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Eye on Psi Chi: Winter 1998
"Dear John"
Louis G. Lippman, Western Washington University

With such an enormous number of psychology majors nationally who express interest in pursuing admission to the limited number of openings in graduate programs, faculty who manage those programs are forced to construct large numbers of letters of rejection. Because of the huge volume, some all-purpose and uninformative form letter is typically used, declaring regrets and pointing to the great number of excellent applications. Such a "one size fits nobody" document can be demeaning and irritating. So the purpose of the present article is to provide samples of two form letters that could be used that might take a small step in the direction of tailoring the form letter to the characteristics of the rejected applicant.

Let us first consider the applicant who should try to contact reality.

Dear ____________:

It is with deep and profound regrets that we must turn down your bid for admission to _____________ program.

Considering that your department and college are notorious for grade inflation, our admissions committee found your GPA of 2.25 to be quite a remarkable accomplishment. It surely must have taken special effort to have achieved such a score. Your GRE scores, as well, are exceptional. It is not often that the sum of verbal and quantitative scores equals the oven temperature used to bake cookies. And lastly, your referees have provided fascinating comments about your social life, speculating that this must be the facet of your waking existence in which you excel.

We sincerely regret being unable to offer admission to our program. We wish you the best of success in finding some training program in which you can secure gainful employment commensurate with your demonstrated commitment to educational pursuits.


Next, let us consider the unqualified candidate whose self esteem is astronomical.

Dear ____________:

It is with deep and profound regrets that we must turn down your bid for admission to _____________ program.

It was clear from the material that you submitted that you are an absolutely marvelous individual who deserves to be held in the highest esteem. Your referees, for example, pointed out that your GPA fails to reflect your conviction that you are an extremely gifted "A" student. Likewise, we do understand how GRE scores can fail to represent true ability, especially when the examination is scheduled so early in the day following the wedding reception of your second cousin's best friend's uncle. But when reviewing your materials, the admission committee had serious concerns about your satisfaction with our program. We are merely a Big Ten university, having to operate within a restricted budget, and therefore can only offer those courses that are essential to maintaining our APA accreditation. It is clear that an individual such as yourself would be profoundly disappointed with our program. Time constraints have forced our department to be somewhat impersonal and to impose uniform performance criteria upon all students. We fear that you would find such a system rather incompatible with your experience, and thus feel that you should be spared the consequent stress that our program would produce.

Given your obvious talents, you most certainly will be able to find other programs that are far better suited to your needs and preferences. No doubt they will be able to provide the form of admiration and reverence that you have come to expect and require.


It is hoped that these modest samples will spur program directors toward further development of rejection letters that cater to the idiosyncrasies of unqualified applicants. In these times, it is important to spare feelings and soften the blow for persons whose admission must be denied.


Copyright 1998 (Volume 2, Issue 2) by Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology



Eye on Psi Chi is a magazine designed to keep members and alumni up-to-date with all the latest information about Psi Chi’s programs, awards, and chapter activities. It features informative articles about careers, graduate school admission, chapter ideas, personal development, the various fields of psychology, and important issues related to our discipline.

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