Read "Before They Were Titans, Moguls and Newsmakers, These People Were...Rejected" by Sue Shellenbarger if you have not been admitted to the university of their choice.
Few events arouse more teenage angst than the springtime arrival of college rejection letters. With next fall's college freshman class expected to approach a record 2.9 million students, hundreds of thousands of applicants will soon be receiving the dreaded letters.
Teenagers who face rejection will be joining good company, including Nobel laureates, billionaire philanthropists, university presidents, constitutional scholars, best-selling authors and other leaders of business, media and the arts who once received college or graduate-school rejection letters of their own.
Both Warren Buffett and "Today" show host Meredith Vieira say that while being rejected by the school of their dreams was devastating, it launched them on a path to meeting life-changing mentors. Harold Varmus, winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine, says getting rejected twice by Harvard Medical School, where a dean advised him to enlist in the military, was soon forgotten as he plunged into his studies at Columbia University's med school. For other college rejects, from Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy and entrepreneur Ted Turner to broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw, the turndowns were minor footnotes, just ones they still remember and will talk about.
Rejections aren't uncommon. Harvard accepts only a little more than 7% of the 29,000 undergraduate applications it receives each year, and Stanford's acceptance rate is about the same.
"The truth is, everything that has happened in my life...that I thought was a crushing event at the time, has turned out for the better," Mr. Buffett says. With the exception of health problems, he says, setbacks teach "lessons that carry you along. You learn that a temporary defeat is not a permanent one. In the end, it can be an opportunity."
Mr. Buffett regards his rejection at age 19 by Harvard Business School as a pivotal episode in his life. Looking back, he says Harvard wouldn't have been a good fit. But at the time, he "had this feeling of dread" after being rejected in an admissions interview in Chicago, and a fear of disappointing his father.
As it turned out, his father responded with "only this unconditional love...an unconditional belief in me," Mr. Buffett says. Exploring other options, he realized that two investing experts he admired, Benjamin Graham and David Dodd, were teaching at Columbia's graduate business school. He dashed off a late application, where by a stroke of luck it was fielded and accepted by Mr. Dodd. From these mentors, Mr. Buffett says he learned core principles that guided his investing. The Harvard rejection also benefited his alma mater; the family gave more than $12 million to Columbia in 2008 through the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, based on tax filings.
The lesson of negatives becoming positives has proved true repeatedly, Mr. Buffett says. He was terrified of public speaking—so much so that when he was young he sometimes threw up before giving an address. So he enrolled in a Dale Carnegie public speaking course and says the skills he learned there enabled him to woo his future wife, Susan Thompson, a "champion debater," he says. "I even proposed to my wife during the course," he says. "If I had been only a mediocre speaker I might not have taken it."
Columbia University President Lee Bollinger was rejected as a teenager when he applied to Harvard. He says the experience cemented his belief that it was up to him alone to define his talents and potential. His family had moved to a small, isolated town in rural Oregon, where educational opportunities were sparse. As a kid, he did menial jobs around the newspaper office, like sweeping the floor.
Mr. Bollinger recalls thinking at the time, "I need to work extra hard and teach myself a lot of things that I need to know," to measure up to other students who were "going to prep schools, and having assignments that I'm not." When the rejection letter arrived, he accepted a scholarship to University of Oregon and later graduated from Columbia Law School. His advice: Don't let rejections control your life. To "allow other people's assessment of you to determine your own self-assessment is a very big mistake," says Mr. Bollinger, a First Amendment author and scholar. "The question really is, who at the end of the day is going to make the determination about what your talents are, and what your interests are? That has to be you."
Others who received Harvard rejections include "Today" show host Meredith Vieira, who was turned down in 1971 as a high-school senior. At the time, she was crushed. "In fact, I was so devastated that when I went to Tufts [University] my freshman year, every Saturday I'd hitchhike to Harvard," she says in an email. But Ms. Vieira went on to meet a mentor at Tufts who sparked her interest in journalism by offering her an internship. Had she not been rejected, she doubts that she would have entered the field, she says.
And broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw, also rejected as a teenager by Harvard, says it was one of a series of setbacks that eventually led him to settle down, stop partying and commit to finishing college and working in broadcast journalism. "The initial stumble was critical in getting me launched," he says.
Dr. Varmus, the Nobel laureate and president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, was daunted by the first of his two turndowns by Harvard's med school. He enrolled instead in grad studies in literature at Harvard, but was uninspired by thoughts of a career in that field.
After a year, he applied again to Harvard's med school and was rejected, by a dean who chastised him in an interview for being "inconstant and immature" and advised him to enlist in the military. Officials at Columbia's medical school, however, seemed to value his "competence in two cultures," science and literature, he says.
If rejected by the school you love, Dr. Varmus advises in an email, immerse yourself in life at a college that welcomes you. "The differences between colleges that seem so important before you get there will seem a lot less important once you arrive at one that offered you a place."
Similarly, John Schlifske, president of insurance company Northwestern Mutual, was discouraged as a teenager when he received a rejection letter from Yale University. An aspiring college football player, "I wanted to go to Yale so badly," he says. He recalls coming home from school the day the letter arrived. "Mom was all excited and gave it to me," he says. His heart fell when he saw "the classic thin envelope," he says. "It was crushing."
Yet he believes he had a deeper, richer experience at Carleton College in Minnesota. He says he received a "phenomenal" education and became a starter on the football team rather than a bench-warmer as he might have been at Yale. "Being wanted is a good thing," he says.
He had a chance to pass on that wisdom to his son Dan, who was rejected in 2006 by one of his top choices, Duke University. Drawing on his own experience, the elder Mr. Schlifske told his son, "Just because somebody says no, doesn't mean there's not another school out there you're going to enjoy, and where you are going to get a good education." Dan ended up at his other top choice, Washington University in St. Louis, where he is currently a senior. Mr. Schlifske says, "he loves it."
Rejected once, and then again, by business schools at Stanford and Harvard, Scott McNealy practiced the perseverance that would characterize his career. A brash economics graduate of Harvard, he was annoyed that "they wouldn't take a chance on me right out of college," he says. He kept trying, taking a job as a plant foreman for a manufacturer and working his way up in sales. "By my third year out of school, it was clear I was going to be a successful executive. I blew the doors off my numbers," he says. Granted admission to Stanford's business school, he met Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla and went on to head Sun for 22 years.
Paul Purcell, who heads one of the few investment-advisory companies to emerge unscathed from the recession, Robert W. Baird & Co., says he interpreted his rejection years ago by Stanford University as evidence that he had to work harder. "I took it as a signal that, 'Look, the world is really competitive, and I'll just try harder next time,'" he says. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame and got an MBA from the University of Chicago, and in 2009, as chairman, president and chief executive of Baird, won the University of Chicago Booth School of Business distinguished corporate alumnus award. Baird has remained profitable through the recession and expanded client assets to $75 billion.
Time puts rejection letters in perspective, says Ted Turner. He received dual rejections as a teenager, by Princeton and Harvard, he says in an interview. The future America's Cup winner attended Brown University, where he became captain of the sailing team. He left college after his father cut off financial support, and joined his father's billboard company, which he built into the media empire that spawned CNN. Brown has since awarded him a bachelor's degree.
Tragedies later had a greater impact on his life, he says, including the loss of his father to suicide and his teenage sister to illness. "A rejection letter doesn't even come close to losing loved ones in your family. That is the hard stuff to survive," Mr. Turner says. "I want to be sure to make this point: I did everything I did without a college degree," he says. While it is better to have one, "you can be successful without it."
Write to Sue Shellenbarger at email@example.com
Winters spell horror for residents living in plains. It is not because of cold but due to the fog phenomenon that is increasing every year. Fog in plains areas has increased dramatically through the past few years. Let us apportion blame for the increasing fog that seems to be result of a combination of different factors like weather, greater use of vehicles and many other agents that produce pollution.
