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Campus Overload
Posted at 09:48 AM ET, 01/27/2012

Getting rejected from your dream school(s) isn’t a bad thing


Today’s guest blogger is Eric N. Harris, a junior at the University of Maryland.

There are only so many ways that a school can say that you aren’t worthy to attend, and rejection letters seem to follow a similar style.

Some of my favorite phrases: 1) “we’re truly regretful,” 2) “this year’s applicants were very competitive,” 3) “we turned away numerous valedictorians and one Nobel Prize winner,” and 4) “shame your family doesn’t have a campus building named after them.”

The letter ends as the Dean “wishes you success at whatever sub-par school accepted you. This should not be difficult as your classmates are also rejects.” (I may have made that one up.)

Over the next few months, many high school seniors will be receiving these wonderfully crafted rejections. A few years ago, I was in their place. I was on the unsuccessful side when it came to college acceptances, yet I could not be happier with where I am today.

I believed I was an attractive candidate. I graduated co-valedictorian from a top high school in Maryland, earned a 4.0/4.6 GPA (unweighted/weighted), and my SATs were in the 96th percentile. I played varsity tennis (and was co-captain when we won the county championship), qualified for math and science honor societies, tutored other students and participated in Habitat for Humanity. Further back, when I honorably served as a 5th grade safety patrol, there were no serious injuries at my bus stop.


(Photo courtesy of Eric N. Harris)
Excited and confident, I awaited my offers of admission. Then an important life lesson kicked me in the head. Hard.

I applied to nine schools, selected by their academic reputations and the well-rounded college experience offered. My early admissions choice was Duke University. All of my choices were out-of-state, except for the University of Maryland. My parents insisted I apply because of its high-quality reputation. (I’m sure it had nothing to do with the in-state tuition.)

Duke deferred me. I was in “college admissions purgatory,” and I’m not even Catholic. It wasn’t an admission or a rejection. It was my dream date telling me she would think about going out with me while she was dating other guys to see how I match up. On the positive side, I had not been rejected outright and other schools would soon accept me.

Wishful thinking.

The rejections began. Needless to say, it was not a cheery time.

For some schools, a simple e-mail rejection wasn’t sufficient. I was thoughtfully offered the option of receiving a hard copy by mail. “Why yes,” I thought. “I would love to get rejected in multiple ways! Could you possibly send me a text or even a singing telegram?”

Emory University in Atlanta and Maryland finally accepted me. These were great options but I had another problem: the branded apparel I bought on my college visits were reminders of love spurned.

Friends suggested a bonfire; I considered giving the clothing to homeless people. Two reasons: 1) I would feel good about helping people, and 2) I would feel better when seeing a homeless guy wearing my Northwestern University sweatshirt. I never expected anyone to actually wear the Duke shirt because it is difficult to find any Marylander, homeless or not, willing to wear Duke apparel.

It came time to choose. Despite my hesitation to attend a school close to home, Maryland was my choice. I accepted a spot in their honors program and acclaimed business school.

At Maryland, I am involved in Images (the campus tour guide organization... come on my tour!), Greek life as a member of Sigma Chi, and Club Tennis. Academically, my GPA has once again qualified me for honors societies, and I have a double major within the business school.

I LOVE my school! Great friends, exceptional faculty, competitive sports teams, and the fun of leading campus tours to future Terps are my rewards for going with an open mind to a school that was not my first choice.

Looking back, I could not have predicted such a good ending. There is too much hype, pressure and chance related to college admission decisions.

For those readers who get into the schools you want – congratulations! For those who may not have your first choice (or first seven) available, don’t despair. You can make your college experience memorable, productive, and happy.

So don’t invest any emotional capital on the rejections when new challenges await.

Were you rejected from your dream school? What happened? Share your stories in the comments section below.

And for more advice on college admissions, check out the Post’s higher education page and these articles:

Political campaigns borrow college recruitment tactics

Dad videotapes his son finding an acceptance letter in the mailbox

Number of lists ranking colleges proliferate — and some don’t make sense

Are rankings of gay-friendly colleges to be trusted?

Online course start-ups offer virtually free college

Number of needy students is exploding

Why is tuition high? Because you want it to be.

By Eric N. Harris  |  09:48 AM ET, 01/27/2012

 
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