Rejection just means redirecting

Last year, I wrote about an idea Arun and I had to present our college essay workshop at the big annual NACAC conference with two particular admissions officers we really like and respect.  We got them on board and polished every word of our session proposal before we submitted it to the conference planning committee.  And then we got rejected. 

Like a “No” letter from a college, the email that we got told us that there were just too many good sessions proposed from qualified presenters.  It turned out to be a good reminder to walk our own Collegewise talk.

College rejections can feel bitterly personal, but they’re not.  We tell students (and their parents) to maintain their perspective and not to treat a rejection like a tragedy or a miscarriage of justice.  That advice turns out to be much easier to give than it is to follow.   But still, we followed it.  We were miffed for a day and wondered how they could have possibly rejected us (“Who could do this better than us??”).   Then we moved on and even laughed about it.  One of the admissions officers we recruited ribbed us for “failing to get him a gig.”  

We also tell kids that one dream school doesn’t get to decide whether or not you have four years of amazing professors, interesting students, phenomenal personal growth and plenty of college fun (Harvard only gets to decide whether or not you do those things at Harvard.)  If we really wanted to share our workshop with counselors, we didn’t need one particular organization to say yes.  We just had to redirect and find another way. 

So I proposed the session myself—and it was accepted—at nine different NACAC affiliate conferences.  Arun and I both did workshops for English teachers at local high schools.  I published a book about how high school teachers and counselors can help their students with college essays.  And Arun ended up speaking at NACAC in a different session about Asian American students and college admissions. 

Most rejections don’t stop you from doing anything—they just make you redirect.  You can still go to the prom with somebody else, get a job someplace else, go to a different college or do a presentation at a different conference.  Don’t give one person, boss, committee or panel all the power.  If they say no, accept it, redirect, and move on.