The Best and Worst of College Rejection Letters

April 30, 2009

An article in The Wall Street Journal reports on the best and worst approaches (from would-be students' perspective) to college rejection letters. Mount Allison University, in New Brunswick, wins praise for adding handwritten notes to all rejection letters, offering specific advice on areas of academic weakness, so students may understand the process. Even in this era in which many applicants learn their fates online, some still focus on snail mail and hope for the "big envelope." But Pennsylvania State University is criticized because it sends applicants it rejects from its main campus a big envelope -- with information about the regional campuses students can attend. As a result, some of those rejected applicants think they are receiving good news, and don't really appreciate the information about the other campuses. And Boston University is criticized for a letter it sends to rejected applicants who have family ties to the university. The letter says: "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." Rob Flaherty, who received that letter, told the Journal that he viewed BU as saying that "we made it even easier for you and you STILL couldn't get in."

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