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The best college rejection letter we've ever read was not received by one of our own students. It appeared
in the New York Times and was written by Mr. Paul Devlin after receiving numerous rejections.
Dear Admissions Committee:
Having reviewed the many rejection letters I have received in the last few weeks, it is with great regret that I must inform you I am unable to accept your rejection at this time.
This year, after applying to a great many colleges and universities, I received an especially fine crop of rejection letters. Unfortunately, the number of rejections that I can accept is limited.
Each of my rejections was reviewed carefully and on an individual basis. Many factors were taken into account - the size of the institution, student-faculty ratio, location, reputation, costs and social atmosphere.
I am certain that most colleges I applied to are more than qualified to reject me. I am also sure that some mistakes were made in turning away some of these rejections. I can only hope they were few in number.
I am aware of the keen disappointment my decison may bring. Throughout my deliberations, I have kept in mind the time and effort it may have taken for you to reach your decision to reject me.
Keep in mind that at times it was necessary for me to reject even those letters of rejection that would normally have met my traditionally high standards.
I appreciate your having enough interest in me to reject my application. Let me take the opportunity to wish you well in what I am sure will be a successful academic year.
SEE YOU IN THE FALL!
Applicant at Large
And sometimes funny things happen even when you are accepted, as this correspondence (reported in the March 21, 1999 New York Times) indicates.
CONGRATS! YOUíRE A BIG NUMBER ON CAMPUS!
Computer glitches are a pain, but they can be especially embarrassing when they strike an American institution of higher learning. Consider the following form letter from Arizona State University Parents Association, in which a prospective studentís Social Security number was inadvertently substituted for his name. You might enjoy the fatherís cheeky response. (Collegiate Choice would be remiss, however, if we did not add that we have been to Arizona State, and we know it is an excellent school. This transposition mistake could happen anywhere.)
THE ACCEPTANCE LETTER
To the parent or guardian of Truman Bradley
Dear Parent or Guardian:
Congratulations on 987-45-4321ís admission to Arizona State University! We commend you for the significant role that you have played in helping him to prepare for this exciting and critically important time. A.S.U. is committed to providing an outstanding collegiate experience, and we are pleased that he has chosen to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity. We are fully prepared to assist 987-65-4321 in making a successful transition from high school to college.
We also recognize that even though your relationship with 987-65-4321 may change in the next four years, the importance of that relationship will not diminish. At Arizona State University, we value your continued participation in his academic, social and personal development and actively seek your support in that endeavor. Whether through involvement in the A.S.U. Parents Association, attendance at numerous events for A.S.U. parents, or the occasional visit to campus, you will be a partner with the university in encouraging 987-65-4321 to succeed.
We look forward to seeing you at an orientation program and during A.S.U. Welcome Week prior to the start of the fall semester. Information about these programs has been mailed to 987-65-4321. Many of the activities during both events are designed specifically for you. In the meantime, contact the A.S.U. Parent Program officeÖ if you have any questions or concerns.
President, A.S.U. Parents Association
Assistant Director, Parent Programs
THE FATHERíS REPLY
Thank you for offering our son, 987-65-4321, or as we affectionately refer to him around the house - 987 - a position in the A.S.U. class of 2003. His mother, 123-45-6MOM and I are very happy that such a prestigious institution of higher education such as A.S.U. has extended this offer.
In selecting a college for 987, we are looking for a place that will prepare him for the technological challenges of the 21st century. We seek a college in which he can learn to master computers and learn to communicate with clarity and sensitivity. I can only imagine the competence with which you will, as your letter puts so well, "assist 987-65-4321 in making a successful transition from high school to college."
We will miss 987 when he goes off to school, and are very interested in a college in which he will receive personal attention. I was particularly touched by your sentence in which you note that our "relationship with 987-65-4321 may change in the next few years." This is certainly true. Already we are beginning to focus as well on his brother, 123-45-6BRO.
I look forward to additional communications from your office. You manage to convey more in your letters than any other college we have seen thus far.
A.k.a. Jeff Bradley
And if the two previous items gave you a smile, let us be serious for the third. We know there's nothing funny about being rejected. The following is the last half of a wonderful article that appeared in The Boston Globe back in 1987.
THE COLLEGE REJECTION LETTER
By David Nyhan
This is the important thing: They didn't reject you. They rejected your resume. They gave some other kid the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that kid deserved a break. Don't you deserve a break? Sure. You'll get one. Maybe this is the reality check you needed. Maybe the school that does take you will be good. Maybe this is the day you start to grow up.
Look at some people who've accomplished a lot and see where they started. Ronald Reagan? Eureka College. Jesse Jackson? They wouldn't let him play quarterback in the Big Ten, so he quit Illinois for North Carolina A & T. Do you know that the recently retired chairmen and CEOs of both General Motors and General Electric graduated from UMass? Bob Dole? He went to Washburn Municipal University.
The former minority leader of the United States Senate, Tom Daschle, went to South Dakota State. The speaker of the US House of Representatives, J. Dennis Hastert, went to Northern Illinois University. Dick Armey, the former House majority leader, took a bachelor's degree from Jamestown College. Winston Churchill? He was so slow a learner that they used to write to his mother to come take this boy off our hands.
I know what you think: Spare me the sympathy. It still hurts. But let's keep this in perspective. What did Magic Johnson say to the little boy who also tested HIV positive? ''You've got to have a positive attitude." What happens when you don't keep a positive attitude? Don't ask.
This college thing? What happened is that you rubbed up against the reality of big-time, maybe big-name, institutions. Some they pick, some they don't. You lost. It'll happen again, but let's hope it won't have the awful kick. You'll get tossed by a girlfriend or boyfriend. You won't get the job or the promotion you think you deserve. Some disease may pluck you from life's fast lane and pin you to a bed, a wheelchair, a coffin. That happens.
Bad habits you can change; bad luck is nothing you can do anything about.
Does it mean you're not a good person? People like you, if not your resume. There's no one else that can be you. Plenty of people think you're special now, or will think that, once they get to know you. Because you are.
And the admissions department that said no? Screw them. You've got a life to lead.
© Copyright 1987 Globe Newspaper Company.