It’s that time of year again. Ambiguity is in the air, marked by anticipation or simply by pure dread. For high school seniors, college acceptances and rejections are in the mail, and spirits are either high or low. (Some say it’s a cruel joke to send out acceptance letters on April Fool’s)
For college seniors and recent graduates, job offers are sealed and finalized. After countless interviews, some of you are finally getting that golden letter of acceptance. Time to party away the rest of senior year. (Oh wait, you mean you didn’t already do that for spring break?)
For those whose plans didn’t quite work out, it’s easy to get swept away by a tide of self-doubt in these times. But whether you were rejected from your first choice university, or from your dream job, keep in mind the following: rejections don’t define your self-worth.
Of course, general bread-and-butter advice often doesn’t heal the wound fast enough. So, weary reader, browse through the list and find the one that pertains most closely to your current situation. Then sit back, and hopefully you’ll feel somewhat better by the end.
- All of your friends got into the Ivy League/top-tier schools/schools with huge scholarships and you didn’t? Not only do you have to deal with your friends’ exuberant “I got into Harvard!” bursts, but they’ll inevitably ask you afterward, “So where did you get in?” Ignoring them only leads to more probing, and you know they’ll just post the same thing on Facebook/Twitter. You’ll either feel completely embarrassed that you didn’t get into as good a school, or you’ll feel angry and frustrated. Jack got a full ride? But he wasn’t even as good as me in AP Lit!
The key is to not compare your abilities to those of your friends. Admissions look through the applicant pool to fill quotas, and by quotas I mean “to achieve a diverse incoming class.” If 50% of the incoming class are already mathematicians, they’re going to give more lenience to an aspiring art historian in the next round, all else equal. College acceptances truly have a degree of luck involved.
Getting rejected doesn’t necessarily mean you’re less smart or less capable than your friends are. Everyone has different strengths, and comparing Jack’s math prowess to your literary prowess is an unfair comparison. Think about it: nobody ever says, Psh, Shakespeare was nowhere as mathematically gifted as Newton was. Shakespeare is clearly not a valuable person. Nor do people look down at those who attend non-elite universities. (And those who do are douchebags who are completely not worth your time in the first place)
- You just got your 5th (or more) job or internship rejection.
The economy is grim out there. Well, it’s slowly started to pick back up again, but it’s still pretty difficult for job seekers.If you’ve truly given each interview all your best (that means you rigorously prepared, researched the company, and practiced), then don’t mourn. Most of the time, it just wasn’t a good fit. I had been rejected from a company that I could tell, right from the beginning of the interview, was not right for me. The employees were grim and the place resembled a prison chamber. A prison chamber with glass doors and bowls of fruit, but still.
Other times, it’s just luck. Randomness. The interviewer might’ve not liked a tiny bit of what you’d said, and that was enough to tip the scales in someone else’s favor. Do not take things personally.
Always keep an open mind and keep in touch with the HR at the companies you’ve interviewed for. I’ve had surprise emails drop in my inbox months after the rejection that told me of new opportunities I was qualified for. Burning bridges rarely helps anyone.
- I don’t know where I’m headed in the next month/6 months/year. You’ve suddenly realized you don’t know what you’re doing with your life. That’s pretty common, especially amongst mid-20-year-olds.
Volunteer for a year. PeaceCorps if you want to travel overseas. AmeriCorps if you’d rather stay in the US. CityYear is a good option if you’re interested in teaching and working with kids. Or you can just take a year off and travel. See the world. There’s so much in the world worth living for, but first we must see those wonders. You’re only young once. (No, don’t say YOLO, please)
You will meet a lot of rejection and it is not always a straight path, there will be detours, so enjoy the view. –Michael York