On Rejection and Moving Forward

Back in my obsessive CollegeConfidential days, I read an article stating that we need to treat admissions officers as guides rather than gatekeepers. Like most good thoughts, this one is more easily understood than vehemently believed, and only comes to life in hindsight.

My application process started off with flat-out rejection from Princeton University. After early decision results came out, I stopped wearing orange, developed a dislike for tigers, royalty, and New Jersey. I couldn’t help feeling that validation for everything I had accomplished in my short life was hinged upon an acceptance, or at least a deferral. I thought of myself as a complete disappointment to everyone who had invested time, effort, and faith in me. I kid you not when I say that Beck’s ‘Loser’ was on repeat on my iPod for a month: “Soy un perdedor/ I’m a loser baby/ So why don’t you kill me?/ (Double-barrel buckshot).”

In the midst of Beck’s kind words of encouragement, I soon started wondering exactly why I felt like such a “loser,” and tried to make sense of my rejection. I had rushed through my application, writing both my common app and supplement two weeks before the deadline. I had never pictured myself at Princeton, and it wasn’t my first choice of school because the culture and programs offered did not match up to what I intended to do for the next four years. I had applied for exactly the wrong reasons: vanity and security. With this in mind, I realized that with my lackluster application, I definitely did not deserve to get into one of the best schools in the world.

I can’t say I’m overjoyed that I was rejected from Princeton, but I have realized how necessary this rejection was. First of all, it fostered desperation, and I caught a glimpse of how hard I would have to work to get into a great school. More importantly, it threw all of my motives into perspective, and I was forced to consider why I was applying to certain schools, and how much I could grow at each one. Ultimately, being forced to think about all of this made my regular decision application much stronger, and my vision of and for myself much clearer. When the acceptances came in May, all of the thought and soul-searching I invested into my application allowed me to pick the school where I knew I would thrive.

Through rejection, I have come to see that in a way, a college is applying to you as much as you are applying to them. The admissions officers have read enough applications and created enough successful graduating classes to know who would fit into their school. This means that an application done right, one that portrays a true sense of yourself, requires both rejection and acceptance. This is not a pat on the back as much as it an encouragement to keep searching, yearning, and working for your nirvana.

Gabby Dee attends Brown University as a member of the class of 2016.