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KONDA: Embrace rejection in college

Column: Pitch in

Rejection will come in many forms, from friends to job applications, but that does not mean you should give up or compare yourself to others. – Photo by Christian Erfurt / Unsplash

With the beginning of the fall semester and an influx of first-year students who are just getting accustomed to college culture, I am here to tell you about a phenomenon you will not be able to avoid in the next four years: rejection.

When the word rejection rings in my mind, I think of college application season in my senior year of high school, where I watched people (including myself) get fewer "Congratulations" in their email inboxes than expected. For many of us, that is the first time we experience rejection on a grand scale. Unfortunately, there is more to come.

Rejection can range from the simplest of things, such as a close friend from high school ghosting you, to more formal denials, like a rejection email from your dream internship. Either way, both instances can take a toll mentally, making you doubt your abilities and wonder what you could have done differently. It gets exhausting as time passes, and you start feeling demotivated.

As Rutgers students, we are all highly motivated individuals looking for more ways to better ourselves. This, unfortunately, can sometimes make us unnecessarily competitive in different contexts, often to the point where we compare ourselves to the person next to us. 

Yet sometimes, we have to know that the most high-achieving person has faced rejection. Think about it: No incredible leader or social activist has made it to their point in life without experiencing a setback — a rejection.

So, yes, we are all going through the same emotional turmoils when we find ourselves disappointed. It can be daunting to be vulnerable if you are embarrassed or ashamed, but the only way forward is to accept and move on. And there are some things we need to keep in mind when approaching our rejections.

There is not always an apparent reason for why you were rejected. Did you say something wrong? Should you have approached the situation differently? It can be vague, as most rejection emails say the same generic thing. And it can get even worse if you find out someone else received a position you were denied. You ask yourself: Were they better than me? Was I unqualified?

The answers, sometimes, do not exist. We cannot always get feedback from our interviewers or ask our friends why they no longer want to talk to us. After you spend so much time connecting with people to make it to where you want, rejection can be difficult to understand.

I like to keep this philosophy in mind: Everything happens for a reason. That opportunity you could not get? It opens another door to endless possibilities that could be more rewarding than the original rejection.

Perhaps we were meant to experience that initial disappointment to allow us to learn and proceed forward to find another enticing offer.

You can call me unrealistic for sounding so optimistic because, "Vaish, I've never experienced anything but rejection!" Well, I am telling you not to give up. Your ambitions are not forgotten in your mind, and you must move forward.

Learn from your rejections, examine your skills, rethink your objective and move forward.

Our attitude has much to do with our performance in every aspect of our lives. The glass-half-full person takes a rejection into their hands and stuffs it in their back pocket. Maybe they revisit it often, taking notes on things that could change and use it to step back into the world again.

Often, rejection can be split into five stages, similar to the five stages of grief. Rejection is a type of grief for some, but in the end, we are always in the acceptance phase. You can proceed proudly toward every opportunity once you are ready to clear your head and face your emotions.

Do not take a rejection as a once-and-for-all ending. There is much more to come, whether you can see it in the near future or not. You are capable of exceeding your own initial standards.

Think of our lives as a never-ending film with rejection as a theme that weaves in and out of it, appearing in every other scene as a reminder of reality.

We cannot escape it as much as we would like to, so why not embrace it?

Vaishnavi Konda is a sophomore at Rutgers Business School majoring in business analytics and information technology and minoring in linguistics. Her column, "Pitch In," runs on alternate Sundays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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