Celebrate the “Wall of Shame”

Claire Mendelson, Editor-in-Chief

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What is the secret to success? A high I.Q., strong SAT scores, and good GPA are all reasonable guesses – but not the answer, at least not according to Dr. Angela Duckworth, a MacArthur genius grant recipient for her work studying human achievement. While these factors certainly contribute to success, it is grit which truly determines the ability of an individual to push through, persevere, and, ultimately, succeed.

Characterized by maintaining a sense of hope or resilience through setbacks, grit is necessary throughout all of high school. From the first all-nighter to the first really hard exam or failed test, students inevitably experience an obstacle or disappointment. According to “the grit factor,” how we respond in the moment is not nearly as important as how we respond in the days, weeks, and months looming after it, when we have the opportunity to learn from the past mistake, move on, and become even stronger from it.

The long, anguishing time between the months of December and March – when colleges release their admissions decisions – truly tests a student’s grit. The disappointment from a low midterm grade seems miniscule compared to a thin envelope in the mail or an email opening with the words “I regret to inform you…” College applications are carefully crafted by each student, essays agonized over, and a rejection from any college stings. Especially as one’s peers gush excitement in exclamatory Facebook posts or sport attire emblazoned with their college’s logos, the pressure to choose a college mounts and the disappointment over a few rejections compounds.

As a senior, it can feel like a rejection from a dream school is the worst thing to possibly happen. While certainly disappointing, it is far from being the end of the world. In fact, college rejections foster perseverance, determination and, yes, grit.

Being gritty doesn’t mean not showing pain or pretending everything is okay, as exemplified by the “Wall of Shame” in the senior commons. Located just past the wall poster where students write the name of the college they play to matriculate, this poster boasts the rejection letters, denials, and dashed dreams of students. It is a poster people walk by quickly, eyes cast downward, not wanting to linger too long. Juxtaposed with the bold, proud display of college plans for next year, the “Wall of Shame” serves as a solemn reminder that sometimes where you’ll go is not where you thought you’d be.

A college rejection is not what anyone wants, but this disappointment proves inevitable for most people, and it also provides a valuable opportunity to bounce back, learn, and become stronger. Students who can recover from a disappointing college decision prove poised to face any obstacle later in life. So let us celebrate the “Wall of Shame” – or perhaps we should call it the “Wall of Grit.

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