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College admission season wraps up with a rejection party, a paper shredder and joy


After months of suspense over their faculty acceptance choices, the seniors at Downtown Magnets Excessive College in Los Angeles have been a lot in want of a cathartic occasion: a school rejection occasion.

Holding courtroom within the library, clad in cheery pink, stood Lynda McGee, the varsity’s longtime faculty counselor who has helped hundreds of scholars at her low-income, high-performing highschool get into faculty. Solely seniors with letters of denial may attend the rejection occasion — and so they should ritually destroy the dangerous information in a shredder. The coed with essentially the most rejections can be honored with a paper crown and $50 bookstore present card for having the gumption to strive so many instances. And everybody would get ice cream sundaes.

First up: the “Caltech shred.” College students loudly booed the Pasadena science and engineering institute as 4 classmates destroyed their rejection letters. “Caltech doesn’t deserve you!” McGee mentioned.

Then got here wild cheers for the shredders.

Nick Saballos shreds a rejection letter while a counselor watches.

Nick Saballos shreds a rejection letter throughout a school rejection occasion at Downtown Magnets Excessive College.

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Occasions)

Nick Saballos, the son of a Nicaraguan immigrant who works as a minimum-wage parking valet, was rejected by Stanford and Harvard, amongst others, however introduced he’s deciding between UC Berkeley and Bucknell College. Miguel Balbuena, whose single mom is a cashier at a fast-food restaurant, was waitlisted by 4 campuses however plans to attend Dartmouth. Eric Xie-McCarthy and Nathan Ortega have been denied by Cornell and Stanford however mentioned they have been contemplating gives from UC Berkeley or UCLA.

“This can be a celebration of the truth that you took a danger,” McGee advised the 4 dozen in attendance. “You went for one thing that you simply weren’t positive would even work in and out some circumstances it didn’t. However you realize what? You’re all going to school someplace.”

The 237 seniors in Downtown Magnets’ class of 2022 are about to take a leap that can reshape their lives, their households — and California, which is able to depend on this new technology of numerous college students to maneuver the state ahead. Like tens of hundreds of different highschool seniors, they pushed by two years of pandemic isolation to remain centered on their faculty goals and survived a brutally aggressive yr, marked by record-shattering purposes to the College of California.

Their roots are humble, however their GPAs are sturdy. Their faculty aspirations unfolded final fall when McGee boldly pushed them to say a well-earned seat at universities they liked. Their mother and father are largely immigrants from Latin America and Asia, many with out faculty levels who work as cooks and waitresses, parking valets and manufacturing facility employees, caretakers and safety guards.

But almost all of Downtown Magnets’ seniors are accepted to school and most enroll. Regardless of UC’s surge in purposes and decrease admission charges final yr, about 70% of the highschool’s college students who utilized to a UC campus have been admitted for fall 2021. That included 22 of 56 candidates to UC Berkeley — an admission fee almost 3 times larger than the college’s general admit fee of 14%.

The scholars navigated the U.S. faculty admissions course of with out the help of high-priced consultants and tutors, most of them counting on the varsity’s lecturers and counselors, who’ve created a campus local weather that’s each nurturing and academically rigorous.

On UC Berkeley choice day, they needed to be collectively after they opened their admission notices in McGee’s faculty advising heart.

Three students huddle around a laptop in a room

Kenji Horigome, heart, Nicholas Tran, 18, left, and Kristina Sanchez, 17, wait to listen to about their acceptance at UC Berkeley.

(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Occasions)

Kenji Horigome went first. He’s the son of a single mom who works in a low-wage job at a Koreatown restaurant. They got here to Los Angeles from Japan when Kenji was in fourth grade after dropping his father to sickness. Kenji labored arduous to study English, overcome loneliness and earn good grades — reaching a 4.3 GPA — so he may earn faculty scholarships and grants in order to not burden his mom with mortgage debt.

On today, Kenji hunched over his laptop computer and clicked on the discover. His eyes widened. “Oh shoot!” he exclaimed, leaping out of his chair. Berkeley accepted him — and provided sufficient monetary help to cowl his attendance with out loans.

He’s additionally weighing gives from Harvey Mudd Faculty and the College of Michigan, which have each provided him full-tuition scholarships, and Bowdoin Faculty. Kenji goals of a profession in astrophysics, with an excellent wage so he can deal with his mom to dinner at a elaborate Korean restaurant and purchase her a designer purse.

“The cash I earn will probably be a sport changer to flee poverty,” Kenji mentioned.

After months of suspense, a brand new technology of California’s star faculty candidates lastly get their admission choices.

Kristina Sanchez went subsequent, opening her choice.

“Naaah, rejection.”

Two female students smile and clap while two male students standing nearby smile.

Kaylyn Bolanos, 17, proper, simply discovered she was accepted at UC Berkley with a full scholarship at Downtown Magnets Excessive College.

(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Occasions)

“No matter, Merced for the win in any case!” she mentioned, referring to the Central Valley UC campus she is contemplating in hopes of finally coming into the brand new medical faculty being deliberate there.

Kristina additionally was denied at her best choice — Dartmouth — along with her 3.8 GPA within the rigorous Worldwide Baccalaureate program. However McGee mentioned she’s the type of pupil who will succeed anyplace due to her work ethic, maturity and sense of duty. Kristina was additionally admitted to UC Riverside and is leaning there after a campus go to final week impressed her with the pure sciences amenities, undergraduate analysis alternatives, numerous demographics and first-year pupil help.