Where the fog comes from? The fog is triggered by temperature inversion - the formation of a static layer of cooler air close to the ground as the night time temperature drops. Normally, air closer to the ground is warmer than the air above it, and therefore the air rises. Inversions are frequent during winter nights after the ground has cooled down so much that it begins to chill the air closest to it often causing mist to form as water vapor precipitates on dust particles. Normally the morning sun swiftly breaks through the mist and heats the ground, which warms the air above it, breaking the inversion.
The fog phenomenon was studied for the first time in 1905. It was then described that a mixture of various gases with water vapors and dust cause the condition of fog. A large part of the gases that form fog is produced when fuels are burnt.
Fog phenomenon is experienced in Lahore, Faisalabad, Jhang, Mandi Bahaud Din, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Khanewal and other cities situated in plains more because most of the cities have large number of registered vehicles, and many more come and go every day from out of these cities. Due to the concentration of heavy traffic, emissions of smoke and sculpture dioxide and nitrogen oxides are much greater than they are in adjoining rural areas. Some industrial concerns in and around cities also emit heavy amount of haze causing pollutants (mostly fine particles) directly into the atmosphere. Thick clouds of fog form when heat and sunlight react with the gases and fine particles in the air. Metrological Science experts say that air pollution can span broad geographic areas and be transported great distances, sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles.
Environmentalists attribute the heavy fog in the plains increasing in intensity as well as length of the fogy period every year to the constantly growing number of polluting vehicles that jam the roads. Many of the vehicles plying on the city roads are old vintage and have engines that guzzle petrol and diesel, and spew out poisonous fumes. Even heavy vehicle commute most city roads freely. But "the main threat is obviously cars. More so, when CNG is unavailable and everyone has to use petrol and or diesel. How can we improve air quality fast enough as in the absence of suitable city transport system more and more cars come onto the urban roads," says Metrological expert Faiz Rasool.
"What cities in plan areas are witnessing every winter since 1987 is the kind of killer fog that used to envelope cities like Los Angeles, London and Mexico City a few decades ago. While awareness about the dangers of pollution has resulted in improved emission standards in advanced countries, in Pakistan, we still do not have clean environment concerns," Faiz Rasool adds.
The calm puffs of air from plains does not help in blowing away much of the pollutants for winters and a large part of it remain hung a few hundred feet above the ground in the city. So, most mornings and evenings – especially in December through January - fog turned ‘smog’ defines the climate of the urban centers.
Smoke particles trapped in the fog give it a yellow black color and this often settles over cities for days causing poor visibility -- one of the most obvious indicators of pollution in the air. It often occurs as a result of fog that obscures the clarity, color, texture, and form of what people see. Result: The airports remains close during long hours of fog disturbing schedule of national and international flights. Motorway (M 2) has to be closed. Even railway schedule is affected.
The most harmful components of fog are ground-level ozone and fine airborne particles. Ground level ozone forms when pollutants released from gasoline and diesel powered vehicles and oil based solvents react with heat and sunlight. It is harmful to humans, animals, and plants. Not only that, the prime ingredient in fog, can come into the houses and combine with the other household pollutants that emanate from flooring, citrus scents or solvents in air fresheners, floor cleaners, deodorizers and furniture polishes and can enters the lungs. Hint for the health minded is to keep the windows and ventilate while vacuuming. Not to spray chemicals. Even putting on nail polish inside the house adds a bit to the indoor pollution. One should avoid even air fresheners or scented candles.
In winters, the vibrant and living cities get enveloped in fog from early morning and those suffering from lung ailments like asthma and other diseases are the worst sufferers. On many mornings, it fails to dissipate till even 10 AM or late. Doctors advise people to remain indoors, instead of going out on jogging or exercising out in the open. The last few days have seen hospitals reporting a large inflow of patients, especially children, suffering from lung ailments.
Relatively little has been done to control any type of pollution or to promote environmental protections until now in Pakistan. Today, smoke and sulphur dioxide pollution in cities is much higher than in the past. May be some government puts up a legislation to control pollution emissions. Or we keep getting used to the worsening situation. It is one of the very valid fields of scientific activities and political priorities elsewhere.
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