College isn’t supposed to be easy.
You aren’t supposed to get everything you want. Rejection is natural and necessary in college, because it helps you develop a thick skin that is crucial to your success in the rest of your life.
I have been fortunate in so many opportunities in college. I was accepted to the school I’d fallen in love with. When I was a first-year student, I got an amazing job at the Ohio State student newspaper that I was dying to work for. I was able to move up through other positions there, too. When I went through formal recruitment in my second year of college, I got into the sorority that immediately felt like my home. Over the years I’ve had several internships that shaped my career and meant a great deal to me.
But those successes did not come without failures, and I’m a better person for it.
At the end of my third year at Ohio State, the plan was to apply for editor-in-chief of The Lantern, and hopefully claim the job I’d had my eye on for years. I was hopeful, I was prepared, I was convinced I had a shot. And I did have a shot. But I missed. The job went to a better candidate, and I was devastated.
At first, I didn’t want to believe the news. How could I possibly fail? Was I really hearing correctly, had they really chosen someone else? When I calmed down and accepted the news I was given, my boss presented me with a choice: I could quit the job I had because I was bitter about the job I’d never have, or I could go back out in the newsroom with my head held high and work.
With some anger and resentment in my heart, I chose the latter.
Working that day was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do professionally. But eventually, the pain settled and I made the choice not to return to the paper for my final year in college. Instead, I opted to seek out other opportunities and give myself more free time than I’d been able to enjoy during my other years in college, since I was working an average of 40-45 hours a week at The Lantern.
The excruciating rejection I felt that day last spring turned out to be such a blessing.
I took a fellowship over the summer in Phoenix, Arizona, that showed me maybe newspapers weren’t my calling. Had I been named editor-in-chief, I think I would’ve loved it, but with the thought in the back of my mind that my passion might be elsewhere, I think I would’ve been stifling my opportunity to explore other options.
Instead, I returned to campus and accepted a communications and marketing research internship at Battelle, the world’s largest nonprofit research firm. In the past five months at Battelle, I have learned so much about the corporate marketing and communications world that I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to — and it’s doing everything to help my future career.
Rejection is hard — it feels like the end of the world. But it’s not. There is nothing wrong with mourning the loss of an opportunity you had your eye on, but the important part is to compartmentalize your pain and not let it ruin your life.
I could’ve spent my senior year bitter over lost opportunity. But instead I chose to seek out a new opportunity, and that has been endlessly rewarding.
If you go through college and don’t face any rejection, I don’t envy you. Rejection builds you into a stronger person who is more open to new experiences and opportunities they would’ve otherwise missed.
Don’t let rejection define you. Keep an open mind, and take advantage of all Ohio State and Columbus have to offer you. You never know what else you’ll find.