“There have been low factors, coping with the rejection,” Kristina mentioned. “I reached a degree within the seven phases of grief the place I used to be tremendous unhappy. However I lastly mentioned, ‘It’s OK in case you didn’t get in. Total your expertise goes to be optimistic.”

That was the message on the rejection occasion. “We fear about not being good,” mentioned Principal Sarah Usmani. “Rejection means you tried. They’re going to have a terrific future.”

McGee mentioned she lets her college students mourn. “Then it’s, ‘OK, let’s take a look at the positives. Let’s discover the precise faculty. Let’s take a look at scholarship alternatives… My job is to verify they don’t really feel bitter or misplaced.”

Three students work on their college applications on laptops while sitting on a brown couch.

Joey Lim, 18, left, Nicholas Tran, 17, and Zuyi Guan, 17, college students at Downtown Magnets Excessive College in Los Angeles, work on their faculty purposes contained in the Faculty Middle on the faculty.

(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Occasions)

This yr’s admission season featured some head-scratching choices. Zuyi Guan — whose mother and father immigrated from China and labored in low-wage restaurant jobs till beginning their very own eatery — achieved a 4.4 GPA. She developed management expertise in Chinatown activism that helped her efficiently apply for a $100,000 federal small enterprise mortgage for her mother and father through the pandemic. She was admitted to UC Berkeley, UCLA, USC, Yale and Dartmouth, amongst others. However she was denied at UC Irvine.

She is leaning towards Yale, which is providing a no-loan monetary help bundle that can give her an Ivy League training for lower than $2,700 yearly.

“So for these of you who’re like, ‘Wait. Yale took you and UCI didn’t?” McGee mentioned after Zuyi shared her information. “That’s faculty admission, of us: not predictable.”

Dale Leaman, UC Irvine’s government director of undergraduate admissions, mentioned the campus was “tremendous conservative” in its preliminary admission gives this yr. That’s as a result of it overenrolled final yr, after extra college students than anticipated accepted Irvine’s admission supply. This yr, Leaman mentioned, the campus will admit extra college students from the waitlist if wanted.

“I do know that emotionally, it’s a really difficult time for college kids and oldsters and households,” Leaman mentioned. “However a denial shouldn’t be a definitive second in anyone’s life. College students are going to search out profitable paths ahead wherever they wind up.”

Lots of the Downtown Magnets college students are decided to show these phrases true.

Kevin Hernandez talks to Emily Cruz inside the College Center while other students walk behind them.

Kevin Hernandez, left, talks to Emily Cruz, each seniors, contained in the Faculty Middle at Downtown Magnets Excessive College in Los Angeles.

(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Occasions)

Kevin Hernandez had a nasty sophomore yr, when his grades plunged from all A’s in his first yr to a D in Spanish and C in AP world historical past. He managed to rebound and obtain a 3.9 GPA however figured that wouldn’t get him into high universities. His worst second on this yr’s admission season got here when he acquired rejection letters on the identical day from UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Irvine. He dreaded telling his mom, an immigrant from Mexico who’s a housekeeper and caretaker, and he questioned whether or not all of his arduous work was price it.

Then UC Santa Barbara provided him admission to its pc engineering program.

“I simply wanted not less than one faculty to just accept me, to see that I tousled one yr however realized from my errors,” he mentioned.

Aleyia Willis additionally noticed her grades slip through the pandemic. She by no means believed her 2.9 GPA mirrored her true educational talents however misplaced her confidence to use to a four-year college and deliberate to attend a group faculty. McGee urged her to use to California State College, which requires a minimal 2.5 GPA. Aleyia will probably be attending Cal State Los Angeles to pursue a educating profession.

Emily Cruz struggled with distant studying at house, the place her mom needed her to assist clear, cook dinner and babysit, questioning why she was at all times on her laptop computer. She dropped out of the Worldwide Baccalaureate program, unable to juggle the competing pressures, and her GPA slid from a 3.5 to a 2.9, too low to qualify for UC.

Lynda McGee hugs Emily Cruz.

Lynda McGee, left, congratulates Emily Cruz, 18, who simply discovered she was accepted at Brandeis College in Massachusetts.

(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Occasions)

However her maturity, resilience, faculty management expertise and mental curiosity confirmed the type of promise that Emily’s best choice, Brandeis College in Massachusetts, appears to be like for in candidates to its transitional program, which gives intense educational help for underserved college students. On Brandeis choice day, Emily got here to the school heart, nervously checking her cellphone each jiffy.

“Aaah, I acquired in!” Emily shrieked, her face lighting up as McGee rushed to hug her.

Kiana Portillo weathered an abrupt transfer from Honduras to Los Angeles as a fifth-grader. She was teased over her restricted English, and dealt along with her household’s monetary hardships and an absent father. She was so nervous about her UC utility that her youthful sister got here to her aspect and pressed the submit button along with her. Kiana was accepted by UC Merced however denied by UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara.

Regardless of. Kiana is headed to her best choice, Bucknell College in Pennsylvania, which has chosen her as a Posse Basis Scholar. The distinguished award program gives a full-tuition scholarship, management coaching, educational help and a community of fellow recipients.

The college’s rural setting and overwhelmingly white pupil physique will probably be vastly totally different for Kiana however she takes that in stride. “I’ve to adapt, however that’s what the entire faculty course of is like: to adapt.”

Again on the rejection occasion, McGee had yet another ritual for her college students earlier than their ice cream deal with. She directed them to face, maintain their plastic spoon aloft and repeat after her:

“I solemnly pledge to comprehend that my potential and promise is rarely decided by the school I attend,” they recited. “And ice cream heals all wounds.”


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