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We regret to inform you...

May 10, 2024 at 4:00:00 PM

Audrey Hua '26

After a competitive selection process… My heart skipped a beat as I clicked on the email from Coleman Weibley. The plain 12-point Helvetica font would not only determine my schedule for junior year but dictate my mood for the entire weekend. I heard shrieks of glee and doors slamming in the hallway. My friend rushed up to me, clutching her good news in her hand: “Did you get it?”

Recently, a flurry of leadership decisions landed in students’ email inboxes. The results of the 2024–25 year leadership positions decisions were finally announced. Peer group, prefect, mentor, CRC, help centers... all applicants went through multiple stages of essay writing, interviewing, and in some cases, serving mock duty. This year’s process, like any other year’s, was slow, stress-inducing, and secretive. 

When the results came out, a mixture of envy, sense of grievance, and letdown accompanied scenes of celebration. At the back of every rejected mind was the voice that cried: Why not me?

Seeing this juxtaposition of reactions made me wonder why we find rejection so debilitating. In a society heavily reliant on competition, our definition of success has shifted from personal goals to public approbation. The dopamine hit we get from receiving letters of acceptance, from accolades to a shiny Ivy badge, is not the true form of happiness we used to value. Why has our definition of success become contingent on what society deems difficult to achieve? Do our personal interests no longer measure up against the lure of external validation?

From all my friends who received rejection emails, two unanimous concerns were expressed: first, not having a leadership position for college applications, and second, the disappointment of seeing their closest friends get leadership positions when they didn’t. I was again struck by how backward our mindsets had become. 

If we were driven by a personal desire to be a good leader rather than fill a spot on our activities list or earn bragging rights, the reasons for distress might have been different. I am not invalidating these feelings (I’ve felt them a little too similarly myself) but instead encouraging us to reconsider the definition of success. I think that applying with true intentions is the way to go. Your “Why” gives meaning to an application and explores what success truly means to you.

Knowing your “Why” also prevents imposter syndrome, or what I’ve dubbed “Thunder Syndrome,” apropos to the Mercersburg community. Thunder’s real identity hides behind blue feathers and a quirky personality. Similarly, we are tempted to present ourselves as someone whom teachers and peers find likable. This Thunder Syndrome comes on especially strong during application processes. The desire to simply acquire a position, instead of wanting to embody the values of the position itself, leads to an unconscious effort to depart from your honest self. 

In past years, I’ve found myself falling prey to this syndrome many times – it was the repetition and constant reminder of my “Why” that helped me maintain my authenticity. The realization that you’ve remained real throughout the process is, in my opinion, much more valuable than the position itself. In the slightly paraphrased words of my best friend, “If being authentic leads to rejection, then it wasn’t meant for you.” Of course, it’s hard to feel these things in the present. Telling myself I’ve been bona fide does not do much to lessen the pain from an email that starts with “We regret to inform you…”

In the end, knowing your intention is just one way to redefine success in an increasingly achievement-based world. It’s the start of setting personal goals and long-lasting fulfillment. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself; this is an opinion article, not a psychology book on self-help. Here’s my final verdict: during times of fluctuating highs and lows, know how to handle rejection healthily. You’re still you whether you get that position or not. 

If you did – congratulations! Stay humble, be sensitive to others, and remember your “Why.” And if you didn’t, that’s okay too. Abraham Lincoln probably didn’t get prefect either.

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