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'The acceptances make the rejections easier to handle'

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I have been rejected from a mind-blowing array of opportunities. I receive at least one rejection letter a month, and frequently get rejected twice in one day.

Does this mean that I’m hopeless? That I’m an unattractive candidate for any organisation? My inner demons have tried that line of reasoning with me, but I prefer the truth: I receive more rejections than the average person, but I also receive more acceptances.

The trick is simply to apply. I used to agonise over each application, postponing submission until the deadline in some vain hope that just keeping the work on my computer would give it a sparkle I couldn’t otherwise add.

I know plenty of people who still do that, and for anything important to you, it is worth putting the effort in. But you risk missing deadlines when they close early because they’re swamped with applicants, or getting so caught up in everyday life that you miss the deadline because you just plain forgot. The other problem with delaying starting an application is that each day it becomes a bigger and more insurmountable hurdle, until it feels impossible to confront.

Being forced to apply for several opportunities at very short notice taught me that passion trumps polish when it comes to applying. For instance, when I submitted my abstract for consideration for the Royal College of Nursing’s International Nursing Research Conference 2018, I only had an hour and half at Edinburgh airport to write it, and the feedback from reviewers was that, even though it didn’t necessarily fulfil the brief, they could feel the drive behind it. In fact, they were so struck that they funded my attendance, transport and accommodation.

The acceptances make the rejections easier to handle – I was unsuccessful in applying for the CEOx1Day programme (in which students shadow chief executives of organisations such as Bupa for a day) but was awarded a large grant by the RCN Foundation to run the South West Regional Student Leadership Conference on 30 May this year.

Similarly, I was a little disheartened to not win funding from my university to spend two weeks in Amsterdam at a sexual health summer school, but was then awarded funding by Santander Universities to spend three weeks at Yale University doing research in the psychiatry department.

Apply, apply, apply was my motto for the first two years of my nursing degree. Eventually, though, the rejections started to feel good. Something else I didn’t have to worry about and prepare for. And, after a conversation with some of my nursing student friends, I realised that I was putting my curiosity and ambition above my mental health. My motto now is prioritise, prioritise, prioritise. 

If I could handle spinning so many plates, I would still be applying for every opportunity that passed my way, because I’ve learnt that many of them will surprise you.

You can’t tell in advance which will be the most rewarding or exciting or inspiring, so it was fantastic to try so many varied activities. But now I’m doing some of the rejecting. I receive emails or see tweets and think “I’ll sit this one out”.

Ultimately, I’m still doing my degree, and that must come first. Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise.

You can register for the South West Regional Student Leadership Conference here: Massive thanks to the RCN Foundation for their sponsorship.

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