The Art of the Rejection Letter




Dear [Student First Name],

  Greetings! The admissions committee has thoroughly reviewed your application, and after a lengthy five to eight-minute period of deliberation, I regret to inform you that what you are currently reading is a mass-emailed rejection letter. Or mass-mailed, if you checked the box for a paper copy — a far more intimate letdown.   

  As you’ve most likely stopped reading after “I regret to inform. . .,” I suppose I can now launch into our

obligatory rationalizations:  This year’s applicant pool was by far the largest and most exceptional in the university’s history — by which I mean, last fall we really splurged on advertising our charms to every high school senior who received above a 1500 on the SATs. Glossy brochures in the mail, stunning web catalogues, free wristbands, the works—these are all tried and true baits used to reel in prospective applicants like yourself. To be clear, we do so without an iota of intent on actually admitting you to our school.

  Truth be told, applicants boasting perfect standardized test scores, 12 AP courses, and an assortment of extracurriculars are a dime a dozen. I mean, honestly, we get it—you are smart . . . big freaking whoop. To us, the truly promising candidates are not those who we think will excel in college, but those who are already excelling — young entrepreneurs and savants who have already eclipsed their peers with their progress at age 17. If you haven’t won any Olympic gold medals, performed an obscure brass instrument at Carnegie Hall, or developed a treatment for the Ebola virus using only geothermal energy and a recycled juice box, why would we allow your application anything beyond a cursory glance?

  Now, your efforts to impress us have not gone entirely unnoticed. That being said, we can’t help but question the authenticity of all those abstract claims you have made in your personal statement. Has your job at In-n-Out Burger taught you how to handle teamwork, compromise, and professionally navigate interpersonal relationships? Or more likely, has dealing with obnoxious customers day-to-day really just turned you into a bona fide misanthrope? Oh, and we haven’t forgotten the series of Tumblr posts you made lamenting “our oppressive capitalist system,” inspired entirely by your minimum-wage pay and the maximum counter grease. That’s right, we Googled you.

  Well, don’t feel too sorry for yourself. I’m sure you’ll be comforted knowing that your sacrifice won’t be for naught! For one, your rejection has made yet another contribution to our rapidly declining acceptance rate. Ultimately, our exclusivity will be able to attract unparalleled amounts of gold-collar lucre, and leveraging that, our university will rapidly shoot up the lists of the U.S. News and World Report, giving us an excuse to deny admissions to even more applicants. It’s a delightful little recursive cycle we’ve got going!

  And before you write an angry open letter the likes of a Miss Suzy Lee Weiss: yes, we are aware of the absurdity of the college admissions process. We’re not oblivious to all of the arbitrary hoops we’ve made you jump through, our tendency to favor students from affluent backgrounds, downright legacy cases, star athletes, or the one percent of “true geniuses” who won’t be gleaning much from our classes and faculty besides a lifetime of student loans. We are aware of what we are perpetuating. You all have been driven to become adherents to heartless manuscript, and still that does not guarantee you success in this system — a system that is transitioning swiftly from meritocracy to mania.

Finally, on behalf of the University’s Office of Admissions, I would like to thank you for applying to our school. It has been an honor to brutally crush your dreams. Good luck in all of your future endeavors.



Dean of Admissions