You Win Some, You Lose Some: Handling Rejection with Grace

The Admittedly Team
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“It was a pleasure to review your application and the decision was extremely difficult. While we were impressed with your accomplishments, I am sorry to inform you that you were not selected. Thank you for applying, and good luck as you pursue your future academic goals.”

All the sugarcoated rejections from colleges, scholarships, and programs sound so nearly identical, but they never lose their sting. Beyond the “we were so impressed with your application” and the “we appreciate your hard work and wish you the best”, only one sentiment is really internalized by a rejected applicant: you may be awesome, but you’re not awesome enough. Tough luck.

When those “I regret to inform you’s” start to pile up, the future that you had constructed seems to crumble... You think to yourself, “I wasn’t admitted to my dream school, so I’ll be miserable for four years and miss out on the education and connections I need to be successful,” and “I didn’t get the scholarship so I’ll drown in student debt for the next two decades.” And, the simplest, but most persistent doubt: “I’m just not good enough.”

But before you bury your sorrows in a carton of ice cream and a mountain of Netflix, take a look around for the perspective that you’ve lost. Your self-worth comes neither from which colleges accept you nor the amount of scholarship money you receive. Your value is intrinsic; you are an individual with unique talents and aspirations. Failure often appears to condemn you and the ways you’ve invested your time and energy seem to be an indicator of that. But this is not usually the case.

In reality, a rejection often means your characteristics did not align with a program’s specific criteria or goals – not that you are completely inferior to every other applicant. You may be one of the top swimmers in your state, but if a college wants a tuba player to round out its “balanced, diverse class,” then you’re out of luck. Your rejection clearly doesn’t mean that you’re an awful, insignificant person – just that the college preferred a musician to an athlete.

Sure, you may be saying, “Maybe I can salvage my self-respect, but it doesn’t change the fact that my future depended on that acceptance letter.” The current culture surrounding higher education has students believing that their futures hinge on getting into schools or programs that fit them perfectly–their educational soulmates. That if, come September, you’re not at the gorgeous campus of your dream university crunching down leaf covered paths toward hallowed halls of higher learning, you’ve gone terribly astray. But this is a lie.

Your success and happiness depend upon your attitude far more than on where you are or what you have. The work and energy that you pour into your studies, relationships, and activities will define your college experience and your future success, not the name of the institution that you attend or the amount of scholarship money that you receive.

I don’t want to belittle the financial benefits of a scholarship or the fact that some places will provide more opportunities than others. But opportunities are always available. Let your failure motivate you to seek them out and make the most of them. This grit and determination will only make you stronger.

Post courtesy of Annika Reuter

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