To the Office of Admissions
24 April 2016
University of Florida
Office of Admission
201 Criser Hall – PO Box 114000
Gainesville, FL 32611-4000
To the Office of Admissions:
My name is Bryce Tapp, this is more than likely and in all probability a name that is unknown to you and a name which means nothing to you. But the same cannot be said when I see the name under which you serve: The University of Florida. It is the name that adorned my childhood bedroom for years. It is the name that I would shout with my father when I was a young child traveling to Gainesville to cheer on the Gators when they were playing against the Seminoles. It is the name that was emblazoned upon the jerseys of the fans who I joined to line the street before those games. It is the name of the college I aspired to attend since I was a small child. My desire to attend UF started during one of the most difficult moments in my life, when my mother was being treated at Shands Hospital for the mysterious seizures that suddenly began to possess her during my youth. I remember watching the white coats line up in the hallway to check in during the early morning hours. I remember driving past the University and the dormitories and the libraries and the numerous buildings of academic and architectural stature that began to encompass the many memories of my childhood. And so the admissions process began. I applied. I waited. I was denied.
It is easy to create dreams. They are built from our experiences looking at the mountaintop when we are resting in the valley. They are built by the hope that fills our heart as we cheer on a football team or we see a family member receive treatment. They are built on the belief that an education will not only improve our own life, but will improve the lives of those around us. My desire, my yearning, my dream to receive a degree from the University of Florida was a foundation that was created when I was younger and when my parents would tell me how important a college education was – something they were not fortunate enough to receive. I was to be the first in my family to attend college. This was my dream because this was my destiny. And so what better place to fulfill the purpose of an only child than at the institution that helped create a relationship between my father and I, the institution that helped improve my mother’s medical condition, the institution that stood for something better than an education: happiness. This happiness and this gratification of feeling accepted and fulfilled is nothing I feel in my present moment. After receiving my rejection letter from the University of Florida, other colleges and universities followed suit. The questions I have and will always possess shall never be answered. This, however, is an important drive in the condition of living as a human being: the drive to answer the unanswerable. It is the drive to fulfill the void of uncertainty that has driven our species toward the heavens and inward, toward our own bodies. It is the drive to understand each shroud of doubt that surrounds every piece of knowledge and information in our minds that drives our species forward. It is this same drive that has caused me immense difficulty and immense struggle in being able to reconcile with my rejection from the University of Florida and the decision to attend the only college that accepted me.
Many of the students that were accepted into your class of 2020 are well-deserving students who should be attending Ivy League institutions in New England – that truly is how honorable and distinguished your institution of higher education is. Truly, you have created not just a collection of libraries and buildings, dormitories and laboratories, but you have created a school that shall be exalted among academics for years to come. There is a reason why so many students from around the entire nation, and from around the world for that matter, wish and dream to attend your university. I am still among those students. I am the only student at my high school, that I am aware of, who did not receive admission into the University – many of the students who were admitted are my close friends, people I have had the opportunity to work with and to achieve so much in these last four years of my education. People I deeply admire. Among those students is a New Yorker born Colombian who has proven to many of my peers that trilingualism is better than bilingualism, that a young man in band and in student government can achieve academic honors, and, most importantly, that the child of immigrants seeking a better life in our nation can achieve greatness. Another student who was accepted to your institution is a friend of mine. The child of Bengali immigrants who has faced religious and gender discrimination in our own school, she has continuously defied the odds to prove to her family and to her community that a Bengali-America-Muslim-Feminist can, and will, achieve greatness in this life. To say that these two bright minds deserve to attend the University of Florida is just as true as to say that any college or university would be honored to have them attend their classes and walk through their halls. However, there were a group of my peers who also were admitted to your institution who did not have the same accreditation from their work as the previous two individuals did. Many of the other students at my high school were either upper middle class or upper class students who were not first in their family to attend college and who, from my experiences with them, did not meet the basic, most fundamental criteria of your university, your own motto: Civium in moribus rei publicae salus (The welfare of the state depends upon the morals of its citizens). For many of these individuals, the welfare of their fellow men occurred less frequently than the concern with their own welfare – it was rare for many of these people to act out of altruistic tendencies rather than out of selfish ones. This is only one of the numerous stories and experiences I have had with the people you accepted, but I will not elaborate any more than is necessary for my point to be achieved with regard to these future students of yours.
The person you rejected is someone who led his school’s Model United Nations club for two years receiving two individual awards and numerous school accolades at the state conference. The person you rejected has written four full-length plays (one of which was awarded Critics’ Choice at a state thespian competition), nearly twenty-five short stories, and close to one hundred poems. The person you rejected is Editor-in-Chief of an online publication that has published a wide-range of stories and experiences from the millennial generation. The person you rejected learned what suffering was in middle school as I watched my mother suffer from seizure after seizure. The person you rejected and deemed unworthy of possessing more knowledge through your academic institution is someone who will never debate for your Model United Nations; someone who will never write for any publication or stage associated with your college; someone who will never be able to aid in the liberation from suffering of anyone attending your school; someone who will never be worthy enough to tell others that “I attended the University of Florida” because that person was deemed unworthy.
My rejection from your institution of higher learning represents something far greater than myself – for that’s what we all represent in our lifetime upon this Earth, something greater than what we are and something greater than anything we shall ever know. The rejection letter I received in those stark words is the rejection of the working class by institutions like the one you have created, the rejection of the ideals that any family in this nation can send a child off to any college if they collectively work toward that goal, the rejection of the American Dream and the addition to its destruction. We, as a nation, ponder over why the income of the middle class is stagnant, why only the students who attend the colleges endowed by the upper class are still the most successful, why many students are unable to leave the shadow of the jobs that have long since been destroyed. I understand now why I did not receive acceptance into your prestigious, state-funded institution of learning: I am not wealthy enough, I am not an attractive number, I am not the product of a cookie-cutter life. I am Bryce Tapp because of everything I have experienced and everything that I have seen. I am who I am not because of what my test scores are or what my grades reflect, but rather because of the suffering I have seen and the obstacles I have overcome. But as you accept all of the people who do conform to your numbers and to the image you seek to project to the world (and as many of them, in turn, do not fulfill their acceptance to your University and leave those spots unfilled), I will grow as a person and will experience my own life not on your campus, but on a campus that wanted me.
One thing that my rejection has taught me was something that I would never have learned from your university. That I never needed the University of Florida to achieve my dreams or to attain my own happiness. It was in me all along.
Tapp is the Editor-in-Chief of The Millennial Times.