January 20, 2022

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Have You Ever Benefited From Rejection?

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Think about a time when you experienced rejection. How did it feel in the moment? How do you feel about it now?

Looking back, are there setbacks that you are now grateful to have experienced? Do you believe that rejection can sometimes be a good thing?

An aspiring actor named Axel Webber went viral on TikTok this week — not for achieving his goal of getting into the Juilliard School, but for being rejected. He received reassuring comments from thousands of strangers, as well as messages of support from influential artists like Charlie Puth, Diplo and Jeremy O. Harris.

In “When Axel Webber Was Rejected From Juilliard, the Internet Stepped In,” Taylor Lorenz writes:

On Monday morning, Axel Webber, a 22-year-old from Cumming, Ga., a town outside Atlanta, posted a TikTok updating his followers on an audition he’d completed the day before on Zoom for the Juilliard School’s undergraduate drama program. For the past month, Mr. Webber had used the platform to talk about his dreams of attending the prestigious, highly competitive drama school and the big audition that was required for the admissions process.

When the verdict from Juilliard came in, Mr. Webber pulled up the message on his computer and read it aloud for his audience of 2.4 million followers on TikTok. It was a rejection. “You are no longer under consideration for admission for Fall 2022,” he read. Mr. Webber looked crestfallen. “Now, we’re going to have to find a different way to be an actor. Thanks for watching the journey,” he said. A Juilliard spokesperson declined to comment about Mr. Webber’s admission for this article.

On Monday night, tens of thousands of Mr. Webber’s fans flooded Juilliard’s Instagram account to express their anger.

“U R DONE, SOOO DONE FOR NOT GETTING AXEL IN 💀💀💀🤚🏽🤚🏽🤚🏽,” a top comment reads. It has over 21,000 likes. Users started the hashtag #JusticeForAxel and left more than a thousand one-star reviews of Juilliard on Google, tanking the school’s search results with negative reviews. Some fans spoke of planning an in-person protest at Juilliard’s campus to voice their frustration.

“I do appreciate all the responses,” Mr. Webber said, “but people are absolutely tearing them to shreds. I’m grateful, but we don’t have to bash Juilliard. I want to spread positivity.”

Students, read the entire article, and then tell us:

  • When have you experienced rejection? Have the consequences of a rejection ever been different, or even better, than you thought they would have been?

  • Why do you think so many people rallied behind Mr. Webber online? Did you relate to any aspect of his story?

  • Do you think that it is important to openly discuss the times we fail to achieve our goals? Why or why not? Why do you think Mr. Webber chose to share his experience?

  • Some of the people quoted in the article, including the playwright Jeremy O. Harris, now think Mr. Webber’s story may be a marketing ploy. Do you think the story is authentic? Why or why not?

  • How important do you think elite credentials like a Juilliard degree are to achieving success? Do you think that Mr. Webber is better off for not having gotten in to the school? Why or why not?

Want more writing prompts? You can find all of our questions in our Student Opinion column. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate them into your classroom.

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

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