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Getting Rejected

student orgs




Getting Rejected

From absolutely everything

Nora McNulty


Ah, fall quarter. The 10 week span defined by spooky themes, pumpkin everything, and—you guessed it—the slamming of doors in your face. What a time to be alive.

Whether it’s rushing a sorority or fraternity, applying to some (or, all) of our university’s prestigious clubs, or trying to join a club sport, rejection is a motif of fall quarter on par with pumpkin spice and animal ears.

There’s no doubt rejection is discouraging... No one wants to spend 5 hours on an application to a club only to be denied the opportunity of so much as an interview. No one wants to endure the hell-on-earth that is rush only to get denied a bid. No one wants to work themselves to the brink of death in tryouts to be cut from the team.

Turns out we don’t always get what we want.

For me in particular, fall quarter sophomore year has been filled with way more denials than acceptances, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time frustrated by this reality. I’d be lying if I said my ego wasn’t still a little bruised, but by now I’ve had a little time to try to turn this frustration into something positive, so allow me to share with you some wisdom of the rejectee.

Following my last denial from yet another prestigious UCLA club, I decided to workout some of my frustration. It’s actually pretty cathartic to blast music and run until you can’t breathe. So, I sprinted like a deranged animal to Santa Monica, promptly downed a Jamba Juice smoothie, and called an Uber to take me home.

When a driver named Ivana came to pick me up, I was ready to avoid all interaction with her. I had strategically taken the seat directly behind the driver, I had made sure to tuck my sweaty hair behind my ears so she could see the white earbuds deafening me, and I did my best to avoid eye contact. I was the greatest rude passenger I had ever been, and yet...30 seconds after pulling off from Jamba, Ivana sparked up conversation.

Turns out we don’t always get what we want.

We exchanged pleasantries and hometowns and before I knew it I was ranting on to my Uber driver (as one does) about how I just couldn’t seem to get anything I wanted. I had applied for all these clubs that would provide me with career connections later in life, and I had gotten denied from every single one. I thought I was a skilled person, but apparently I was wrong. I continued lamenting my perceived misfortune until Ivana interrupted me to ask if I’d learned anything from my rejections.

Without missing a beat, I began regurgitating the same four lines I had read in every Forbes article ever written on failure: “Failure builds character,” “I had failed but at least I had tried,” etc, etc.

Ivana sat quietly again as I gave her my plagiarized speech, and when I fell quiet, she asked me again: “But what did you actually learn? What tangible changes do you need to make?”

This was a question I didn’t have a prepared answer for.

I asked her what she meant, and she replied: “Well, was your resume poorly made? Did you dress incorrectly? Did you not prepare for your interviews? Did you get nervous and blank on a question? In your application, did you give a genuine answer or spew the BS you just gave me about the ‘merit’ of failure?”

The crass nature of her questions immediately raised my defenses, but when our eyes met in the rearview mirror, I saw genuine curiosity in her eyes, not judgement.

So I told her my resume needed work. I didn’t have enough quantitative information that someone could gather swiftly when sorting through a hefty stack. I told her I got nervous in my interview and dominated the conversation. I told her, for one club in particular, that when I was applying I couldn’t even think of why. I didn’t really have any interest in the club, I just knew it’d look good on my resume.

When I was done listing off my mistakes, I felt strangely empowered. Rejection can feel like a dead end, but you can easily view it as a process that allows you the opportunity to polish your skills in a tangible way. Go fix your resume, buy some business casual attire that actually fits, and for the love of God don’t steer your interviewer into talking about her upcoming midterms rather than the club you’re trying to get into.

After being rejected, you can even contact the organization and ask them what they were looking for in a candidate, and how you can better improve your chances for next application period. Use every resource you have to sharpen your skills, and do it unashamedly. There’s nothing more humble than a rejectee who genuinely wants feedback on how to improve.

So yes, rejection sucks. We can’t always get what we want. But what we can do is spin the things that suck in our favor to improve our odds for the next time around.

And hey, you might even build some character along the way.