Where's Waldo? Not at UVA-- after three tries!

He owns a company, has run for City Council, moderates a top local news website, and has won two VH1 awards– all at the tender age of 24. But despite these and other impressive accomplishments, Waldo Jaquith won't get to add "UVA grad" to his resume anytime soon: His application for admission was rejected for a third time this spring.

UVA is known for its stringent admission policy. Of 2,086 transfer applicants in 2002, only 788 (38 percent) were accepted. But to the casual observer, it's hard to imagine nearly 800 candidates more qualified than Jaquith.

"It just galls me that UVA turned down Waldo probably for some snot-nosed rich Northern Virginia kid who's done nothing except scored high on SATs and gotten into the national honor society," says local businessman Tom McCrystal.

McCrystal, a Republican who recently considered a run for state senate against Mitch Van Yahres, describes Democrat Jaquith as "a man of accomplishment," and explains that he has often taken Jaquith's computer advice with good results for his own multi-media business, Creative Perspectives. Thanks to Jaquith, says McCrystal, "We're saving a ton of money."

McCrystal finds the rejection particularly ironic because UVA's founding father was a renaissance man who admired initiative.

"It's a farce," says McCrystal. "Thomas Jefferson must be rolling over in his freaking grave."

But Jaquith for his part says he can't rage against the machine. He acknowledges that there have been gaps in his UVA application in the past.

One complication is Jaquith's nontraditional education background: He was home-schooled for much of his youth, attended Western Albemarle High School for two years, and finished out at The Living Education Center, an alternative– and unaccredited– high school which Jaquith describes as "a cross between home schooling and traditional school."

An early 1990s suspension while at Western Albemarle (for distribution of an underground newspaper, naturally) marred his transcript, as did mediocre grades more than a decade ago.

More recently, he says, he's compiled an A average at Piedmont Virginia Community College. His early-1990s SAT score of 1320- which, thanks to an upward recalibration of the test in the mid-'90s, might now correlate with a score at 1390- is solidly above UVA's 2002 SAT average of 1314.

Following his 1997 graduation, Jaquith decided to forgo college because the students at the colleges where he'd been accepted "weren't serious enough." Instead, he hiked the Appalachian Trail until stress fractures in both feet ended his trek; founded Munk & Phyber, a website design firm he still runs; started cvillenews.com, a local news discussion board; and founded nancies.org, the Dave Matthews Band fansite that has garnered two VH-1 awards.

In his spare time, Jaquith fought several civil rights battles, including suing the City of Charlottesville for its teen curfew, a case which went all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court before being thrown out. He also helped change federal law when he challenged corporate giant Mattel on an internet filter that would be installed on public computers.

"I was the first person in the world to be subpoenaed by email," he chuckles.

But higher education called.

In 1998 Jaquith began attending Piedmont, following its written guidelines for students aiming to transfer. As soon as he had completed the 30 credits he believed he needed, he started applying to UVA.

And UVA started rejecting him.

But Jaquith says he doesn't want to whine about it. "There are probably more qualified candidates," he says modestly. "UVA has every right to reject me or anyone else."

What worries him are the reasons. When he called to inquire about the latest rejection, Jaquith says he couldn't get an answer. UVA sent a second letter to him after that call, Jaquith says, but it was "the exact same letter as the first one."

And Jaquith says something doesn't seem right. "I followed instructions explicitly," he says, including taking the classes UVA told him he needed after his second rejection. And indeed, the PVCC guidebook to which Jaquith refers says, "PVCC has an agreement with the University of Virginia, whereby an honors student may apply for early admission after completing 30 semester hours of college work."

UVA's admissions office website says that applicants who have completed at least one full year of college study are considered "most competitive" by the Admissions Committee.

So what gives?

Could it be Jaquith's reputation as enfant terrible, an unstoppable activist who fearlessly takes on corporate entities with the help of the ACLU? He wonders.

Unfortunately, he's not likely to get an answer soon- if ever.

UVA Dean of Admissions Jack Blackburn says the university cannot comment on individual applicants.

PVCC's president Frank Friedman is similarly tight-lipped, but he does offer data on PVCC students' acceptance rate to UVA. Of the 143 PVCC students that applied to UVA this year, 89- more than 62 percent- were accepted.

But Waldo says there's no use crying over spilled milk. He's already begun making plans to attend his backup choice: Virginia Tech. Is there any chance Waldo will give UVA one more shot? Apparently not.

"I'm pathetic," he laughs, "but not that pathetic."


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