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Acceptance and Rejection in the Digital Age

Whether you're a teenager applying for the first time, or a seasoned veteran taking a stab at a continuing degree, waiting to hear back from the colleges of your choice can be incredibly nerve-wracking. That said, it has always been a more private matter -- until today, when social networks like Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, and even the speed of e-mail alone have the power to make private matters public within mere minutes. As many are discovering, the delicate matter of college acceptance and rejection letters has become even more delicate just by the simple progress of technology.

For a generation of students who share every detail of their personal lives in text messages, MySpace pages and other online postings, the college admissions chase is offering a lesson that some things are best kept private.

Last December, when Brown University's early admission decisions were released online, students in one classroom at North Hollywood High's highly gifted magnet program could be heard applauding. In another, there was silence, followed by the sound of someone crying.

So today when many Ivy League colleges are expected to render their decisions, magnet students will be rushing home to absorb the news, seniors Kelsey Collins and Joseph Wang said.

"That's D-day for everybody," said Joseph, 17. "No one wants to check in public."

Some of us learned the hard way in high school, back in the earlier days, checking college websites at a teacher's computer with disastrous results. The ubiquitous presence of internet-enabled cell phones and PDA devices can only serve to boost and speed the inevitable mix of emotions. Not that the colleges themselves help much:

Although some colleges still use regular mail to send acceptances and rejections -- the proverbial fat and thin envelopes -- many now conduct the process online.

Some UC applicants get e-mails saying "Your status has changed," then visit online accounts and learn they've been rejected. It's a cold way to have dreams destroyed.

"It was a huge surprise; I'm pretty smart," said Naira Goukisian, 18, a Bravo student who was turned down by some UC campuses. "You make an account . . . they didn't even send letters or e-mail. It was really bad this year, really hard."

It can be painful and awkward waters to navigate, but the dialogue between students and their schools of choice appear to be nothing compared to awaiting dialogue between students and their peers. As what once was a private conversation has been distilled to a social network status change, it seems that dealing with differences in college letters has become even more of a passive-aggressive art than ever before.

In December, Amaru Tejeda made a pact with his friend, Yureli Lopez, to post Pomona College's response to their applications on Facebook. That way, the seniors at Bravo Medical Magnet east of downtown Los Angeles wouldn't have to deal with each other face to face if one lost out.

Amaru, 18, of Lincoln Heights got home and found a large envelope from Pomona but waited until Yureli, 17, of Boyle Heights posted "Future Sagehen" (Pomona College's mascot) in her "status update" window before he sent an instant message that he had gotten in too.

Because they had applied for an early decision, Yureli and Amaru were committed to attending Pomona. But on Friday, Yureli learned she had also been accepted to Occidental College, the dream school of another friend. As of Sunday, she hadn't heard how her friend had fared and was nervous about being perceived as getting her slot.

"That's the worst-case scenario: When one of your best friends got accepted to the school you really wanted to get into and you didn't," said Yureli.

Reconciling similarities or differences with friends may be the hardest part of any college decision -- as it was years ago, is now, and probably will be for as long as there are choices of colleges to attend. Of course, according to the article, online communities offer tons of reassurance and support for students facing these hard times. Does it make things any easier? Under the stress of impending college, any small relief -- digital or otherwise -- will do.

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