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My College Rejection Story

Blair Underwood at National Association for Campus Activities Conference

In a season where we celebrate college acceptances, I think it’s important to share a rejection story…mine!

I’ve been open about having undiagnosed dyslexia. Only undiagnosed because way back when it wasn’t a thing. My second-grade teacher wanted to hold me back. I cried, my mom gave in, and I went to the 3rd grade but honestly, I shouldn’t have. I think another year would have given me more resources and time. What that caused was self-doubt in my ability to “achieve” in school for the rest of my life.

I graduated from a high school with 31 people. THIRTY-ONE! And somehow, I was at the top of my class. I almost was Salutatorian and I still question how they calculated this (again…self-doubt). My self-doubt was so huge that I began college courses my junior year in HS because I needed to prove to myself, I was smart enough for college because as a 1st generation want-to-be college student, I wanted it badly.

I attended Northeastern State University in beautiful Tahlequah, Oklahoma. My first semester did not go well. I dropped from 15 hours to 8 and ended it with a 1.7 GPA. Let’s say it wasn’t because of self-doubt but I had fun! A LOT of fun! Did I mention I graduated with 31 students so going into a college setting with 7K…that was a recipe for fun. After changing my major from physical therapy to business…I soared. I tell this story to high school students when I get to speak with them because I feel it’s important to know a stumble does not define your “self-worth”.

Max Carl, Lead Singer 38 Special & me in college

The biggest area I found my worth was in the student activities arena. I got involved at the end of my freshman year because of a boy. A boy who was involved and I thought this was a great way to hang out with him. What’s funny about this story is the boy didn’t last but my passion and interest for planning events and student life gave me my incredible career. It was the best part of college because I found where I had, not only worth but success.

In the spring of my senior year, I began looking for graduate assistantships at universities where I’d be paid to go to graduate school and continue bringing concerts, speakers, and celebrities to the college campus. My dream school was the University of Arkansas because they had THE most money and one of the most respected student activities programs in the country. I prepared for the interview and nailed it! They offered me the position, contingent on getting accepted into graduate school. I thought getting the position was the hard part…I was wrong. My 2.5 GPA and my low scores on the GRE (did I mention I have incredible test anxiety?) led to a few calls to the graduate dean (who by the way, to make matters worse, his son was a friend/colleague of mine in our degree program), trying to convince him I was worthy. He told me, not so politely and firmly, “You don’t have the grades, you don’t have the scores, you are NOT getting accepted!” To say I was crushed is a complete understatement. I was so proud of finishing college in 4 years, working no less than 40 hours per week in the student activity office, serving as a student rep on a regional activities national board (NACA) for 2 years, was known as a leader on our college campus starting a freshman assimilation camp, Fish Camp, that still exists today and was the 1st student activities chairperson in the US to get paid.

But this Dean felt otherwise. My scores were not enough and hence defined my career path and again, emphasized my fear of self-doubt in learning. I was embarrassed. I was sad. I felt my life was over.

“But when one door closes”…this saying didn’t really help! However, another door did open, and I received a full-time position at Angelo State University as their Assistant Program Director. It still remains the best professional position I’ve ever had. But during that time, I began graduate school in Guidance and Counseling, while also working full-time. And guess what…I graduated with almost a 4.0! For the first time in my life, I LOVED learning! I couldn’t wait to go to class. I enjoyed studying and researching. I couldn’t wait to talk about my thoughts in our groups. I felt smart!

As I walked the stage for the second time to get my master’s degree, I seriously…no, SERIOUSLY thought about making a copy of both my transcript AND my diploma and mailing it to that dean with a “nice” note! He may have changed the course of my life with his decision about me, but I gained my self-worth by not allowing that rejection to define my future. I hope all the young adults who may not have gotten into their dream school know the path is YOURS to define. May you always Proceed with Confidence!

Edward James Olmos

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

And my ALL TIME favorite person, James Lovell, Apollo 13 Astronaut

Reeder Consulting: College and Career Paths is a specialist in the career development field and the #1 career counseling company in San Antonio, TX working with clients in all 50 states. We help individuals engage in career and aptitude testing to process information through meaningful conversations and give clarity to the stress of career decisions to Proceed with Confidence.


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