Friday, May 1, 2009

College letters of rejection

Today is the day by which students must accept an offer of admission from most colleges. So it's a good time to think about those applications that were not accepted. The WSJ has a story reviewing (in the sense of a book review) the variety of ways colleges convey rejections: Rejection: Some Colleges Do It Better Than Others

"Toughest: Bates College, Lewiston, Maine. Most rejection letters, in an effort to soften the blow, follow a pattern: We're sorry, we had a huge applicant pool, all our applicants were terrific, we wish we could admit everyone. Bates, a competitive, 1,700-student college, expresses its regrets to rejected applicants and praises its applicant pool. But it delivers a more direct, and perhaps more honest, message: "The deans were obliged to select from among candidates who clearly could do sound work at Bates," the letter says."

"Stanford University sends a steely "don't call us" message embedded in its otherwise gentle rejection letter. In addition to asserting that "we are humbled by your talents and achievements" and assuring the applicant that he or she is "a fine student," the letter says, "we are not able to consider appeals." It links to a Q&A that reiterates: "Admission decisions are final and there is absolutely no appeal process." It also discourages attempts to transfer later, an even more competitive process."

"Kindest: Harvard College. Despite an estimated admission rate of about 7% this year, this hotly sought-after school sends a humble rejection letter.
"Past experience suggests that the particular college a student attends is far less important than what the student does to develop his or her strengths and talents over the next four years." "

"Most Discouraging: Boston University. To students who have family ties to the university, its letter begins: "We give special attention to applicants whose families have a tradition of study at Boston University. We have extended this consideration in the evaluation of your application, but I regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you admission."

"Biggest Spin: Numerous colleges spin the data in their rejection letters as a well-intentioned way of comforting denied students. University of California, Davis, says it had "42,000 applicants from which UC Davis could enroll a freshman class of 4,600." This implies an 11% acceptance rate. Its actual admission rate is closer to 50%, because many accepted candidates ultimately enroll elsewhere."

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