Friday, January 6, 2012


It's that time of year again: scholarship essays, recommendation letters, GPA's and standardized tests--all my students meeting deadlines and waiting to hear back. It's not an easy thing: I remember checking the mail as soon as it came, especially while applying to Master's programs and, two years later, Ph.D.'s. I remember all the work that went into my personal statements and requests for recommends. I remember the joy of getting in--and the stinging pain of rejection. It felt personal, even though it wasn't. Much like writing rejections, except for worse, because I'd spent so much time imagining where I would move and what each program would be like. I don't spend the kind of time or money on agents, and I don't usually get the physical-kind of response from agents, either. Like the rejection letters I got from one Ph.D. program every day for a month.

Every. Day. For a month.

I know how much my students (well, most high school seniors) get caught up in the Stanford/Harvard/MIT/Berkeley race, and how much test scores and GPA and extracurricular stuff seems to matter. But I've known lots of friends and lots students who've faced rejection from high school onward, and the ones who do what they love--the ones who develop all those interests they've had from childhood on, the ones who work and play with equal passion--those are the ones who are happy. It doesn't matter what they scored, or where they got in. Smart people succeed no matter where they go.

I know nothing anyone writes can make the wait all better. I know those studies on success don't take the sting away. But even daily rejection doesn't hurt as much if you buy yourself a book (or a Darth Vader clock, or a Lego penguin, or whatever your thing is) with every letter! That was my strategy, at least. I should tell my students, but first I must find an illustration:

Lego penguins! I tried to find some eating a rejection letter, but apparently Google searches are only so good...


  1. Come check out and award that I have given you! I hope you appreciate it as much as I enjoy your blog! ;D

  2. Thanks, Wily! I appreciate your comments, too, and I always love hopping over to your blog (even if the baby on my lap doesn't always allow me to type...). :)