April 13, 2007

Rejected Applicant Makes YouTube Film

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Rejection is tough, especially when it comes in the form of a thin envelope from your university of choice. One disappointed applicant to the Cornell class of 2008, however, found an unusual way to channel his anger.
Jamal Saqib of College Station, Texas, captured his moment of rejection in a homemade video entitled “The Cornell Reject.” Since posting the video on YouTube on March 31st, 2006, Saqib’s film clip has been viewed nearly 15,000 times.
Saqib applied to the College of Engineering, where he hoped to pursue a concentration in computer science. Although he never visited the Cornell campus, he stated he “became attached to it” after perusing the Cornell website, attending an information session in Houston and meeting with a Cornell alumnus.
“I even befriended random Cornell students on Facebook so I could look at their photo albums of Cornell,” admitted Saqib.
Unfortunately, Saqib’s love affair with Cornell ended abruptly, when the dreaded ‘small envelope’ appeared in his mailbox.
“I was hit pretty hard,” Saqib stated. “But instead of feeling bad about it, I immediately turned to my friend and said, ‘You know what? Screw it. I’m going to burn this [letter].’”
The friend, cited as Hamudi in the film’s end credits, grabbed a video camera, and the two outlined a brief plot.
From start to finish, “The Cornell Reject” took about an hour and a half to film and edit. “We didn’t really bother to check the clips or do any second takes,” stated Saqib. Using Windows Movie Maker, Saqib and Hamudi edited the clips, added a title and credits, and set the film to music.
The movie, which runs just under three minutes, opens on a scene of Saqib reaching into the mailbox outside his suburban Texan home. After opening an envelope and scanning its contents, he covers his face and collapses on the ground in despair.
In a frenzy, Saqib runs into his house. The music abruptly switches from the mellow “Tuesday’s Gone” by Lynyrd Skynyrd to Usher’s “Burn.” Saqib appears to lip sync along as he dramatically shuffles through his living room.
It seems to be a rough breakup between Saqib and Cornell. Usher’s lyrics “I feel like this is coming to an end/ And its better for me to let it go/ I gotta let it burn” not only capture the emotion of the moment, but also provide an apt transition to the next scene.
Saqib exits his home through the back doors, letter still in hand. In an apparent lapse of continuity, the letter is now encased in a glossy red Cornell folder. Saqib approaches a coal-burning grill in the yard with renewed determination. Flames quickly leap skyward.
As the grimace on his face evolves into a grin, Saqib glares into the camera and triumphantly drops the rejection letter into the flaming pyre.
In a twist of ironic fate, the glossy folder refuses to catch fire for several seconds.
Finally, the folder begins to burn, and Saqib lifts his hands toward the heavens. Then, as a triumphant march plays in the background, he throws his head back and laughs. The scene concludes with Saqib performing a victory dance around the grill.
Upon its completion, Saqib posted the dramatic reenactment on YouTube and sent it to over 20 Cornell admissions advisers and offices, including the admissions offices of all seven undergraduate colleges.
Did Saqib expect such antics to win him over in the eyes of the Undergraduate Admissions Office? Although he stated that it would have “made his day” to receive some sort of acknowledgement from the Admissions Office, he “nonetheless didn’t really expect anything.”
Saqib never received a response from anyone at Cornell. “Although I was playing it off as though I wanted to erase Cornell from my memory, I was truly disappointed,” he said.
Though Cornell never responded to “The Cornell Reject,” the film was picked up by IvyGate blog and several MySpace pages. Saqib was surprised at the widespread response and positive feedback he received.

While Saqib said it would be “nice and admirable” for university admissions offices to “reward creativity and out-of-the-box approaches” with acceptance letters, he understands why his effort was ignored.
Doris Davis, associate provost of Admissions and Enrollment, said that although she had seen the video, she did not think that Saqib intended the clip to be taken seriously. “Students who are denied admission and want to appeal the decision will generally put forth a more serious effort,” she stated.
Now a sophomore majoring in computer science at the University of Texas, Saqib is enjoying college and volunteering as a graphic designer and webmaster. Despite the support of his fans, Saqib has no intentions of becoming a professional filmmaker.
While Saqib still has tender feelings towards Cornell, he is hesitant to embark on the transfer process. What he would really love, he stated, is to get a phone call from the Undergraduate Admissions Office saying, “Hi Jamal, I would just like to say that we would love to have you here at Cornell.”