04/16/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Wall Of College Rejection Letters: How Kids Cope

High school seniors everywhere have traditionally posted their rejection letters as an act of collective defiance against the high-pressure and hypercompetitive college admissions process. But this year, with top-tier colleges rejecting more applicants than ever before, dejected students say they are especially in need of what amounts to a group hug.

At Newton South, rejection letters from most of the country's most selective colleges, from Amherst to Wesleyan, from Bowdoin to the University of Southern California, tell the grim tale. A demographic bulge in the number of high school students, combined with a sharp rise in the number of colleges they apply to, has created a numbers crunch....

So in their moment of need, the reeling students rally together. By making a personal setback public, sharing the letters can be cathartic, students say. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, students find comfort in a communal, almost collegial, show of solidarity against an impersonal, seemingly arbitrary system.

When Sofya Rozenblat, 18, got the bad news from Dartmouth College, her first choice, she was crushed. She shed some tears. Stapling her letter on the wall the next morning, she recalled, started the healing process, she said...

At Newton, the Wall of Shame serves as kind of a water cooler for college-related gossip and reflection. Some sigh and shake their heads, muttering.

Some walk by and glance, then turn their head away in disgust, then reflexively snap it back, like a car crash. Some juniors walk by and gulp.

A few pore over them, reading each stock phrase of gentle letdown - "very real regret" (Duke), "sincere regret [Yale], "so sorry to tell you" [MIT], "I am sorry to bring you disappointing news" [Wesleyan], "careful and concerned consideration" [Brown], and "we wish you every success with your further education" [Georgetown].