On Campus
Mar 02, 2010, 06:09AM

Dear Applicant: Sad Face

Tales from the rejection letter pile.

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At the tippy top of my list of Things to Hate are rejection letters. Woo they get on my nerves!

Can I get an Amen?

It’s not that I think I’m too good to be rejected from things. Listen, nobody loves being below average. Rejection is a part of life, especially if you’re trying to be fabulous. What pisses me off is that rejection letters are so good at making you feel shitty, in a really tacky, tactless and self-aggrandizing way.

It’s that time of year. Your BFFs and your girl/boyfriend applied for grad school, or a job, or a fellowship, and now it’s the waiting game. Did I get picked? Will I be validated? You check your email every hour. You might even be obsessed with the Grad Café, a blog that lets students post their admissions decisions so you can see if there’s still hope!

This year I helped many prospective students apply to my program. And they are all so desperate to get it in—just as desperate as I would be at an Alexander McQueen sample sale. Waiting to hear back from The Powers That Be is the worst part of applying for anything, because you’ve just poured your heart and soul into a couple sheets of paper, or you’ve had interviews and even bought a new outfit to try and impress the selection committee.

You want to be validated, stamped, branded.

So you wait.

And you wait.

And you still wait.

Meanwhile, all your friends start hearing back from the places they applied to but you haven’t heard anything yet—fuck!—so you start to doubt yourself. You sweat at night, panic, can’t eat. Hysteria.

Graduate school admissions decisions are horrible to sit though because you wait so many months to hear back. And the rejection letters are worst part. It’s how they’re worded. I recently applied to this thing that I thought I had an okay shot at—I didn’t think I was a shoe-in, but I for def. believed I had a shot. Tell me why these bitches sent me a super wordy rejection email leading me to believe, visually, that I got in. I kept reading and the email foamed at the screen about how fabulous the program was, what great things it does for humanity and all that. The letter made a point, however, to let me know that I do not get to participate in the humanity changing!

Don’t you hate when rejection letters are like “you weren’t picked because we had over 300 billion applications for only two slots, the greatest number of applications that have ever been received by any organization, anywhere, throughout all time.” Translation: we’re so fabulous, everybody wants to be with us. And you can’t!

Okay, okay, I didn’t get in. Pardon me while I slit my wrists.

Nobody wants to hear about how much they suck. That’s why I think rejection letters should be as simple as possible:

Dear You,


Wouldn’t that be so much less demoralizing?

The best rejection letter I ever got came from New York University. You’re gonna love this. I applied to a Ph.D. program there and I didn’t get in, obviously. But instead of a rejection letter, these bitches sent me a letter that said:

Dear Madison,

Congratulations! You’ve been admitted to the Draper Master’s Program in Social Thought!

Say what?  I didn’t apply to no “Draper Program.” Oh, I get it now! When you don’t get into the program you applied to, they automatically admit you to the general Master’s! Faaaaabulous!

Don’t let their game get you down. Take off your earrings and fight with the letter, if you need to. A little while back I read about a dude who applied to Princeton. Got rejected. What’d he do? He sent a rejection letter to the school rejecting the rejection. And then, poof! He got in.

I’m tellin’ you, sometimes a bitch slap is all it takes.

So as you get your rejection letters from fellowships, schools, jobs or whatever this month, treat yourself a new outfit, frame the letter, and laugh at it when you win a Nobel Prize.

  • Your new-brand of rejection letter is hilar!

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  • Amen! When I was applying to college, I got my fair share of rejection and deferral letters, and while it was a little hurtful and demoralizing at first, I learned to not really care about that sort of thing. Why should you take it personally? It's all about numbers and you also become dehumanized in the admission process that it's not even really about you any more. It's so subjective and finnicky and inconsistent. Another faaaaaaaaaaaabulous article though, Madison!

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  • shoo-in

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