randomly add paragraph breaks to what’s there.

I wish you the best with this situation.

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sir, are you saying that i should make the whole letter shorter ? Should i keep the detailed explanation or not ?

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I am saying it very likely can be made shorter, but even if you feel every single word is necessary, it should be presented in a way that is easier for the reader to process.

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Sir, i understand what you are saying, thank you for your help, please also help me out if you think this needs anything else, any critique will be greatly appreciated.

This is much, much too long. The committee does not need this level of detail about why you didn’t do well . The letter should focus on what you will be doing differently next semester to bring your grades up. You can briefly summarize that Covid impacted you physically, mentally, and financially. The bulk of your letter should be the “My top priority will be studying”…through the end of that paragraph.

I would also caution you about implying that CS is going to be easier that CE. CS is challenging for many students.

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to be honest i was just majorly impacted by depression and thats why i didnt do well, but i will cut it down and bring the emphasis on what i will do better, is there any other way i can improve as this is due in 3 days.

Do you have a diagnosis of depression? If so, you may want to mention that you will continue to work with your counselor next semester. If you aren’t seeing a professional, I’d look into doing so to get more supports.

In terms of what you can do, I would start by cutting this letter down by at least half and then seeing how it reads.

i did go to my school therapist. Okay i will shorten it, at this point i just need to make this letter as convincable as possible, does my existing letter does that job ? would another reader after reading this reinstate me ?

100% agree it is WAY too long.

The hard part of writing an impactful letter is the editing–again and again if needed–to get it to be clear and concise. Each (brief) paragraph must have a purpose to get across. I like that you are taking responsibility.

I couldn’t get past the first 2 or 3 sentences as it is written.

And importantly, I wish you and your family the best. This has been a very hard couple of years. FWIW back in my day, I was on academic probation more than once, but I got it together, ended up with a great masters degree and have done just fine in my career.

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Something like this…

To whom it may concern-

I acknowledge and take accountability for my academic deficiencies that have placed me on academic probation. A variety of circumstances contributed to my poor performance and if given the opportunity I fully intend to improve. I value my education and fully appreciate the seriousness of the situation.

I recognize that some of the economic, social, and health issues that impacted my results may persist into next year. With that in mind, I fully intend on….(detail specific actions to be taken such as)…

1- seek participation in study groups
2- go to office hours
3- use resource center
4- Pre submit course work to get review and support
5- etc…

Your comments should be pro active, succinct and forward looking. Don’t dwell on what happened but how you both own the situation and will fix it.

End with a heart felt of how you want an opportunity to correct the situation and that the past year is unprecedented but you have learned from it and are up to the challenge.

Hope this helps and good luck.

PS I would personally be hesitant to describe mental health challenges. Hard to put toothpaste back in the tube if the reader is predisposed to question whether you can manage the illness.

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Sir, i understand that it is too long and i will cut it down, but what do you mean by “I couldn’t get past the first 2 or 3 sentences as it is written.”

Good luck with your appeal. Agree that it is too long - you could cut each paragraph by over half. All the details don’ t help you - you say you are so depressed you can’t function, but then promise to stop your club sport and excessive exercising. Your mom has chronic health conditions that made you unable to study, but now she is “better” and in fact it is her job that will be funding your education despite her poor health. My point is that you have so many unnecessary and contradictory details that your story doesn’t come across as entirely sincere. The poster above has great ideas on how to organize.

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In the letter they said that i need to explain why i didnt do well, any help as to how i can explain my reasons better ? i wrote it more in a way that i explain the problem and then in the end provide the solution, does this work ?

This is too long! They don’t have time to read a long-winded, pity letter. The colleges are busy places. They have to read through a lot of academic suspension reviews. Your letter, at present, is not convincing.

Confirming to them that you are/were unprepared, financially, mentally, academically, and physically, will reaffirm to them that you are unprepared to continue at their school. If you want to send your current letter to the committee, then go ahead. They will wonder why they ever accepted you.

If you want them to seriously consider your request, you need to keep it short, to the point, and looking forward to what’s next.
They already know that you “screwed up”, that’s why you are on academic probation.

Making excuses and saying that:

  • Your laxness and refusal of resources confirms their need to suspend.
  • You will be the first in your family, doesn’t help. They’ve had thousands of students, like you, who are the first in their families to attend; so what?
  • Saying that your mother is hypertensive and diabetic, and that you needed to see her to console her, wont win you any Brownie points. The US has a significant population of diabetic and hypertensive patients, including the Academic Board! Their first thought would (possibly) be, doesn’t this kid have a Cell phone? They don’t like excuses.
  • Emphasizing that you didn’t do office hours nor attend tutoring sessions just sounds weak.
  • getting on academic suspension which was finally a “wake-up call” for you, isn’t what you want to be conveying if you want them to fund you. How long would it take you to finally be convinced that you needed to change something?
  1. Yes, you have to own your mistakes in a succinct manner:
    Ex: “I realize, now, that the American university setting was a big cultural change from what I expected, so I was unaware of what I needed to do to perform well academically.” (Don’t use my words, use your own) but then, you have to report what will happen next:
  • I have been in contact with the Academic Help Center and will be attending tutoring sessions on MW at 2pm (or whenever their calendar is open).

Email them or go there physically to get information. This is serious; don’t pay them lip service. Show up. They can appeal to the university if they see you constantly.
(The tutors will help with assignments in all subjects.)

You need to note when you will have appointments with them. Is there a professor/s in your major who will back you up? Will they write on your behalf to the committee?

  1. Professor Smith has agreed to meet with me on Friday afternoons to review some of the syllabus requirements that I didn’t understand.

  2. I have discontinued my job, in order to focus on my studies.
    When you applied, you indicated somewhere to immigration, that you had reserve funding, in case you came across a financial barrier.

If you attempt to keep this longwinded letter, it’s going into the trash.
FWIW: You wont be able to transition into CS with this GPA. Most CS departments at universities and colleges require high GPA’s for the minimal seats that they have. Take it out of your letter.

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Thank you for your detailed response, i highly appreciate it. From what i understand is that i should shorten this, take out excuses and keep it to the point, and provide ways that i will do better, is that what you are saying ? As of right now i cannot get the schedules for the tutors as my college is on winter break, i also have reached out to the professors and hopefully they will get back to me, i dont know what else to do or how to write a better letter, please give me some guidance

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Look up thread I drafted an example.

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Shorten to a 1 page letter.

Three paragraphs max.

First paragraph: Own your current position.
Ex: “I am on academic suspension because of my grades and poor planning.” I am asking for an academic review because of:

This should be the shortest paragraph and you should remember why they accepted you. Three to 4 succinct sentences.

Second paragraph: What you have done since then to correct your academic qualifications.

Third paragraph: Your support system and professors willing to work with you. Give department names and emails.

Fourth: Two sentences thanking them and that you would be willing to meet with them.

done

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Okay, i will do that, thank you for your help

Forgot to add:
Your last paragraph should detail,
Who, on campus, is going to work directly with you and
What courses are involved.
When you will attend their scheduled times (office hours, TA’s/GA’s names and emails). It has to be specific and show that you have researched and worked with them.

Offer to attach a spread sheet of your schedule along with their tutoring schedules. “I have a spread sheet ready for your perusal, indicating my tutoring and course schedules along with syllabi dates of tests.”

Right now, most of the TA/GA’s are on break, but you still have a chance to contact them.

It will require a LOT of leg work on your part to get this done. The Review Board should have given you a specific timeline to request a review of your case. Use the time wisely.