College Admissions: The Real College Confidential

Everybody from Jim Gardner to Buzz Bissinger to Brian Kappra spills the beans about where they applied, who turned them down, and why they went where they did

Sam Katz, 61, three-time candidate for mayor
Applied to: Yale, Swarthmore, Haverford, Dickinson, Johns Hopkins.
Rejected by: Yale.
Went to: Johns Hopkins. “I wanted a school where I could play basketball. I picked the school with the best gym.”

Robert Venturi, 85, principal architect, Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates
Applied to: Princeton.
Went to: Princeton. “Several close friends of my family went there. I went because I admired them.”

Karin Mormando, 36, director of undergraduate admissions, Temple University
Started at: Burlington County Community College. “I grew up in the last recession. I had a twin sister. My father had lost his job.”
Finished at: Rutgers.

Buzz Bissinger, 56, author, Inquirer columnist
Applied to: Penn, Dartmouth, Stanford, UVA, Tulane, Occidental, USC.
Rejected by: Stanford, UVA.
Went to: Penn. “Dartmouth had just turned co-ed. I figured my odds of getting laid there were very poor.”

Kendall Alexander, 2010 grad, Germantown Friends School
Applied to: Tuskegee, Hampton, Spelman, -Drexel, Morgan State.
Rejected by: Spelman, Drexel.
Going to: Hampton. “An Historically Black College was definitely the place for me after GFS.”

Steve Cordasco, 44, host, The Big Money Show
Applied to: U. of Delaware, West Chester.
Rejected by: None.
Went to: West Chester. “After two years, I transferred to Temple, which had an accredited business school. I spent my summers lifeguarding down the Shore, and a lot of the guys I was rowing with went to Temple. I really respected them.”

Jim Gardner, 62, news anchor, WPVI 6
Applied to: Columbia, early decision.
Went to: Columbia. “It was a politically engaged campus, it had a renowned pre-med program—I was pre-med for about five minutes—and I liked its urban environment.”

Maxwell Presser, 2010 grad, Cheltenham High School
Applied to: Penn, Pitt, Indiana, Emory, UNC.
Rejected by: None.
Going to: Penn. “It’s a great combination of academics, city life and student activities.”

Brian Kappra, 52, president, Evantine Design
Applied to: Temple, Rutgers.
Rejected by: None.
Went to: Temple. “The big city was interesting after growing up in a small town. I was going to go into journalism, but then I discovered landscape design.”

Jenny Rickard, 46, dean of enrollment and communications officer, Bryn Mawr College
Applied to: Yale, UCLA, Stanford, Swarthmore, Cornell, Wesleyan.
Rejected by: Yale, Stanford.
Went to: Swarthmore. “It felt right. I liked the sense I got of the core values of the institution.”

Wyatt Good, 2009 grad, Springfield High School
Took: A year to travel to Fiji, New Zealand, Australia; did an internship in Ireland; worked at Global Metal Arts.
Then applied to: U. of Vermont, U. of Delaware, Allegheny, Temple.
Going to: Allegheny, for the financial aid.

Betsey Stevenson, 39, business prof at Wharton; national expert on marriage and divorce
Applied to: Columbia, Wellesley, NYU, UVA, Virginia Tech, Smith.
Rejected by: “Some. I can’t remember.”
Went to: Wellesley. “The financial aid was a bigger deal to me than the acceptance.”

Sifiyyah Glass, 2010 grad, George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science
Applied to: Temple, Penn State, Drexel. Rejected by: Drexel.
Going to: Temple. “It was my first choice. I just always felt like I belonged there.”

Sandy Hingston, 53, senior editor, Philly Mag
Applied to: Princeton, Bryn Mawr, William & Mary, Duke, Gettysburg.
Rejected by: Princeton.
Went to: Duke. “It was such a beautiful school. I had a great time. I’m still pissed at -Princeton, though.”

Ronnie Polaneczky, 53, columnist, Daily News
Applied to: Temple.
Went to: Temple. “I dropped out to play in a bar band. Eventually, I went back. My senior year, I got an internship at Philly Mag and got bitten by the journalism bug. I finally got my degree—with credit for 10 years of ‘internship’—when I was 30.”

Kevin Clark, 2010 grad, La Salle College High School
Applied to: La Salle, St. Joe’s, Scranton, Penn State, West Chester, Bloomsburg, Lehigh, DeSales, Catholic.
Rejected by: Penn State (main), Lehigh. Going to: Scranton. “I’ve never heard someone that went there have a bad experience.”

Michael Smerconish, 48, host, The Michael Smerconish Show
Applied to: Lehigh.
Went to: Lehigh. “I was accepted despite poor SATs because I was a legacy.”

Anton Popov, 2010 grad, Germantown Friends School
Applied to: Kenyon, Bard, Elmira, Connecticut College, Wesleyan, Lafayette.
Rejected by: Kenyon, Connecticut College.
Going to: Bard. “I liked their academics, and I was recruited for basketball.”

Pete Ciarrocchi, 52, owner, Chickie’s and Pete’s
Applied to: None.
“My parents told me as soon as I got done school, go to work. That’s what I did. Kids should go to -college, though. People think I’m successful, but that’s only a touch of what I could have been.”

Kathy Romano, 31, sidekick, The Preston & Steve Show
Applied to: George Mason, Virginia Tech, West Chester.
Rejected by: None.
Went to: West Chester. “I opted to stay local and go to a state school.”

Steve Cook, 37, -restaurateur/chef
Applied to: Penn, Brown, Harvard, Yale, Michigan.
Rejected by: Harvard, Yale; wait-listed at Brown.
Went to: Penn. “You had to pick one of the four undergrad schools. I picked Wharton. Family Ties was big back then.” Later went to NYC’s French Culinary Institute.

Michael Solomonov, 31, restaurateur/chef
Applied to: U. of Vermont.
Wait-listed by: U. of Vermont. Went to: U. of Vermont. “Some of my relatives probably cried and bribed admissions to accept me.” Dropped out after three semesters and moved to Israel; later went to Florida Culinary Institute.

Jacques Wells, 2010 grad, West Philadelphia High School’s Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering
Applied to: Penn State, Drexel, Kutztown, -Virginia Union.
Rejected by: Drexel.
Going to: Penn State Berks Campus. “I saw it on a tour, and I could really picture myself there.”

Jacquelyn Cochet, 2010 grad, Haddonfield Memorial High School
Applied to: U. of Vermont, Fordham, Scranton, St. Joe’s, College of Charleston.
Rejected by: None.
Going to: U. of Vermont. It came down to that or Fordham, and “I would rather live for four years in Burlington than the Bronx.”

Rob Fenza, 53, COO, -Liberty Property Trust
Applied to: Rutgers, -Syracuse, Penn State.
Rejected by: None.
Went to: Penn State. “It was the cheapest. I put myself through school.”

Tamala Edwards, 39, news anchor, WPVI 6
Applied to: Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, Northwestern, Columbia.
Rejected by: None.
Went to: Stanford. “The Stanford kids were by far the most positive about their classmates and profs. And I didn’t have to pack a coat.”