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A Kind Rejection Letter Gets High Grades

Student praises Duke rejection letter on Reddit

January 30, 2024 
Originally published by Duke Today


Rejection letters will never provide happiness, but sometimes, if written with kindness, they can be helpful.

At least one applicant to Duke’s graduate cognitive neuroscience admitting program felt that way after receiving a rejection letter written by GR Samanez-Larkin, director of graduate studies for the program. The student posted the letter on Reddit, saying it was “a great rejection email.”

“Please know that this decision is not diagnostic,” Samanez-Larkin wrote, in a letter approved by the Graduate School that was delivered following the formal rejection. “This means nothing about your suitability for graduate school or your prospects for a future career at Duke for a later career stage.  … We’ve missed out on getting to know you better and collaborating with you, which is absolutely our loss.”

Samanez-Larkin wrote that the program prioritizes offers of admission to students it can “effectively support on their career path given our expertise as a community and a training program.”

He also wrote about his personal experience, noting that he was not admitted on his first try and that his first faculty position was at a school that rejected him for graduate school.

“Even almost 20 years later, I remember the anxiety of this whole grad admission process well. I was an emotional mess during that time in my life. It felt so full of judgment and felt like my whole life ahead depended on getting the exact place I wanted. I hope you are faring better than I did, and I want you to know that it’s okay if you’re stressed. It’s objectively stressful.”

Read the full letter and the responses on Reddit.

Samanez-Larkin said that he’s learned in writing rejection letters, “a little humanity goes a long way.”

Many of the readers on Reddit thought so as well and gave Duke the thumbs up. “I’m proud of whoever this Duke professor is that was so detailed, helpful and understanding. I wish everyone could be treated as well in their rejections.”

Some even took encouragement: “I’m going to pretend that every school I’ve been rejected to sent this to me. I’ve gotten to spend the last year and a half doing lab research without the pressure of school on top of me, so I feel more ready than ever to start grad school now.”

Another wrote: “One of my friends sent me this post after I got rejected from my dream school today. It really helped me feel better, and a lot less stressed about future grad cycles. Thank you for sharing this.”