With colleges accepting fewer and fewer students and application pools overflowing, the possibility of receiving the coveted “big envelope” of admission is becoming as slim as the dreaded rejection envelope. Although the goal is and always will be to receive an offer of admission from your “dream school” the consequences of rejection are not nearly as life ending as one may fear. As highschoolers across the country begin the arduous process of brainstorming, drafting, redrafting, scrapping, and rehashing college applications, it is important to keep perspective on what its all for. The college application process is not simply a game to be won, but a journey to find a school that matches the interests, talents, convictions and goals of an applicant. In several cases, initial rejection has been the springboard that has launched the most famously successful into careers with big payouts.
Billionaire Director of our most iconic movies of the last two decades tops our list with a grand total of three rejections… from the same school. Steven Spielberg was so convinced that the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts was the first and most essential stop on his way to silver screen success that he applied and was rejected on three separate occasions. Obviously, the Jurassic Park, Terminator, E.T., Saving Private Ryan and Shindler’s List Director found an alternative road to success, capturing five Oscars and countless imaginations along the way. Today, Spielberg holds an honorary degree from USC and sits on the schools Board of Trustees – who’s laughing now?
Beloved anchor of the Today Show, and one time host of hit television series “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire”, Viera was turned away from Harvard’s doors hat in hand. Viera later enrolled at nearby Tufts University where she met her mentor who offered her an internship that inspired her to pursue a very successful career in broadcast journalism. Had she not been initially been rejected from Harvard, she “doubts [she] would have pursued a career in journalism.”
Former Democratic nominee for President of the United States, long sitting senator, and current Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry has not always been the lauded leader of the more liberal party we know today. In 1962, he was one of many gangly teenagers to have a dream crushed by the Harvard University admissions committee. When asked about his rejection, Kerry stated, “I never would have fit in at a total jock school.” But, the lure of Harvard held strong – in 1973, Kerry tried and failed again to attend Harvard, this time, as a law student. Sec. Kerry took his talents first to Yale University and then to Boston College Law School, going on to become one of the most respected and long serving legislators of the last few decades. Of course, marrying someone with the last name Heinz didn’t hurt.
The Oracle of Oklahoma, the CEO of value inventing, and the world’s most well known and oft imitated investor, Warren Buffet joins our list of “rejects”. Similarly Crimson-ly challenged, Buffet was rejected from Harvard Business School at the age of 19. Looking back, he say’s “Harvard wouldn’t have been a good fit. But at the time, I had this feeling of dread”. Ultimately, Buffet landed at the prestigious Columbia Business School where legendary investors, Benjamin Graham and David Dodd, mentored and influenced the young tycoon’s investing approach. By 2008, Buffet’s schooling and intellect had resulted in $62 billion in investments and he is considered one of the pre-eminent market movers… in the world. Take that Harvard!
Nightly news legendary anchor, Tom Brokaw has reported and recorded his fair share of failures. Brokaw, who self describes himself as majoring in “partying and co-eds” while completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa was shocked when he received his rejection letter from Harvard’s Journalism school. The former anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News called his rejection from Harvard “the initial stumble” that was “critical in getting me launched.” According to the Wall Street Journal, the denial was instrumental in inspiring the revered newsman to commit to journalism… and to stop partying so much!
Finally, Ted Turner, the most famous undereducated success story of… hmmm, maybe ever. Mr. Turner, who attended Brown University for 3 years, never earned a collegiate degree of any kind (though he was awarded an honorary B.A. from Brown 1989). After his Junior year, Turner was forced to move back home to manage his late father’s billboard business, and managed to grow it into the multinational multi billion dollar cable news conglomerate, CNN. The rest as they say is history.