The Thin Envelope Week

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Registered: 08-06-2009
The Thin Envelope Week
Wed, 04-06-2011 - 11:04am
Sorry You Didn't Get In; Now Run Along

Rick Green

7:31 p.m. EDT, March 31, 2011

The dreaded letter tucked inside a way-too-thin envelope starts with "we extend every good wish" and moves quickly to "I regret to inform you that the admissions committee is unable to offer you admission."

As if this isn't enough, they push the dagger in deeper: "… many colleges and universities are eager to enroll students who are passionate. … [Y]ou have this passion."

Just not enough passion for Bucknell, kid.

This is the brutal week that denial letters and e-mails of rejection have been raining down on hopeful high school seniors as colleges and universities make their eagerly awaited admission decisions.

The good news is there are lots of colleges that want students, particularly the ones willing to pay $50,000 or more in annual tuition. The bad news is that the best ones think you lack enough passion, whatever that is.

And in this trophy-for-every-kid era, there is now the pre-rejection letter sent before the final denial arrives. This may be setting an entirely new standard in self-absorbed thoughtfulness.

"Ours is a culture that attaches enormous significance to where we go to college,'' states a letter, actually a memo, to parents of applicants to Middlebury College from the dean of admissions.

"We can sometimes attach too much significance to these decisions. … [I]t is not so much the institution that one attends, but rather whether one takes advantage of the opportunities that are available at that institution.''

Yeah, right. As if top-notch places such as Middlebury don't thrive on the significance attached to elite colleges. Without it, Middlebury might be Quinnipiac — which, incidentally, is also sending out more rejection letters since applications jumped by 33 percent this year.

Better, I think, is the letter from New York University in which the admissions official admits that he didn't get into his first choice either. It's a nice reminder that a lot of people (Brokaw, Buffett, Ted Turner, me) get rejected, and then move on to great success in life.

This year, schools everywhere reported a spike in applicants, reflecting both the intense marketing colleges are doing and something else called the "common application." This allows students to apply basically everywhere with an iPhone app. Actually, there's no app. Yet.

Still, it's no wonder it seems like everyone is getting rejected. Everyone applied everywhere.

Harvard attracted nearly 35,000 high school seniors. At the University of Connecticut, applications were up by 23 percent, rising to nearly 30,000.Yale tweeted Thursday that it admitted 2,006 students for the class of 2015 out of a record 27,282 applicants. (By comparison, there are only about 40,000 seniors in public high schools in Connecticut.)

All of this means there are also a record number of rejection letters urging applicants to pursue their passions. Elsewhere.

After reading through a few dozen, I realize it isn't easy writing these letters, either. Larry Dow, who has been reviewing applications to Trinity College for decades, told me that this year was unlike any other.

"The fact is that at Trinity this year we literally had an increase of 48 percent in our candidates pool,'' said Dow, who is director of admissions. "This was a year we probably made the most difficult decisions in the history of our college."

"The letter of denial is actually pretty truthful,'' he said. "It says we had to make some really tough calls. … Some never get over it. Some use it as a way to spur them on."

"I did rewrite some of it for the first time in many years after some thought. I understand it can be viewed as pretty arrogant."

At the University of Connecticut, Brian Usher, the interim director of admissions, told me, ''There is no easy way to tell a kid. What I think is important for the student to understand is that it doesn't necessarily mean they are not good enough."

That 1,000-word kiss-off from Middlebury bordered on the ridiculous. I got a kick out of a three-paragraph, to-the-point, letter from Georgetown that concluded they were "disappointed that you could not be included among those admitted" — like it was a dinner party the applicant had missed..

My own suggestion for a rejection letter would be even shorter: We're sorry that you didn't survive this absurd process that tells us too little about who you might become. But a wonderful life awaits. Go out and find it.,0,5837133.column

My youngest got one from FIU (his supposed safety school) they wrote that with the over 2000 competitive applicants their review (listing the expected admittance qualifications... test scores, gpa which he was above on every count)... they cleverly crafted a sentence to say don't bother to apply again! :smileytongue:Good thing he did not need a safety school!