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Dealing With Rejection- What to do When Things Don't Go as Planned

by Samantha DeLeon

I remember this day so vividly because it was a core memory that happened when I was in my undergraduate studies. My academic advisor had helped me plan a summer where I would be able to study abroad in Italy. I was so excited…I already planned my outfits for the Vatican and could not wait to go to my 6-week program in Siena which was led by my professor.

I planned accordingly that I’d take Italian 102 in the Fall, Italian 103 in the Spring and my final semester of Italian would be in Italy! I attended the information sessions for study abroad, a pre-departure that discussed finances and how classes would be calculated into my credits, and discussed it with my first-generation family pleading my case as to why I NEEDED to study abroad. And surprisingly, they were supportive.

So with my deposit already submitted, I had a few months to prepare. UNTIL…. I received a message from the Study Abroad Office saying, "We regret to inform you that your study abroad trip has been canceled." I WAS DEVASTATED. I called my professor to ask what happened. She told me that they couldn’t run the program because there weren’t enough students.

At this point, I was desperate to now find an experiential opportunity. Hong Kong? The Polytechnic school in Milan? None of it was right. It just wasn’t what I wanted.

Rejected...Now What?

Does this feeling sound familiar? Planning so carefully and dreaming of the future and then having things don't work out is the ultimate disappointment. Perhaps this will happen to you when a rejection letter comes in from a university you really had your heart set on. Or you will not get accepted into a certain major program of study. The list is endless, and unfortunately, this won’t be the only time you will face disappointment in your life ahead.

How Resiliency Leads to Success in College and Beyond

Luckily there is a solution to dealing with rejection. It is called RESILIENCE! Resiliency is one of the consistent characteristics of highly successful people. It basically means you get comfortable with “failure” and see the situation rather as an opportunity to learn. Framing your position in a positive way can make all the difference in your next steps. YOU are not a failure, but the situation you planned did not work the way you thought. So what’s next? Enter The PIVOT.

Think of possible next steps. Do you want to try again? What will you need to change? Do you want to switch gears and go down a slightly different path, or will you do something entirely different? The possibilities are endless!

In terms of college rejection, there are some steps you can take:

  • Call the admissions office to understand why you were rejected. The feedback could help you! Ask if there is an opportunity to be waitlisted and what you can do to increase your chances.

  • Re-evaluate your options. What other schools have you applied to that would be a good fit, and what gets you excited about those schools?

  • Remember that there are many paths to success. Trust that you have many options ahead of you that will all work toward your good. Be open-minded!

  • The most important thing is that you get the support you need and keep going!

So what happened with my story? You guessed it— PIVOT.

I walked across the hall to the International Affairs Office and met the Diplomat in Residence. It’s a U.S. Department of State Official who recruits students for the Department of State. I learned about the program, submitted an application and then was selected for an internship with the U.S. Department of State in Arlington, Virginia. I received course credit and gained experience that allowed me to grow in more ways than I could ever imagine.

There is a saying: "You plan and God laughs." I have found it to be true, so realize things happen for a reason when it’s meant to happen. Learn to be resilient and I promise, things will work out even better than you imagined.


Samantha Deleon is an active member of International ACAC, Study Illinois, and holds an MBA through the Illinois Institute of Technology. She always carves out time to Peloton or bike outdoors along Lake Michigan or around the Chicagoland area.

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