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Credit: Alec Druggan

Penn students, especially freshmen, are eager to get involved. With over 450 student-run organizations, club culture at Penn is enormous. And on Aug. 29, desperation was in the air as clubs lined up on Locust Walk for the annual club fair. For many freshmen, the notion of applying to collegiate clubs was new, and the idea of getting rejected was even more foreign. Now in the beginning of October with clubs finalizing their teams, students are reflecting on the clubs which did and did not accept them. 

In this time of reflection, my friends have complained countless times that “Penn is too competitive” or that the “clubs are too exclusive.” While we may complain about the exclusivity of the clubs we don't get in to, we hardly complain about the exclusivity of the clubs we do get in to. The problem is not our issue with exclusivity but rather our issue with rejection. Many Penn students' high school extracurricular lists were extraordinary, making the idea of rejection even more painful. Yes, rejection can be crushing at times, but rejection from clubs should not be the be-all and end-all. In fact, rejection from clubs is not all that bad. 

Being rejected from selective clubs allows us more free time to do new things — and specifically, allows us to focus on prioritizing our mental health. Our campus culture does not prioritize mental health and it's time to do just that. Free time? Gotta find her. Sleep? Love her. For me, free time means going on a run or writing poetry. However, it could also mean hanging out with friends, calling your parents, or visiting Center City Philadelphia. Essentially, it is important to remember that you are not a machine wired to be on the go constantly. Rejection from clubs can be beneficial because it teaches us to learn how to truly love and respect ourselves.

Take a moment to think about the two people you love the most in the world. Now, think about why you love them. Is it because of their achievements? Their resumes? Chances are you love those individuals because of their little quirks. When it comes to truly loving others, it’s about the little things and we love them in spite of their resumes. Now, ask those same questions to yourself. Do you love yourself because of all the clubs you are a member of? The sports you play? Apply the same concept you use to love others to yourself. It’s time to be nicer to yourself. Trust me, you deserve it. 

The consequences of defining ourselves by clubs are heartbreaking. We see this when a runner breaks their leg or when an artist hurts their arm. As president of my high school's mock trial club, my schedule and my life centered around mock trial. So when I came into Penn and got rejected from the Penn Mock Trial team, I felt an immense sense of loss. I realized that for four years I had defined myself by this club. 

It is important to remember that this mentality and perspective can be incredibly damaging and harmful. Yes, do the things you are passionate about, but remember that you are so much more than what you do. It’s time to start prioritizing our mental health and to start thinking about what works best for us. Being rejected from clubs and extracurriculars teaches us not to define and love ourselves by those clubs. 

I am not saying that being rejected is the best thing in the world. Being rejected is painful and it hurts. But with the only option to go forward, it’s important to look at the bright side. You don’t need acceptance from those clubs; you only need acceptance from yourself.

EMILIA ONUONGA is a College freshman from Middletown, Del. studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. Her email address is