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Seniors Flaunt Rejection Letters


By Justin C. Danilewitz

It's that time of the year again for Harvard seniors.

The transition from the confines of the University to the wide-open "real world" is looming on the horizon, and decisions on graduate school and employment applications are beginning to pour in.

But life is full of setbacks and rejections--even for those whose resumes are emblazoned with the Harvard name.

"Most of the rooming groups have a wall where they have rejection letters that they receive from consulting companies, and I[nvestment]-banks," said David V. Bonfili '96, a resident of Dunster House

"It can be a pretty impressive sight in larger rooming groups," said Bonfili, who recently won a Rhodes Scholarship.

The "Wall of Shame" is a Harvard tradition which has stood the test of time and is being honored again this year in rooms across campus.

Douglas W. Scott '96 and his two roommates have a Wall of Shame which might qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records.

Scott said his rooming group has collected about 25 rejections from various consulting and advertising firms.

"It's obviously somewhat of a strange tradition," Scott said. "If you don't get an interview, at least you're contributing to the wall. So it's an accomplishment either way in a strange sense."

Ahmad I. Atwan '96 said a Wall of Shame inspires twentysomething job hunters and adds a bit of levity to an otherwise tense process.

"I think sometimes people tend to become more motivated [by the display of the letters] when they don't succeed with some firms," Atwan said.

But sometimes the wall's inspirational aspect can become muted. Or worse.

"If you have a five-person rooming group] and only one is going through recruiting, you can have a Solo Wall of Shame, so it can lose its therapeutic effect," Bonfili said.

Most seniors try to put the process in perspective and remain resilient throughout.

"We don't take it all that seriously. It's just something to laugh about," said Brendan D. Sheehan '96.

And Scott said that by the end of the year, the Wall of Shame has become part of the person.

"You start noticing things after a while," Scott said. "Like [the rejection letters] all begin with 'thank you.'"

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