Teenagers have a lot of self pride and we don't like anything that messes with the ego. While some are better at taking criticism than others, we remain the most emotionally high-strung demographic I know. We might trot out aloof, blasÚ masks to act tough, but we are the people with probably the thinnest skins in the world. This time of the year is when lots of teenagers start hearing back from the universities they've applied to, especially the US ones.
Rejections are an inevitable part of the university application process and we will inevitably get upset at every refusal of a place. I don't think there are many of us who can look at a rejection in the face and take it with equanimity. Being well-seasoned actors, of course, we learn to present a sporting fašade to the world and smile cheerfully: "Oh, I'm not happy about getting rejected, of course, but the college can't take everyone. I'm sure there were more deserving candidates than me; the best man wins." In reality, though, we are mentally strangling those more deserving candidates vindictively. We can't help torturing ourselves by asking why, why, why were we not considered good enough?
Apart from being bad losers, we can add another quality to our enviable personalities - teenagers are horribly impatient. In Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, Cecily states: "I hate waiting even five minutes for anybody ... I am not punctual myself, I know, but I do like punctuality in others." We wouldn't mind a speedier response from universities either. The longer we wait, the more frenzied and wound up we become about the answer - and the more difficult it becomes to accept a rejection.
All of us might not get into our dream university, but there are always alternatives. It's worthwhile considering other universities and other courses that may pan out better in the long run. If other options also don't work out, a gap year can be an enriching experience. There are all sorts of things to do that are fun and can bulk out the CV, such as getting a part-time job, volunteering for a charity, trekking through Borneo, studying archaeology by going to see the Egyptian pyramids, setting out to all the places mentioned in the Harry Potter books. The world is our oyster - and we get an indecent amount of free time.
There's enormous pressure from various quarters to succeed in getting an offer. However, missing out on a university place is not the end of the world - although it does seem like it. In my home country, India, students are known to commit suicide over what they perceive as low marks in important exams or a missed university place. It's not just the other people they have to please; teenagers have huge expectations of themselves and may be crushed if they don't meet them. Along with sheer hard work and capability, there is also a factor of tremendous luck involved, even if it sounds like I'm saying that to excuse rejections. There may have been better-qualified applicants who deserved it more. Except we know they aren't, really.
The writer is a 17-year-old student in Dubai