Dealing with Academic Rejection

By Hannah Alvarado
Blog Content Contributor

If you’ve been in this higher education game for even one semester, chances are you’ve dealt with some sort of academic rejection. Applying to a particular program, a scholarship, an internship or even your first choice school (which was hopefully Texas State because go Bobcats) is a trying and stressful task. You sit there waiting hoping, all just to get a soul crushing “no.” This can weigh pretty heavily on some, for good reason, and is truly a disheartening thing.

Earlier this month, I received word about an academic internship opportunity, two days earlier than it was meant to. “Competition was pretty stiff” read the email, and my heart sank. I had been passed over for the internship of my dreams. This particular opportunity had meant more to me than any other, more than any job, more than anything I’d ever applied to in my entire life. Not only was it paid, but it was a summer in New York City, working with the company I’d hope to work for since I was a child. It seemed that it didn’t matter that I’d visualized it, wanted it, prayed for it, and was qualified, too, because the answer was still no. Even though I was logically aware the odds were slim, reading that rejection letter crushed me.

Now you may say, “Hey, it’s one no, you’ll live!” Let me tell you, friend, I have faced a fair share of academic rejection in my day. I didn’t get the first university I applied to at eighteen, despite my good GPA, which was traumatizing enough. But I also didn’t receive any of the several scholarships I’ve been applying to for the past seven years, or any other internships I’d applied to during that time either. This past year, I was passed up for two jobs I truly wanted, and aced the interview on… All just to name a few. So though I’d dealt with all that academic rejection before and can even be called a seasoned pro, for some reason this one hit me harder than all the others. The devastating blow lead me to question everything as about my academic life. “Maybe my friends and peers were right, perhaps I am wasting my life with my English major. Maybe being a writer is a pipe dream. What if no one ever hires me, ever?!” Negativity clouded my thoughts and my judgment as I begrudgingly went about my week in a dark sullen manner. My negative mood seeped from me, I didn’t concentrate on class and my closest loved ones grew concerned. I tried to keep it to myself, and spent a good amount of my alone time just analyzing and thinking back.

It’s true, the first university I applied to did say no, but I was eighteen at the time and under the guise of a completely different major. I kept thinking and realized as were many of the scholarships I’d applied to. If I had been accepted into that university, I would have stayed in my home town, and worked toward a degree that isn’t my passion. I’d feel obligated, as I would have received the money to attend. I would never have gone to and put myself through community college, and decided on my dream and on Texas State University (which has quickly become my favorite institution ever, may I add).  I could have straight given up on my entire hope to be a writer.

The thoughts of the paths that may have been allowed me to see that things could be, and how I could be. But more importantly, the things I would be without. In heat of the moment, when you first open that letter or email or message that gives you less than great news, it’s easy to just sit there and sulk. To allow the disappointment to sink in deep and keep you down. But the thing I’ve learned about academic rejection is this: you’re going to deal with plenty of “no’s” in your time. There’s going to be several doors that seemed glued shut to you, opportunities just out of your reach. But just stopping to look around, realizing all that you do have, all that has gone so terribly right in your life will be a great way to get you out of your funk. My mom always used to say, “count your blessings” and in this way she was right. I know it all sounds so cliché, but it still rings true.

So get out there, apply, hope and dream. And if you get a no, let yourself feel down a while and then remember all that you have. Don’t allow yourself to sink, and remember that you’ve come this far and that is something to celebrate. None of us know our paths for sure, so don’t be afraid to just go with the flow sometimes. When you look back, the feats you managed may impress you. And above all, always remember: “When one door closes, a window is opened somewhere… you just have to find it.”

Featured image by Hannah Alvarado.

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