Rejection Letters And Your Choice Of College


They’ve been coming fast and furious for weeks now, letters of acceptance as well as letters of rejection from colleges and universities across the country. High school seniors, who have been preparing for many years to head off to college, are now finding out if all of their hard work has paid off or not.  However, with more seniors planning to attend college than ever before, this year’s group of grads is finding that rejection may be something that they’ll have to learn how to handle.

More Students Rejected Than Accepted

Irejection letterndeed, many of the more popular schools including Harvard University, routinely reject most people who apply. Simple numbers show that if there are only 1500 seats available at a school and 30,000 applicants are looking to get in, then the vast majority of mailings from the school will be rejection letters, not acceptance letters.

Still, this is no small comfort to many students, especially those who have their heart on attending Old State U. or Small Private College.  After all, if you’ve been following your favorite college team for many years or if your parents met each other on campus, you would think that you are a shoo in, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

Finding Solace Online

One website dedicated to helping students share in the joy of acceptance or commiserate in rejection is That site got a nice write up from The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday (Rejection: Some Colleges Do It Better Than Others) where they noted the toughest, kindest, most discouraging and most confusing rejection letters.

In her report, Sue Shellenbarger alluded to the College Confidential site which I personally visited to learn what students were saying. In one particular thread (Best/Worst Admission/Rejection Letters) dating back to December 2005, students shared detailed information about their experiences, with many copying verbatim what the schools had to say.

Clearly, some schools handle rejection letters correctly while others, well, they could learn some lessons from the thread itself. True, as Shellenbarger noted, college deans don’t feel that they must counsel recipients, but you have to wonder if some of the rejection letters could be worded a little more carefully.

Without copying what was said verbatim, prospective students had this to say about some of their letters:

Made me feel dumb — One student complained about a rejection letter that hoped he would find a school that met his specific needs, taking that line to suggest that he was a special ed student.

Sent me a rejection email — Another student received notice by email that she had been rejected by a university. The email itself didn’t mention the rejection but when she checked her status online it said “denied.”

Was a poor attempt to show environmental concern — One school, Stanford University to be specific, notified students via email that their application was rejected, but made a point to say that a follow up hard copy would not be sent unless requested as they were being environmentally conscious.

Had more excuses than necessary — A number of students complained that their rejection letter went into more details than necessary including reasons why they were rejected including what many felt were lame or unrelated excuses.

Did all schools fail the rejection letter test? No, but you get the feeling that many students did take rejection personally even if no personal sleight was offered. Kudos to the schools who managed to wrap rejection with a personal word of encouragement or some other thoughtful, meaningful statement.


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