Dairy of … a once-rejected student

Randa Djabri is a senior biology major and The Current’s sports editor. When she’s not studying, she enjoys reading and traveling. She believes her story will show readers how success can follow rejection.

There have been times when I felt like it was the end of the world. I’m specifically referring to this time of year when those of us who decided to take our education to the graduate level await the classic, thin envelope that either opens the doorway to our dreams or bluntly marks the start of a prolonged depression.

No matter how you look at it, college rejections are a slap in the face especially after considering all the time and effort you put in for your application.

If you’ve had nightmares about receiving a palpable sting in a thin envelope, my story will prove to you that an initial rejection is not the end of the world.

Precisely a year ago, my application to NSU’s optometry school was rejected. Even though I accepted this decision, feeling that I wasn’t quite ready for the toughness of grad school, I felt lost in a vortex of having no clue what I should do with my life.

My options were either to simply accept the situation and convince myself that this path was not meant for me or to go back to school for a second chance to be admitted, take out loans (because I wouldn’t qualify for scholarships or financial aid) and take the chance of either succeeding or getting another letdown.

One side of the scale had the rest of my life with a one-year penalty of going back to school, while the other side had a minimum-wage job plus the pleasure of not having to go school or study ever again.

The decision wasn’t hard at all. I knew that if I didn’t take the chance to go back to school, I wouldn’t do it later. All I could think about was the reason my parents decided to move to the U.S. 14 years ago. They wanted me to get a better education and become independent and influential in society. I didn’t want to let them down after all these years, and, more importantly, I didn’t want to regret my decision years down the line. I wanted to be proud of my decision, so I made the honorable attempt.

I made sure to address every weak point that appeared to devaluate my application the previous year. I went back to school with the goal of improving my GPA as much as I could. I also made weekly arrangements to study for the Optometry Admission Test to improve my score and I worked on getting stronger recommendations.

I took advantage of all the chances that came my way. I wasn’t in a situation that allowed me to say no to anything that might make me a better applicant. To address my lack of work experience, I took the opportunity for a job that didn’t seem like my biggest passion at the time. That was how I went from being sports-impaired to sports-literate in a matter of weeks as I took on the position as sports editor for The Current. The experience was — and still is — priceless. It restored my confidence, and I realized that all I was missing was a true opportunity. All it took was this extra push, and thousands of dollars in loans.

Going back to school was definitely a challenge and was also discouraging at times. There were times when I asked myself “What if I don’t get accepted again? What if I end up on the same fork in the road as last year?” I always found the answer to my baffling questions when I shared my frustration with my friends and family and my ever-supportive boss.

January rolled around, and I was ready to apply again. I submitted my application only to find that my stress levels tripled. There was nothing I could do except wait. I found myself going through the infamous college waiting game as anxiety accumulated for the next few weeks.

On March 5, I finally received the email that read, “On behalf of the committee on admissions at Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry, I am pleased…” Yes! That was the word I was looking for: “pleased.” I laughed and screamed and jumped and cried with tears of joy. And then it occurred to me that I should probably finish reading the email. It read “…that you have been selected to interview…” I was as happy as a wave dancing on the sea.

At this point, you’re probably thinking that I got accepted into optometry school and am now living a happy ending, or beginning. However you want to look at it. But, that’s not quite what happened.

I chose the earliest available appointment date mainly because I couldn’t live through the stress any longer. I interviewed and learned more about the other, graduate, side of my school and fell in love even more with optometry.

Waiting to hear back after the interview was only the next level of horror. A week later, I received a call from an admissions counselor who nicely informed me that I was put on hold. My brain was stuck on that word — “hold” — and I couldn’t grasp the rest of the phone call. That day felt like the end. All I could think about was the curse of becoming someone without a dream, someone who doesn’t have an inspiring story to share with their kids, someone who seems like they’re giving excuses for why they didn’t stick with their dream while they had the chance to. All these thoughts were mixed with the remains of the reminiscent cluelessness from the previous year.

I decided to talk to someone and find out why I was put on hold and if there was anything I could do about it. I decided to question the decision to put me on hold and find out what I did wrong.

I was fortunate to contact the right person at the right time. He was very understanding and comforting. He told me not to compare myself to others and took the time to listen carefully to my situation and analyze it.

A few days later, I was notified that I was granted admission into the Preparatory Optometry Program, a one-year applied professional studies program that gives those who qualify a chance to guarantee their spot in optometry school if they meet certain requirements. I believe this was the result of the call I made because they saw that I cared. I wasn’t just another person who decided to live with the rejection.

I was thrilled. I’m sure that my happiness was no less than getting accepted into optometry school itself.

I was yet another step closer to my dream. This rewarding feeling confirmed the validity of the decision I made one year ago. My hard work was appreciated, and my long nights of studying and hours of working hard weren’t tossed in the dumpster of forgotten hopes and dreams.

No need to worry, fellow graduate school rejectees. Though the experience can be shattering, there are plenty of reasons an initial rejection is not the end of the world.

What I once thought was the most devastating thing that ever happened to me turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. It wasn’t just another year that passed in my life. I developed my personality and gained priceless experiences. I wouldn’t trade this past year of my life for anything.

No one should let rejections control his or her life. Allowing other people’s assessment of you determine your own self-worth is a very big mistake. Being rejected made me value who I am and what I want to become even more. It made me appreciate the small successes that accumulate and lead to accomplishing big goals.

Most of the time, all it takes is that one extra step that wasn’t outlined in your application checklist. Go beyond the limits and seek opportunities, make yourself stand out and dig for another way out of your frustration. Always remember that a temporary defeat is not a permanent one. You can make it into an opportunity.

Follow the sports editor on Twitter @RNDranda1


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