Learning to accept rejection


Kate Schrage

Harvard-Westlake strives to be an inclusive community, but at what point does inclusiveness compromise the pursuit of excellence?

Rejection is an unavoidable aspect of life. Harvard-Westlake is a college preparatory school for a reason. Emerging into the adult world without having experienced true rejection puts young adults at risk for unrealistic expectations. It is a high school’s job to prepare its students for the outside world– the good and the bad.

The campus buzzed with excitement. Students who had never auditioned for theater before were waiting for validation of their talent. The theater veterans were looking to see how high up their names landed on the cast list. Then, in a moment of silence, the Les Miserables cast list came out.

For the first time in almost two decades, everyone got a role in the musical.

This year, I applied to be a Peer Support Trainee. I felt strongly connected to the program and wanted nothing more than the position. To my disappointment, I was not selected. Though heartbroken, I came to terms with the fact that I will not always be able to get what I want and work for.

As a member of an improvisation group on campus, our frequent all-group rehearsals account for a significant amount of our unity and stage chemistry. With such a large ensemble for Les Miserables, all-cast rehearsals occur less often and could potentially lead to a slower rehearsal process. While large sports teams don’t exactly face the same issue, there are still downfalls to operating on a no-cuts basis.

An all-inclusive policy for groups can also hinder the success of other students. For example, a sports team without cuts would allow players with lower skill levels to take game time from teammates with more experience, which ultimately compromises the standing of the team. While it can be hard to accept that one may not possess the skill to perform at a certain level, it’s reality.

Additionally, as students mature through the years of school and begin to consider their futures in college and beyond, they must come to terms with their strengths and weaknesses. A student with a lower skill level in a certain field may feel encouraged to pursue a future that they may not realistically be able to achieve. In order to prevent unrealistic expectations and to allow students to find their own unique strengths, rejection is necessary.

However, in our competitive environment, no-cut teams can be relieving.

Encouraging participation creates diversity in groups or teams and a more comfortable atmosphere that doesn’t heavily rely on competition. Students can explore their interests and improve their skills instead of relying on pre-existing ones.

While the value of inclusiveness cannot be understated, neither can the value of rejection. Being turned away from programs teaches students how to take criticism and turn upset into an incentive to improve.

We must shift our perspectives from seeing denial as a negative to viewing it as constructive criticism. Especially in a competitive environment such as Harvard-Westlake, all students are aiming to be the best. Unfortunately, not everyone can be. Strive for excellence, not perfection.