Arianne Cohen

It’s rejection season. Common casting, Crimson column, performance group and Harvard fellowship rejections all went out on Monday. I am one of the many to weather a major disappointment: I was not chosen as a Crimson columnist for the fall semester.

The saving grace is that there are many other wonderfully talented students currently in the exact same boat.  They too all really wanted their own personal forums in The Harvard Crimson and are now stuck voicing their opinions to bored roommates and family members.  Even more comforting is the thought of the hundreds of students across campus wallowing in bitter Rejection Land.  They too have seen their short term plans take a nosedive, felt their pride take a kick in the stomach.

It’s funny how rejection works.  Application and tryout-based opportunities seem extremely pivotal to your life only when you find out that you can’t have them...

In my case, it suddenly doesn’t matter to me that I’ve survived twenty column-less years in perfect contentment. … I’m sure that in ten years I won’t remember The Crimson, let alone this little blip in my writing career.  But right now this failure seems to be the major catastrophe of my existence on earth.  As far as I’m concerned, my life  is in shambles.

This scenario of partial failure is typical at Harvard because of the high quality applicant pool.  Everyone is over-qualified for all positions, so good people get turned down. … In this way, Harvard becomes the reverse of a meritocracy, because when everyone’s competent, superficial details become the deciding factors. First-years and sophomores, for example, regardless of how talented, are always at a huge disadvantage to the upperclass students who are “running out of time.” … Friendships carry more weight with hirers, as do small meaningless details, such as e-mail grammar.  Ability is no longer the determining characteristic where everyone’s able.  The Rhodes Scholar applicants who didn’t receive Harvard’s support on Monday, and the writers who applied for columns and were rejected, and the singers who were refused membership to prestigious groups, and anyone else who has ever been rejected from anything at Harvard, all heard this message loud and clear.  It’s hard to win at a genius school where everyone is not only competent, but exceptional.

At least competent people won.  (My mother brought up this point by reminding me that at least I’m not Al Gore.) … And there are always opportunities outside of Harvard.