Students Learn to Handle Rejection

Without even receiving a single interview, Lisa Boes was once rejected for a resident tutor position at every single House she applied to.

Today Boes is the resident dean of Pforzheimer House and shared her story of rejection and success as a panelist at an event titled “Reflections on Rejections” at the Office of Career Services yesterday.

“I have never taken any front door to anything that’s really important,” Boes said. “I found another angle to do it or found a way for it to be available.

Head football coach Tim Murphy and Hurlbut proctor Rory Michelle Sullivan ’09 joined Boes as panelists at the event, moderated by Bureau of Study Counsel Director Abigail Lipson. Murphy and Sullivan also shared their personal experiences with rejection before opening up the floor to questions from students.

“We are interested in finding and creating a context for people to talk about resilience and persistence and decisions and comforting oneself—all the things that are involved in coping with rejections and failures and setbacks in our life,” said Lipson, who created and began offering the program three years ago.


In addition to a button that read “REJECTED” in bold red letters, attendees at the workshop also received a brochure that included a collection of thirty stories of failure and success from Harvard affiliates and an instructional packet by Lipson entitled, “How To Have a Really Successful Failure.”

Murphy is the first athletic coach invited to serve as a panelist, and his inclusion reflected a desire to incorporate all types of rejection experiences into the discussion, according to Lipson.

“Athletes deal with issues of success and failure all the time,” Lipson said. “In athletics, [the issue] can be more salient sometimes because it is an explicitly more competitive environment.”

A graduate student, speaking on condition of anonymity, said she attended the event after recently having dealt with many instances of rejection.

“It’s been helpful to go to people for advice and thinking, ‘Don’t let failures be totally pointless,’” she said. “It’s been encouraging to hear other people have had successes and rethinking my failures.”

Christine S. An ’11 said she found the event was an opportunity to discover the purpose of rejection and how to turn her failures into successes.

“I learned that rejections are not as bad as you think they are and are great opportunities for learning about yourself,” An said.

When the program ended, some attendees rushed to the front to thank the panelists, while others posed more personal questions.

“At the end of the day, the most important thing you could do in dealing with rejection,” Murphy said, “is to believe in yourself and try again—with the risk of still getting your heart broken.”

—Staff writer Melanie A. Guzman can be reached at

—Staff writer Heng Shao can be reached at


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