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College Rejection Letters April 14, 2010

Posted by Jason McDonald in : College-bound seniors , trackback

Hey Seniors – READ THIS!

David Nyhan was an award winning columnist for the Boston Globe for 32
years. He wrote a version of this column every April for over 10 years. This
is the last one he wrote before he retired in 2001. I’ve been sending it out
to seniors ever since I first read it.

Nyhan died in 2005 at age 64. He spent a lot of time on Chebeague Island
here in Maine, and was a very influential and well-respected journalist.

This is good, good stuff.


P.S. Don’t forget – if you haven’t yet sent me an update on what you’ve
heard from your schools, please do so. And stay tuned for another rant in
the next day or two about wait-lists, financial aid appeals, making final
decisions (which you have to do by the end of April) and more!



Author:    David Nyhan
Date: March 31, 2001 Boston Globe
Page: A15
Section: Op-Ed


“Dear So-and-so:

“The admissions committee gave full consideration . . . but I regret to
inform you we will be unable to offer you a place in the Class of 2005.”
Lots of applicants, limited number of spaces, blah blah blah, good luck with
your undergraduate career. Very truly yours, Assistant Dean Blowhard,
rejection writer, Old Overshoe U.”

This is the season of college acceptance letters. So it’s also the time of
rejection. You’re in or you’re out. Today is the day you learn how life is
not like high school. To the Ins, who got where they wanted to go: Congrats,
great, good luck, have a nice life, see you later. The rest of this is for
the Outs.

You sort of felt it was coming. Your SAT scores weren’t the greatest. Your
transcript had some holes in it. You wondered what your teachers’
recommendations would really say, or imply. And you can’t help thinking
about that essay you finished at 2 o’clock in the morning of the day you
absolutely had to mail in your application, that essay which was, well, a
little weird.

Maybe you could have pulled that C in sociology up to a B-minus. Maybe you
shouldn’t have quit soccer to get a job to pay for your gas. Maybe it was
that down period during sophomore year when you had mono and didn’t talk to
your teachers for three months while you vegged out. What difference does it
make what it was? It still hurts.

It hurts where you feel pain most: inside. It’s not like the usual heartache
that kids have, the kind other people can’t see. An alcoholic parent, a
secret shame, a gaping wound in the family fabric, these are things one can
carry to school and mask with a grin, a wisecrack, a scowl, a
just-don’t-mess-with-me-today attitude.

But everybody knows where you got in and where you didn’t. Sure, the letter
comes to the house. But eventually you’ve still got to face your friends.
“Any mail for me?” is like asking for a knuckle sandwich. Thanks a lot for
the kick in the teeth. What a bummer.

How do you tell kids at school? That’s the hard part. The squeals in the
corridor from the kids who got in someplace desirable. The supercilious puss
on the ones who got early acceptance, or the girl whose old man has an in at
Old Ivy.

There’s the class doofus who suddenly becomes the first nerd accepted at
Princeton, the 125-pound wrestling jock who, surprise, surprise, got into
MIT. But what about you?

You’ve heard about special treatment for this category or that category,
alumni kids on a legacy ticket or affirmative action luckouts or rebounders
or oboe players. Maybe they were trying to fill certain slots.

But you’re not a slot. You’re you. They can look at your grades and weigh
your scores and see how many years you were in French Club. But they can’t
look into your head, or into your heart. They can’t check out the guts

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 chairmen of both General Motors and General Electric
graduated from UMass? Bob Dole? He went to Washburn Municipal University.

The minority leader of the US Senate, Tom Daschle, went to South Dakota
State. Speaker of the US House of Representatives J. Dennis Hastert went to
Northern Illinois University. Dick Armey, the House majority leader, took a
bachelor’s degree from Jamestown College. Winston Churchill? So slow a
learner they used to write to his mother to come take this boy off our

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

Gary L. Canter
College Placement Services
210 St. John Street
Portland, Maine 04102
(207) 772-9711

College Placement Services provides high school students and their families
assistance with all aspects of the college search, selection, application
and financial aid process.


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