Illustration: Amy Yan

Dear <insert honorific> <insert last name>,

Your application to our university has been reviewed, and unfortunately, we are unable to offer you a place in the program of your choice. We understand that this decision may be hard for you to accept. Hopefully, the following words will sate any animosity that you may develop towards our university, and make it seem like we actually care for all of our students and applicants.

With every passing year, competition for our program becomes more intense. Over 3,000 students applied to our program, and only 800 were accepted. That’s less than 50%. This makes you in the majority of students, so hopefully, that makes you feel comforted or something. Lots of other people are as bad as you.

You may have some resentment towards our selection process, but please rest assured: We have put much thought in making our decision, despite only looking at the average mark of your top six courses. We do realize that there are issues with this approach, namely that grading is inconsistent across schools. It is also true that many other programs take this into consideration, using supplementary applications, interviews, or other methods to more accurately assess the quality of a candidate. However, we have chosen not to take any of these approaches. Adding another step to the process would cost more money than we are willing to spend. It might put greater strain on you, the applicant. There may also be some merit in judging people based on how well they can game the school system. Feel free to come up with any additional reasons for why we don’t improve the selection process and send them to us so that we can add them in for next year.

If you’re really desperate to get into our program, you can always try to transfer into it next year. Even though only the most talented people will get in, at least you’re giving Admissions Officers like me a job. If you do manage to get in, then you’re probably an example of our system screwing up, but hey, at least you got here eventually. Otherwise, we don’t really care about you, since you probably won’t end up as #1 in our program.

Thank you for applying to our university, and we hope that you come back with more money next year.

Sincerely,

John Smith

University of <insert name here>