It has come to my attention that I am no longer a big fish in a small pond. In high school, our tiny pond consisted of about 220 fish. Everyone starts out relatively small, but by my senior year I had definitely grown into a bigger fish. I had strong relationships with my class mates and teachers, was highly involved, and had become a leader on campus. Now, though, I feel like a tiny guppy in a vast ocean.
One of the perks of my status as a big fish was being a “shoe-in” for most any position I applied for. I was so used to this feeling (which really isn’t a good thing, now that I think about it) that I was more shaken than I should have been when I didn’t get a spot on the Student Ambassador team. I’m not sure if I felt entitled, per say, but I definitely thought I had some sort of advantage going into the application process. I was so ardently involved with admissions and leadership in high school; there was no way they could turn me down. False. I learned a few very important lessons from my first rejection in college.
First of all, I was not at a tiny school. All of a sudden, I felt like a wind-swept Dorothy, bewildered and saying, “I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” In addition to being part of a much larger student body, I was brand new. I didn’t have a strong network like I did at Catalina. Not everyone knew my name, let alone anything about me. They had no idea that I was a strong student, a hard worker, or anything of the sort. For the most part, my reputation was a blank page, and it would take some time to build up the familiarity I was used to.
I also realized the importance of entitlement and expectations. Just because you have previous experience for a position or look down-right dapper for an interview does not mean that you are entitled in any way. There are going to be other people fighting for that same end goal, and they aren’t some joe-dumb-slobs doing it for fun. I’ve seen this at the two group interviews I’ve done this year, and I’m sure I’ll see it plenty more times in the future. These people are just as qualified, just as personable, and in some cases, even more so. Taking all of this in, I noticed that I needed to humble myself if I wanted to stand a chance against my competitors.
I also needed to lower my expectations. This made me remember something that my friend Jenna would say often, “hope for the best but expect the worst.” It might be kind of morose, but it’s also true. Having the expectation that you’ll be invited back for an interview will only hurt you more. These expectations are often born out of excitement and are meant with good intentions, but results don’t always match up with those positive feelings. It’s also crucial, and also very frustrating and difficult, to accept that the reason why you didn’t qualify for the position you wanted wasn’t you. Maybe the timing wasn’t right, or they already filled up the spots they had. Regardless of the exact reason, you can’t be too hard on yourself for not getting a position. In the end, it only makes you stronger. As I prepare my application for another competitive position, I need to keep the lessons of Fall Quarter in mind. A lot of sacrifices and stress will be involved, but I’m doing my best to focus on the positive and take the opportunity to make my first “stepping stone” decision into the future. Fingers crossed!