First, I'd like to take a trip down memory lane. In college in my fraternity, some guys started the tradition of posting and annotating their ding letters. For those of you who may not be familiar with the term "ding letter," it is a rejection letter from a company to which you have applied for a job. It is, without fail, a form letter that explains how impressed the letter's author was with your resume and experience, but then, despite how awesome you are, nonetheless tells you that you will not be offered a job. Often, these letters are folded so quickly that the ink is not yet dry, and often these letters contain typos, inaccuracies, or, in the case of one of my former roommates with a mildly androgynous name, the occasional "Ms." instead of "Mr."
When I was in law school, I applied to dozens of law firms in the Midwest and elsewhere around the country, foolishly believing that one of them might offer me a job, or even a callback interview. Needless to say, I received a lot of ding letters. During my second year of law school alone, I think I was up in the 70s. I might have even gotten to 100.
There's only so much one guy can take, so when I received my 25th ding letter that year, I decided to take some action. It was from a very large law firm headquartered in Chicago, and it was a typical form letter written by a faceless hiring partner's secretary, undoubtedly signed hastily by the partner as he laughed diabolically before sexually harassing a young female associate. I decided to write back -- a reverse ding letter, if you will. Using a similar tone and format as a standard ding letter, I thanked him for his ding letter and explained that our address received a lot of ding letters, but his was the 25th, so I was rejecting it. I sent it via post, and hoped perhaps this asshole would have a sense of humor and at least give me a call. No such luck. Instead, I assume that got me blackballed from the Chicago legal community for several years.
Fast forward fourteen years. Today, I read an article about a high school student in North Carolina who applied to Duke, but didn't get in. Upon receiving her ding letter from Duke, she wrote an e-mail (kids these days and their lack of formality) back rejecting Duke's rejection. It read:
Dear Duke University Admissions,
Thank you for the rejection letter of March 26, 2015. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me admission into the Fall 2015 freshman class at Duke.
This year I have been fortunate enough to receive rejection letters from the best and brightest universities in the country. With a pool of letters so diverse and accomplished I was unable to accept reject letters I would have been able to only several years ago.
Despite Duke's outstanding success in rejecting previous applicants, you simply do not meet my qualifications. Therefore I will be attending Duke University's 2015 freshmen class.
I look forward to seeing you then.Brilliant! However, this poor girl suffered the same fate as I did with my reverse ding letter. Duke e-mailed her back and reiterated that she would not be admitted to Duke. Nonetheless, it was a bold move on her part, and as a reverse dinger myself, I applauded her moxie.
The article doesn't mention what other colleges rejected her (which she alludes to in her e-mail to Duke), but does mention that she was accepted to South Carolina. Much like my arrogance in thinking that, with a middling first-year GPA, I would have had a shot at landing a job at one of the top firms in the world, perhaps this young woman was trying to outkick her coverage, so to speak, since Duke is ranked #8 in the venerable U.S. News & World Report rankings of national universities -- tied with Penn and ranked higher than three other Ivy League schools -- and has a 12.3% acceptance rate. On the other hand, South Carolina is ranked #113 -- in the bottom half of the academically challenged SEC and ahead of only 14 of the 65 "Power Five" conference schools -- and has an acceptance rate of 64.4%.
So, maybe the lesson to be learned by all of this is that you shouldn't be upset or surprised when you fail to do something you are wholly unqualified to do. Aim low, people, and you'll never be disappointed. Most importantly, humor is the best medicine for rejection.