Not every educational experience is a positive one. If you feel that you were treated unfairly at a college, you may choose to write a complaint letter. College administrators do want to hear your feedback, especially if it is written in a professional manner and is constructive in nature. Keep your letter brief and informative, and if you are requesting that the college or department rectify a situation for you, be specific about your request.
Investigate to whom you should address your letter. If your complaint is about a professor in a particular department, address your letter to the department chair. If you have a problem with your financial aid package, write to the head of financial aid. Do not just write to a general department; get the name of the person who heads the department and address the letter specifically to him or her. Complaint letters are more likely to be read and acted on if they are addressed to a specific person.
Use a business format for your letter. Start the letter by typing your address. Skip a line and type the date. Skip another line and type the name of the contact person, the department at the college you wish to write to, the university's name, and the address of the department at the university. Skip an additional line and type "Dear Dr./Ms./Mr. (last name)" followed by a colon.
Begin by introducing yourself and explaining the situation briefly. Be specific about your complaint and make a direct, reasonable request. For example, "My name is Robert Smith, and I am a freshman pre-nursing major here at Big State University. I am writing to explain the problems I have encountered with using the chemistry lab on campus in the hope that the policy of barring undergraduates from reserving a lab time will be reversed."
Provide details about the complaint in the subsequent paragraphs. Explain how the problem has affected you and your studies or your ability to function as a student. Keep the tone polite and professional; remember that policies have usually been enacted for a reason and that the administration and faculty are not trying to make life difficult for you. If you present your case well, you may be successful in reversing the policy or getting the relevant change made.
Thank the administrator for his time. Provide your contact information, such as your phone number and email address, in case the recipient needs to contact you about the matter.
Close the letter by typing "Respectfully," and skip three line spaces. Type your name and print the letter. Sign above your typed name.
Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.