Rejected by ‘dream college,’ 2014 graduate lands in better spot

October 12, 2014 — by Lauren Louie and Arman Vaziri

Alumni Jason Li discusses his worthwhile experience at his current school, UChicago, after a heartbreaking rejection from his original dream school, UPenn.

In the fall of 2013, then-senior Jason Li knew where he wanted to go to college, the University of Pennsylvania.

In particular, the Wharton School of Business had been his holy grail, and he was so convinced that he would get in that he didn’t plan to apply anywhere else since he hoped the school admitted him as part of the Early Decision process.

Why was he so confident? He had gone to Wharton’s summer business camp. He owned his own business, iReTron, which was even featured on a special kids’ edition of “Shark Tank,” a TV show where entrepreneurs try to sell their products to potential investors. And with a busy schedule that included being editor of the yearbook, he did well academically. To Li, UPenn had the right campus and the right program in which he felt he would thrive.

Last December, he learned UPenn had rejected him.

“It was difficult to see something I've worked so hard for go to waste,” Li said. “[Other schools] didn't even come close to my coveted spot at Penn.”

The most popular schools in terms of applications are also usually the most selective, and as a result, many students do not get into their dream colleges.

While it is very likely that seniors will get rejected from more than one college, it can be especially devastating for students who fixate on a certain college to learn that they have been rejected. In recent years, students across the country are not only being  rejected from  Ivy League schools like UPenn, but also from their target schools such as UCLA and UC Berkeley.

Having been rejected from his first choice, Li now had to scramble. He wrote a total of 13 applications in only two weeks in order to beat the early January deadlines.  

“For the whole first week [of winter break,] I wrote essay upon essay,” Li said.

Despite his efforts, Li was still feeling the sting of UPenn’s rejection.

“In the following months, I was quite apathetic towards every rejection or acceptance,” said Li.

It wasn’t until one day, while sitting in the journalism room that Li got his lucky break. Li hadn’t bothered to check acceptance results until a friend asked about his luck with the University of Chicago, a college with a reputation on par with UPenn’s.

To his own surprise after checking the Common Application website, Li “yelled in happiness” and jumped off the couch to hug his friends. Later that night Li’s episode on ”Shark Tank” aired, adding to his celebration. Li recalls that it was then when he “truly thought that maybe Chicago wasn’t that bad of an idea.”

Now a freshman at UChicago, Li realizes that the rejection from UPenn helped him find a place that better matches his personality and interests. Not only does Chicago appreciate all of the hard work he had put in during his high school years, but it also aligns with his academic pursuits.

Li finds that the school challenges him, while retaining support through administrators, professors and friends.  He is studying economics and public policy, and although unsure of the future, Li plans on, “[having] fun, [making] a positive impact on the world and [having] a nice girl to share [his] successes with.”

Now beyond the crazy college application process,  Li has some advice for any student in the midst of it.

“Upperclassmen and college students will always tell you that ‘everything works out in the end,’ and it sounds like a load of bull poop, but it really is true,” Li said. “Don't try to form yourself to be ‘ideal’ for a specific school. As long as you love what you do, and you're good at it, colleges will see. Those who appreciate what you do will accept you. And those are the institutions you should be attending anyway.”

7 views this week