Lessons from rejection

| Staff Columnist

It’s April, the daffodils are blooming, and admitted students are touring the Washington University campus. In the last few weeks I have seen enough incoming freshmen to make me wonder whether the class of 2014 has already taken up residence on the South 40. But they haven’t yet. In fact, many high school seniors are still going through the same nerve-wracking admission, waitlist and rejection process that the class of 2013 went through a year ago. For many of my peers and me, this was the first time we had to deal with goals we could not reach, and rejection was very difficult to handle.

Rejection in any form is tough, regardless of its scale. As young adults entering the real world, students must realize that rejection is inevitable. Everyone will face disappointment, and rejections will follow us throughout our adult lives.

Being in college has been much more difficult than it was to get into college. I have tried harder in the past year than I ever have before and yet have still faced more disappointments than at any other point in my life. The disappointments I have faced, however, have forced me to grow up. I now know from personal experience that circumstances will not always unfold as I want, or intend, them to.

Ultimately an individual’s behavior in the face of such rejection is far more indicative of his or her character than behavior in times of success. By now I have learned the all-important art of how to accept such disappointments and bow out of a situation with dignity.

If treated appropriately, the experience of facing a disappointment can make us more mature individuals. As a new freshman I would call home and pout anytime I was having a difficult moment, but I realized over time that this is neither a practical, nor a productive, modus operandi. Life does not get any easier, but rather more difficult, and if you are pushing yourself to bigger and better goals, unfortunately you are bound to face more rejections along the way.

While rejection is certainly an effective remedy for bravado, there is a fine line between learning humility and losing your self-esteem. When confronted with the challenges of college academics and social life, students must remember that often the demands they place on themselves are simply unreasonable. An individual is not challenging him or herself enough if he or she can reach every goal.

As the popular adage goes, “It is better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all,” indicating that sometimes what we learn from failure is more important in the long run than the actual failure itself. Like any other human being, we aren’t required to succeed every time.

While I have heard stories about highly successful people pasting their rejection letters on walls to motivate themselves, I find it depressing to spend too much time dwelling on shortcomings. We should of course try to negate our flaws, but excessive time spent fretting about past failures can close our eyes to new opportunities that are opening before us.

Foremost, we should always remain optimistic about future prospects. This is particularly important to remember at a time when national rates of depression and suicide among college students are on the rise. Rejection and perceived failure may seem catastrophic in the short term, but time is a magician with a little perspective.