As performers, we're often told we're going to be rejected constantly throughout our careers, and we'd better grow a thick skin. Easier said than done.
Rejection for aspiring actors starts young, with the ridiculously competitive nature of the college audition process. Many applicants audition for upwards of 15 schools, praying to be accepted to one or two. They aren't always accepted to any. And even if they are, they're still opening a lot of letters bearing disappointing news.
Here's the thing about rejection: it's inevitable and it is almost always going to hurt a little. And it's part of life, so the sooner you learn to deal with it, the better. Taking rejection is a fine art, and since I'm getting a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BA-DUM TSSS), I thought I would share some tips.
How to Prepare
If you ask me, the best way to deal with rejection is to be aware that it might be coming. NEVER expect acceptance—not for college auditions, not for professional auditions, and definitely not when you give up on your dreams and apply to med school. Even if they heavily imply it in your audition, you can't know you're accepted until you see it in writing.
When you do any kind of audition, even if you HATE auditioning (if you hate it that much you probably shouldn't do it for a living, but that's another discussion), you have to find some reason to be there besides "I want to get in/get the part." Try, "I want to get experience auditioning" or "I want to practice my craft." (I'm sorry I said craft. I know, pretentious.) Tell yourself—nay, CONVINCE yourself—that acceptance isn't everything.
Once You're Rejected
If it's a school you really cared about, take a day to mourn. Some people say three days, or three hours or however long it takes you to finish a pint of Ben & Jerry's (insert #BFAbody joke here). I don't need more than a day to wallow, but you have to accept that it might creep up on you from time to time—I sometimes had dreams about reauditioning for schools that rejected me. If you honestly fell in love with the school, and you are sad that you will miss out on training you would have benefited from and connections you would have made, that's perfectly valid. I'll allow it. But if you're just upset because you feel like you're not good enough, period or are making a fool out of yourself by even trying...stop that! You're not helping yourself or anyone else by being negative or discouraged for a prolonged period of time.
The best advice I can give for getting over it is to think about all the awesome schools you did get into and how happy you would be there! If you don't get in anywhere or anywhere you love/can afford, think about what a blast it would be to reaudition, this time having a clue what you are doing! ANYWAY, there is so much more in your life besides college. Also, hello, life experience will make you a better actor. At worst, you've learned a bit about yourself and how you handle stress, and that's worth something. Your efforts are not a waste.
But What Did I Do Wrong???
The hardest thing for me after being rejected from college (or in general) was and is not knowing why. You can't know why. And you know what? Why might be STUPID. Backstage has a great article on "why you weren't cast." That can give you some ideas if you're truly curious, but the point they're making is that you have very little control, no matter how "well" you think you did. At my two best auditions, I didn't get in. The next best two, I did. But it's so random, and that's what Backstage is getting at. You can't waste your time wondering why, unless you also want to be a casting director (this is my excuse). Also, read "why we cast you!" That one is actually uplifting.
So rejection is rough. It just is. There's no way around it. At 17, it's especially rough because not only might this be your first time being outright rejected, but it also feels like rejection from college is going to decide your entire future. I guess if you let it, it could. Just remember that it's okay to be sad, it's okay to be jealous, it's okay to wonder why, but it's not okay to let those negative feelings take over your life and determine your self-worth. You are more than this. YOU ARE MORE THAN THIS. Rejection or acceptance is NOT a judgment on your validity as a person or an actor. Every rejection makes you stronger, prepares you for future rejections, and helps you learn about yourself. Rejection is a good thing!