How to Deal With Rejection from, Well, Everything You Want

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The ambitious flourish in college. Coming into my freshman year, I was determined to capitalize upon the opportunities for self-employment and self-development, to find my niche and to explore all of my interests as much as possible. I kept my eye on the date of the activities fair. My interest in reading and writing would find me a place somewhere in between the booths and the brightly-colored poster boards. I took every flyer that I could and wrote my name on every email list. I left with my arms full of information about magazines and newspapers and the times for soccer tryouts, and I convinced myself that this year would be amazing.

Motivation and showing at least a little interest in joining these organizations should be enough, right?

As deadlines came for applications, I busied myself with writing personal statements, sample writing pieces and doing the odds and ends for every different club. I attached each one to an email, along with a friendly little message no doubt saying something that I felt would express my professionalism and eagerness to join their organization, and waited oh-so-ever-patiently for the results to come in.  They finally rolled in one by one: Rejected, rejected, rejected and rejected.

I was baffled. How, after so much meticulous planning, after so many weeks of anticipation, could I get rejected from everything? I thought perhaps it was just a freshman thing. I haven’t learned the ropes yet, and maybe it speaks through my applications. They’re probably looking for someone more experienced, more poised, better suited to understand the ins and outs of college life.

But my friends began boasting of their acceptances, talking about tutoring groups and various service clubs—all having required some sort of tryout or application. Somehow, they figured out the formula, broken through the code, discovered the algorithm that allows one to “be involved” in college. I felt utterly helpless and completely excluded from what I felt to be the most important years of my life.

I decided that I would throw myself whole-heartedly into my schoolwork to cover up any disappointment that might leak through my facade. And I convinced myself that academics were what I was in college for anyway, right? Why worry myself with extracurricular when I could spend my time reading novels and articles and writing long academic essays?

For a while I think I did have myself convinced. I was doing well, and I felt content. Yet, my friends began branching out, introducing me to people they had met through their clubs. These people shared common interests, goals and career paths. They talked about taking trips together, planning mixers and attending upcoming meetings.

As their connections grew I couldn’t help but feel that I was growing smaller and smaller.  I shifted endlessly on the outskirts of this social and academic life that everyone seemed a part of besides me.  Simply sticking to school work wasn’t going to fulfill all of my expectations for college. It certainly wasn’t going to force me to grow as a person

I decided that I would stop convincing myself that ignoring my disappointment was okay. Instead I used it as an opportunity for motivation. I would not quit. Until I had been rejected from every group, club, or organization, I would keep trying. I would get rejections from study abroad programs, club soccer teams and the Writing Resource Center. I would receive many (many) emails from people who had the “unhappy duty” of informing me of my rejections. Taking all of it with bitterness, I let it pass. I realized, in any situation where you are willing to work hard and be tenacious, the opportunities truly are endless.

Brooke is a sophomore at William and Mary studying English. She enjoys reading and writing, very strong coffee, and all things chocolate.

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