In 1981, when Paul Devlin was in high school applying for a university place, he received a rejection letter from Harvard which, to his great satisfaction, contained a grammatical error. Never one to miss an opportunity, Paul quickly decided that he must reject Harvard’s rejection letter for that very reason, by letter—a process so therapeutic that Paul then decided to respond to all subsequent rejections, of which there were a few, with the following form letter. It became so popular that in May of 1981 it was reprinted in the New York Times.
Office of Admissions
Having now reviewed the many rejection letters received in the last few weeks, it is with great regret that I must inform you I am unable to accept your rejection at this time.
This year, I applied to a great number of fine colleges and universities and, of course, received many rejection letters. Unfortunately, the number of rejections that I can accept is very limited. It is for that reason that I was forced to reject the rejection letters of many qualified institutions.
This was not an easy task. Each rejection was reviewed carefully and on an individual basis. Many factors were taken into account, such as the size of the institution, student-faculty ratio, location, reputation, cost and social atmosphere.
I am certain that most of the colleges I applied to are more than qualified to reject me. I am also sure that some mistakes were made, but I hope they were few in number.
I am aware of the disappointment this decision may bring, for these were not easy judgements. Throughout my deliberations, I have kept in mind the importance to you of this decision. I wish it were possible to cite specific reasons for each of the determinations I have made but, frankly, it is not.
It was even necessary for me to reject some letters that were clearly qualified as rejections. This is surely my loss.
I appreciate your having enough interest in me to reject me, and, although it may seem inappropriate to you at this time, let me take the opportunity to wish you well in what I am sure will be a highly successful academic year.
See you all in the fall!
Applicant at Large