College Rejection Letter: Ticket To Success?

By Jean Folger | April 06, 2010 AAA

Spring is the time of year when colleges across the country send out dreaded rejection letters. Following years of hard work, extracurricular activity, athletics and community involvement, even those students who are markedly qualified for entrance into the country's top higher learning establishments will find rejection letters in their mailboxes. And it won't be the first time high achievers were turned away. Colleges have a history of rejecting candidates who went on to become part of the elite group of the rich and famous.

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  • Tom Brokaw is a television journalist and author who served as anchor and managing editor of "NBC Nightly News" from 1982 to 2004. He has earned numerous honors and awards, including a dozen Emmys and two Peabody and DuPont awards for his achievements in journalism. He currently is a "NBC News" special correspondent. Before becoming one of the most well known broadcast journalists in the country, Brokaw was rejected from Harvard.

  • Warren Buffett, one of the world's most successful investors, is the primary shareholder and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. Well respected for his investing philosophies as well as his personal frugality, Buffett has pledged 85% of his immense fortune to the Gates Foundation. It's hard to believe that Buffett, who filed his first tax return at age 13, including a $35 deduction for a bicycle, was turned away by the Harvard Business School. (Learn more about Buffett's life in Warren Buffett: The Road To The Riches.)

  • Katie Couric is a journalist who was co-host of NBC's "TODAY" from 1991 until 2006. When the "CBS Evening News" debuted in September, 2006, Couric became the first female solo anchor of a weekday network evening news broadcast. Couric is a well-decorated journalist who has won six Emmy awards among others. Following a rejection from Smith College, Couric went on graduate with honors from the University of Virginia with a bachelor's degree in English and a focus on American studies.

  • John Kerry, a Massachusetts senator and 2004 presidential candidate was rejected from Harvard. He went on to graduate from Yale and volunteered to serve in Vietnam where he completed two tours of duty. He earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts. He has been heralded as one of the leading environmentalists in the Senate, has served 19 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs.

  • Scott McNealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, served as the company's CEO for 22 years. Before developing Sun Microsystems into a billion dollar company, McNealy was rejected by both Harvard and Stanford Business Schools. Stanford eventually accepted McNealy, and there he met Sun Microsystems' co-founder, Vinod Khosla.

  • Steven Spielberg is one of Hollywood's best known directors and one the wealthiest filmmakers in the world. His works include "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial," "Jaws," "Schindler's List," "Saving Private Ryan" and many, many others. With such a impressive list of works, one could imagine that the University of Southern California's School of Theater, Film and Television wishes they had not rejected Spielberg - three times. (Learn about the options available to those who don't ever attend college. Read Six-Figure Jobs You Don't Have To Go To College For.)

  • Ted Turner, a media entrepreneur and philanthropist, is the well-known founder of the cable news network CNN, the first 24/7 cable news channel. Turner's five foundations aim to guarantee a stronger and safer planet for future generations, and include The Turner Foundation, the Turner Endangered Species Fund and the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Prior to becoming a billionaire, Turner was turned down by both Princeton and Harvard.

  • Harold E. Varmus is a 1989 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering with co-recipient J. Michael Bishop the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes. In addition, Varmus holds title to a long list of honors and awards including California Scientist of the Year (1982) and the American College of Physicians Award (1987). Rejected twice by Harvard Medical School, Varmus went on to study at Columbia University's college of Physicians and Surgeons.

  • Meredith Vieira has been co-anchor of "NBC News' TODAY" since September, 2006. She has earned numerous Emmy awards for her work as a correspondent for "60 Minutes," "Turning Point" and "West 57th." Vieira is a frequent contributor to charitable foundations and received the Safe Horizon Champion Award and from City of Hope the Woman of the Year Award. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University after being rejected by Harvard. (If you're planning on attending college this fall, there are some changes you should know about. Learn more in 5 Surprise Changes To The Student Loan Program.)

  • Jann Wenner is the founder of Rolling Stone Magazine. Rejected by Harvard in 1964, Wenner went on to the University of California Berkeley, where he dropped out in 1967 to start a rock-music oriented biweekly called the Rolling Stone. The magazine has won 14 National Magazine Awards for General Excellence, Design, Photography, Visual Excellence, Specialized Journalism, Feature Writing and Reporting. Today, Rolling Stone boasts 12 million readers and is the definitive source for music information and pop-culture trends.

Conclusion
Colleges and universities nationwide have seen an influx in the number of applications received over the past several years. This is partly due to the advent of online applications, leading students to apply to more schools. With an increased applicant pool, and a decrease in acceptance at some schools because of budget cuts, many hopeful contenders will not get into the school of their choice. Perhaps some of these young adults may go on to join the ranks of the rejected but incredibly successful.

Check out last week's business highlights in Water Cooler Finance: My iPad Beats Your Toyota.

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