I am planning to attend a college that requires students to live on campus, in a coed setting. As an observant Muslim, I cannot do that.

The college asked me to write a letter explaining why I cannot live on campus. I also have to explain why I can't eat the cafeteria food.

I'm asking how I should start the letter, and what I should say in the letter.

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    Not sure this question is on topic. Why not simply explaining the college why you can't live on campus? – user102 May 22 '14 at 14:51
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    This site focuses on academia beyond the undergraduate level, so it is not the right place for your question. However, generally colleges are extremely sensitive to the religious needs of their students, so as long as you cite religious reasons for wanting to live off campus, etc, I don't think you'll meet any objection. (I'd suggest that in your letter, you pay more attention to punctuation, grammar, etc than you did in this post.) – Nate Eldredge May 22 '14 at 15:04
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    Out of curiosity, what in islam pcludes you to live campus? I understand why you cannot eat the cafeteria food (though you will probably not be the first muslim in the college and they may provide alternative menus). Many muslims are living in campus dormitories in France (and in Europe in general) and they don't have much troubles. – Taladris May 22 '14 at 17:54
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    @mkennedy: Such arrangements are quite rare, at least in the US, and typically happen only by request of both students. I've never heard of a university where students were required to live in potentially co-ed rooms. – Nate Eldredge May 22 '14 at 18:58
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    A Rabbi I know (whose congregants have exactly the same issues) keeps a stack of form letters in his drawer, stating that the named person is observant of religious law, which prevents him/her from living in a coed dorm or eating cafeteria food. He fills in the name and signs it. I assume there's a reason why he mass-produces these letters. Chances are, your Imam has a similar stack. It could not possibly hurt to include such a letter with yours. – Jeffiekins May 22 '14 at 21:36

This kind of letter should typically be brief and straightforward. Unless they have told you specifically what should be in the letter, you can write:

To whom it may concern:

Please be advised that, as a Muslim, my religious observance precludes me from living on a coeducational campus. As per the advice of [person or office who told you to write the letter], I am writing this letter to request an exemption from the on-campus living policy.

Thanks for your consideration,


If you want, you can also include contact information for a member of the clergy (i.e., a religious leader) who knows you and can vouch that you do, in fact, have such a requirement. (Sometimes this is required as a matter of policy; for example, those who cannot take the SAT on Saturday due to religious observance must provide a letter from clergy attesting to this.)

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    I think in your sample letter, you want to use the word "dorm" rather than "campus." – aeismail Feb 16 '15 at 23:10

Because it is implied that the college you plan to attend doesn't have an existing form or requirements for exemptions, I suggest that you include more information rather than less.

For an exemption from the on-campus housing requirement:

  • Briefly discuss the religious observations that are in conflict with living in a co-educational dormitory.

  • Detail where you are going to live (parents, other family member), give the name, address, and contact information. If living by yourself, a letter from your parents or legal guardian about the situation. Do you have the money to do this? How do you plan to travel to the college?

For the exemption from a meal plan:

  • Again, briefly discuss the religious requirements that preclude eating in the cafeteria. (The food service may be able to provide halal meals. If that's so, are there other reasons to ask for an exemption?)

  • Detail what you will do instead (relative will provide food, cook for self, bring lunch, etc.).

The residential and meal plan requirements are to foster relationships in the incoming class. Having the majority of incoming (at least) students on-campus also helps to ensure that they have safe places to live and food to eat. Give them reasons why they won't need to worry.

I would also either offer to get a letter from a religious leader or just provide it outright.

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    In my experience, this kind of letter is usually just procedural (i.e., something to stick in the file to show that they followed the policy) and no detail is necessary. – ff524 May 22 '14 at 19:25
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    @ff524 when I went did a little searching, I found that some places wanted notarized letters from parents, doctor's notes (if for medical reasons) that included asking for release of medical records, and from one place that almost no exemptions for any reason are made. I think it's better to give the college every reason to grant the exemption rather than have to appeal later with more information. – mkennedy May 22 '14 at 19:30
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    Ok. Just speaking from personal experience (I myself have some restrictions due to religion, and I have to send a letter similar to the one I wrote practically every semester). – ff524 May 22 '14 at 19:32

Start with explaining why its so important that you attend that college and not one that would be better suited for your beliefs (I'm assuming you desperately want to go to this college rather than going simply because its close to home.) Briefly and politely express what the issues are and why they are issues. Quote from the Quran if you need to. I would also ask a local Amam if they would write a letter explanation to further support your claims. As far as the cafeteria food, that is on you. An institution can not be expected to fulfill every dietary guideline of its students. Halal and kosher aside, dealing with allergies alone would limit the cuisine to gruel.

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