Also in the old college files, I found that– for reasons I still don’t comprehend– I’d kept all of the rejection letters I’d received over those years. As a freshman, starry-eyed with ambition and planning a career in nuclear engineering, I remember applying for internships at all the cool physics labs around the country.

Jet Propulsion Lab, of course:

And then again a year later. By then I’d changed from nuclear to aerospace engineering, which one might argue is more apropos for JPL, but alas:

Argonne National Lab would’ve been amazing:

Oddly enough, a few years later I presented an undergraduate research paper at Argonne.

I think I also wrote to all of the NASA facilities:

There were at least twenty more rejection letters from aerospace companies, national labs, and on and on. I still remember the feeling of receiving a letter in the mail, with a return address of one of these places I thought were so awesome, only to open the envelope and see another form rejection letter. After two years I stopped applying for internships altogether and spent the next two summers working on research projects which later brought me to Argonne and even an international physics conference in Toronto. Hah!

Perhaps the most interesting series of rejection letters was from the Department of Residential Life. During my sophomore year I applied to be a resident assistant. After going through the interview process, I received the sad news that I’d been declined:

I was heartbroken, because I’d been working in hall government (with the Department) for two years and had quickly risen through the ranks to become the vice-president and then president of my entire residence hall of 1,200 students. I figured I had a pretty good shot. A couple of my friends did as well, and it made it even harder to learn that they’d been accepted as RA’s when I hadn’t.

Then, a few weeks later, hope was born anew when I received a letter informing me the Department had re-opened one of the RA positions:

Maybe this would work out after all!

But, no. Ten days later they turned me down a second time. Rude.

Amongst these papers, I found the assessment I’d received as part of the interview process. It was kind of funny to see that my communication skills were rated very highly, but my people skills weren’t all that great, and my leadership skills were absolutely horrendous.

Apparently I wasn’t much of a leader.

In an awesome turn of events, a few weeks after receiving these rejection notices, I learned that another RA position had opened, and they’d decided to give it to me. Hooray! I went on to a glorious career in Residential Life, serving as an RA, summer RA, senior RA, summer RA (a second time), and finally Head RA. Take that, interview process!