Rejection is as much part of life as hurt is part of one’s personal journey. Inevitably, some day, in some form, in some way, we all go through it.

As students, we sometimes become almost immune to student life’s blows. We may get a disappointing, bittersweet news of rejection in the convenient form of rejection letters or may have had to contend with a tough situation. The reality of harrowing realization may begin to dawn upon us. I have often wondered what hurt, pain and disappointment translate to in terms of short and long-term effects.

  • Does empathy for losers work in conjunction with envy for winners?
  • Do admissions officers or application readers think about the human cost behind the tersely-worded rejection letters?
  • How can the weeds of rejection blossom into a flourishing force of hope, strength and optimism?

These are difficult questions. But does anyone really believe we think about these questions when we receive the heartbreaking news? When we realize that the hours of effort we put into crafting a remarkable essay for a long application are — forgone? But is it all worth it? Is it worth moving on?

The Winners

It’s almost easier for someone to jump in joy and forget the wisps of doubt that clouded their mind while waiting for a final decision. That someone, my readers, is the one who received the good news. It escapes me how some “winners” forget that they did not “win” this alone. They were backed by the prayers and goodwill of their family, friends, teachers, loved ones, and others. They — and their education — were shaped by the years (if not decades) of efforts of those they interacted in some shape or form.

I recently received good news that I would be very busy during this summer. Immediately after telling my family, I went to a professor who was willing to submit a recommendation to the program on my behalf. Then I veered off to the Academic Advisor’s office to share the news with my advisor. Then I shot off emails to a few beloved friends and people I know. I was ecstatic and grateful. I was also mindful that I did not do this alone. Yes, I may have the capability and the ability. I may have the skills that led my acceptance into the selective program. But I did not craft this alone. My backbone was the support of my family, teachers and mentors.

And then there were others I had to tell. So this line is what I ended my emails with:

Thank you for your continued support in my endeavors. When I get good news like this amidst all the uncertainty, I always feel indebted.

The Rejected

Note that I did not call them “losers.” Being rejected does not make one a loser. It only makes someone realize that maybe they weren’t a good fit for a program, a college or a scholarship. All that matters is at least trying and giving it your best shot. If you don’t try, you will never know. And if you never know, you will regret not trying. The absolutely worst thing that can happen is they will say “No. I cannot tell you how many times I have been rejected. I am quite accustomed to reading letters such as this:

A Sample UMBC Rejection Letter (redacted to protect student privacy)

Some students I know at CCBC told me about receiving rejection letters. Some showed me what these letters said (see, for e.g., above). Some shook their heads in a refusal to accept. Some looked down at their feet, their hearts shattered.

I saw myself in these students.

I asked them how they felt. I offered them my support. I shared my own stories of painful rejection. 

Yes, it’s not easy. It may not be fair. If you are qualified, you deserve a chance. But not everyone gets what they seek. You can’t always have what you wish for. Instead of subjecting your mind towards yet another endless round of questioning about why you didn’t “get it,” what if you had a different outlook?

What if it is all a matter of perspective? What if it really wasn’t meant for you? And what if it was not meant to be, and for the better?

Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, a lot of CCBC students feel at a loss when encountering disappointments and rejection. But just as soon as they feel down, they know they have to get back up and dust off the past.

There is only so much we as students are capable of handling. We have our unique stories and different personalities. We may laugh off a rejection letter (I lol @ them all the time) or we may wear ourselves out by ruminating over our self-perceived faults. I want to tell you my way of coping with rejection.

Two words:



It may sound counterintuitive, but it is the best way to overcome disappointments. I break down working harder into three main components:

  • First, stop thinking about your rejection. Congratulate the winners and wish them well. Then move on. Move on forward. And give your next scholarship or program or college application all you’ve got. Spend a day and a night perfecting your next move. As one of my beloved mentors told me last year, life is like a chess game; you always have to plan ahead your next move.
  • Secondly, change your outlook: you don’t need them. They need you. You don’t lose them. They lose you. If you are confident about what you have to bring to the table, you are likely not the insecure type. If not, try to be that person. You are confident and mature and you know that when someone says no to you, it is their loss. Not yours. You always have a second job to look for or a second application to fill out. But the denier of your application has to find someone who — in their judgment — is a better candidate than you. And one day when you succeed in your endeavors, they will be the losers of your potential contributions. You, the so-called replacement, will be the one thriving then.
  • Thirdly, have a plan B and C. Several CCBC students I talked to about rejection had their priorities in order. If plan A does not work out, they have a plan B fully developed. If plan B fails, plan C is there. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, as the old proverb goes. Put your eggs in so many baskets that you come out smiling in the face of disappointments. There’s always another day.

I can tell you from personal experience (but you already know) that life is filled with countless obstacles. Life is filled with pain and hurt. Life is unfair, often too unfair to an extent that we may feel overburdened, even mentally depressed, and willing to throw in the towel. But there is always someone to turn to. Always. You just have to give that “someone” a chance.

For every 99 applications I may fill out, I increase my odds of winning at least a few. Remember, your persistence is a value as precious as your mind. Why? Because not everyone gives a try. Success is always accompanied by hard work, modesty, and persistence anddddd………………….failure! My secret to maintaining an optimistic mindset is to not give in. Also, forgo wishful thinking. Keep trying and when you stumble, try harder to jump back up.

As for matters of heartbreak, the song at the beginning sums it up perfectly.

If I needed you, would you come to me?
Would you come to me for to ease my pain?
If you needed me, I would come to you.
I would swim the sea for to ease your pain.

Swim the seas and oceans to reach your heavenly goals. Life’s hidden joys can overpower the most tumultous of times.