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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Seeing Rejection as Redirection


November 16, 2020

Admissions Life Hacks

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When the November 1st application deadline passed, I started thinking back to when I first applied to USC Chan about 3 years ago. Wait a minute . . . am I doing that math right? I started the program in June 2019, so how does that make sense? Well, let me tell you!

I already knew that I wanted to pursue OT when I was a senior in undergrad. I really only wanted to go to USC and I also wanted something to start doing right after graduating. So, I had submitted my application to just USC Chan for their 2018 entry cycle.

During the waiting process, I would always keep up with online OT graduate school forums where prospective students would share their stats, where they went for undergrad, who they heard back from, and when they heard back. It was like being addicted to “College Confidential” when I was applying for undergrad (if anyone remembers what that is)! I was also searching for a forum thread from previous years to see when the admissions committee had sent out results so I could kind of gauge when they would send it out during the year that I applied. From what I had read, it seemed that March was the month that results typically got emailed out, so I was mentally preparing myself for that. However, I also knew that things change each year and that I shouldn’t be frantically checking my email.

One night in February though, I was out with friends and we were just hanging out. The thought of admissions decisions wasn’t even on my mind at the time, but my phone was set to show email notifications on my lock screen. I saw an email with the subject line “USC Occupational Therapy”. I was completely freaking out and my friends watched me as I read the first sentence in the email.

2018 Rejection Letter from USC Chan

February 28th, 2018 | Rejection Letter from USC Chan

My heart sank and I felt numb. I ended up telling my friends that I was going to head home early and I just laid in my bed, staring at the ceiling. It didn’t fully hit me that night because I was so unprepared for the news. The next morning, I had work and when I parked my car, I just sat inside crying my eyes out, feeling like I had failed and that I wasn’t deserving to be an occupational therapist. I kept thinking to myself, “What’s wrong with me?” and, “If I can’t get in this time, what makes me think I can get in next time?”

However, I knew that if I let these thoughts take over, I wasn’t going to get anywhere. I later responded to the email asking if I could meet with the admissions committee to see what parts of my application could be improved. They were happy to accommodate my request and I took a visit to the division a few weeks after. They were so open to giving me constructive feedback on my application and they also took the time to reassure me while encouraging me to reapply the next year.

So, during the following cycle, I applied to USC again, as well as to a handful of other programs. Although attending USC was my dream, my end goal was to become an occupational therapist, and by applying to other schools I could increase my chances of joining the profession. So, I went through another round of waiting games of hearing back from the programs. I ended up being accepted into the other programs, but I was waitlisted to USC this time. My first thought was “okay . . . this isn’t a rejection and this is still an improvement from last year.” I was truly grateful to the other programs for offering me a seat, but I knew that my heart was set on USC, so I decided to make the wait.

2019 Waitlist Letter from USC Chan

March 1st, 2019 | Waitlist Letter from USC Chan

The thing about being on the waitlist is that it’s not a yes or a no and it’s so unpredictable that the admissions committee can’t guarantee what will happen. It was a pretty rough time for me during the wait and I was just praying for that congratulatory email to come my way, but I didn’t hear anything for quite some time. Fast forward to the morning of the first day of class for the entering class — I was still on the waitlist. At this point, I knew that I wasn’t getting in and I was actually preparing to pack my bags to head to a different program. Then, I got a phone call that afternoon.

I had no idea who was calling, but when I picked up I heard the news that ultimately changed my life. It was a call from admissions team representatives, Dr. Kristin Nxumalo and Dr. Arameh Anvarizadeh, telling me that a space had just opened up and asking if I wanted it. Honestly, that moment was such a blur. I just remember that I was losing my mind from all the excitement and I kept saying “YES” and “THANK YOU”! It was a pretty last-minute decision considering that I had to be ready to come to school the next day, but it all ended up working out.

2019 Acceptance Letter from USC Chan

June 17th, 2019 | Acceptance Letter from USC Chan

Now, I’m here! I’m here living out my dream of becoming an occupational therapist in my dream school. I never expected it to happen like the way it did, but I’m beyond grateful for the journey and I’ve learned so much along the way.

I won’t lie though, I felt pretty undeserving and there were a lot of feelings of impostor syndrome since I had come off the waitlist so late. However, I remember during that first day, I walked down the aisle of the G-37 auditorium towards Dr. Samia Rafeedie, so that I could introduce myself and inform her about my situation. I was feeling nervous, but I’ll never forget how kind and understanding she was. When she told me, “you belong here”, that was when I started to actually feel like I did. I’m thankful everyday for the supportive community of faculty, staff, and students, for giving me so much strength and for reminding me that I do deserve to be here.

Rejection hurts, and I know that I’ll continue to experience rejection down the road. But that’s just how life works. There are times when things go my way, and there are times when things just don’t turn out the way I had hoped. However, I always try my best to remind myself that things happen for a reason. As admissions decisions approach, it’s going to be a stressful time waiting to hear back. Do what you need to do during this time and treat yourself with compassion.

Congratulations to all of you who’ve submitted your applications this cycle! You did it! When I was a prospective student, I found comfort in reading Student Ambassador blogs. Here are some that I think might be helpful for all of you during this time.

The Student Ambassadors and the Admissions Team are available to answer your questions as well.

I know that the wait for admissions decisions to roll out is nervewracking, but whatever decision you receive - don’t let that stop you from being the best OT you can be! I’ll leave you all with this quote that inspired me to share this story: “Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being redirected to something better.” — Steve Maraboli