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Image from Pexels

I was in for a big surprise when I started college. In high school, it had been easy to get involved. You just showed up to club meetings, went to the events, or even started a club of your own. I had imagined that it would be somewhat similar in university, but not boy was I wrong. I went to the activities fair during orientation week and everything seemed normal. I wrote my name down on a bunch of email lists, took applications for a couple of committees and thought I was good to go.

Then, a few days later, I got a flood of emails I had signed up for telling me that I needed to fill out an application to potentially be selected to join their club. These weren’t applications for leadership positions or anything special at all- it was just to attend club meetings. I was dumbfounded. I figured that it was just a formality and did my best on them, but didn’t stress out. I went to some interviews and then waited for a reply. I was shocked to open email after email telling me that although my interest was appreciated, they could not offer me a place in their club at this time. Ultimately, I was accepted to one event planning committee and a women in technology and science club which I literally never did anything with. I was so freaked out. For a while I was convinced that I would never be able to get involved on campus. It was a rough process, especially to start out college with, but I’m glad I did it.

As the year went by, I realized that not all organizations only want people at the beginning of the year. Opportunities pop up all the time, and not getting accepted to all the different clubs I applied for has allowed me to get involved in things I actually care about. It stung at the time, but looking back, I don’t really care that I didn’t get into the women in money club. I don’t really care about finance. Like, at all. But applying to all these different groups did give me valuable experience with putting myself out there.

Applying for all those things gave me the opportunity to practice my interview skills. Having upperclassmen drill me with questions for a solid ten minutes was intimidating, but I learned to be less nervous and to think better on my feet. Interviewing is the most intimidating aspect of any selection process, and extra practice is never a bad thing. I learned that making your interviewers laugh is never a bad thing, and sometimes, getting to the location too early can just make you extra nervous.

It also taught me how to take rejection less personally. In a way, it was like a microcosm of the college admissions process. At times, 75 people would be applying for 5 spots on a committee. Everyone was super qualified, but that doesn’t mean that everyone can have a spot. Although by this point I had made peace with my college admissions process, this helped me to understand it a little better. When I could actually see the dozens of people who had signed up to interview, I didn’t feel so bad when I was selected. It wasn’t me personally that sucked, there were just a bunch of other people who were super great too.

Putting my name out there got me known a little more around campus. Some upperclassmen interviewed me multiple times and remembered me when they saw me around. If I decide to apply for any of the same positions again next year, they’ll remember me, which I hope will give me a leg up.

Most importantly, going through all of these rejections from random places allowed me to find my real niche on campus. Had I been accepted to more of the things I applied to early on, I wouldn’t have had the time to join the things that I’m now most excited about. I’ve gotten to help with editing a book about sexual violence in my school’s county. I’m getting involved in the sexual health awareness group. These are things that I didn’t even hear about until months into the year, but I’m glad I have the time to participate in them now because they are very important to me.

Rejection sucks. It sucked at the beginning of the school year and it still sucks now. It also never ends. I was recently rejected from two on-campus programs that I really wanted to be apart of and it was super lame. my life still feels full, and reading a gloomy email leaves less of a bad taste in my mouth now. I’m not really mad about any of the things I’m not apart of now. Frankly, i don’t even remember most of them. But I do remember all the things I learned from putting myself out there. You never know until you try, right?

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the author

Kathleen is a Northern California native and incoming freshman at Washington & Lee University. She spends much of her free time obsessing over the future (not in a crystal ball way) and making plans to visit as many countries as humanly possible throughout her four years of college. She loves her dog Morton, Grey's Anatomy, and money. One day she hopes to become the perfect mix of Cristina Yang, Mindy Kaling, April Kepner, and Amy Poehler. Until then you can find her crying over how exciting life is and retaking the Myer's Briggs Test to make sure she really is ENTJ.

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