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Keep moving forward: How three UNT graphic design students didn’t let rejection stop them

Keep moving forward: How three UNT graphic design students didn’t let rejection stop them

From left to right, Chase Christensen, Ivy Cole and Tatum Doherty.

Keep moving forward: How three UNT graphic design students didn’t let rejection stop them
January 17
18:53 2018

At the end of every fall semester, close to 200 pre-communication design students put their art to the test to see if they have what it takes to continue in the competitive UNT program. For many, however, the path toward a career in communication design is cut short.

In fall 2017, 180 hopeful students went in, but only 84 remained in the program during finals week. It’s a monumental week for those who do make it, but, for the other 96, the week signifies something different.

Though the elimination process might seem harsh from an outsider’s perspective, it’s an important aspect of the program.

UNT has long emphasized quality over quantity,” Clinton Carlson, UNT communication design undergraduate program coordinator, said. “We want a select number of dedicated students who are serious about a career in design.” 

As a byproduct of the competitive process, UNT’s program is ranked the No. 1 graphic design program in the southwest by the Animation Career Review.

This selection process still means rejection for those who don’t make the cut. But, for three students who received the rejection email from the program, they used it to impact their life for the better.

Passion over rejection

Sitting in her adviser’s office, pre-communication design freshman Tatum Doherty talked about the new possibilities that were open for her future. Majors like psychology and business were mentioned — majors that Doherty hadn’t even considered until a couple weeks ago when she received news that she was cut.

“We didn’t have class that day, so I was just hanging out, and I got the email and was like, ‘Oh no,’” Doherty said. “I was sad about it at first, and I mean, I’m still bummed about it, but it’s not the end of the world.”

Design freshman Tatum Doherty was not accepted into the communication program in the College of Visual Arts and Design when she applied this past fall. Since being rejected, Doherty has changed her major and found new routes for pursuing her interests. Sara Carpenter

Not making it through the fall 2017 portfolio review was something her professors had prepared all of their students for, but it wasn’t until she read the words that it quickly became her reality.

Without a backup plan, Doherty started to determine which major she should turn to next. She remembered design management, a career one of her friends was pursuing that Doherty had been somewhat interested in before she was cut from her original major.

Now, a little more than a month later, Doherty has realized design management is a better fit for her than communication design would have been.

“I haven’t officially changed my major yet, but I think I will do that,” Doherty said. “With a design management degree, I have the potential to be an art director, and I have always preferred that job.”

Being cut from the program did unexpectedly redirect Doherty’s path, but it hasn’t changed her passion for art and the people she gets to do it with. Through the rejection, Doherty insists she has learned that art will always be a part of her life, even if she pursues it in a different way than she expected.

Now, as she looks forward to her new future pursuing her passion while looking back on her semester as a communication design hopeful, Doherty doesn’t regret time spent in classes or with professors.

“They all want the best for you, but it’s good to keep in mind that they can’t take everyone, so it’s important to have an optimistic yet realistic point of view,” Doherty said. “It’s possible you could be the one to get cut and if you do, it’s going to be OK.”

Your major is not your identity

Taking a step back, Chase Christensen looked at the last piece of his portfolio review submission that he spent all night working on.

Closing his eyes, he thought back to the moment he had decided to reapply to the communication design program.

“Maybe I romanticized the idea of the program and learning the academic side of design,” Christensen said. “I just started to think a lot about the hardship of the program and about making it. I just wanted to know that I could do it.”

It had been almost a year since he had opened the letter of rejection in front of his family. The first time he applied, Christensen felt a sense of being left in the dark about his work and his future in the program.

This time, he would feel more confident than ever before that this program is what he was meant to do.

“I think that being cut benefited me,” Christensen said. “It kind of created a trial that I had to respond to, and for me it made me realize how badly I wanted to learn design.”

Communication design senior Chase Christensen was rejected from the communication design program in the College of Visual Arts and Design when he applied in the fall of 2013. After being rejected, Christensen reapplied in the fall of 2014 and was accepted to the program. Sarah Schreiner

The work he submitted when he reapplied that December morning in 2014 was enough for him to be accepted into the program. Now, in his senior year as a communication design student, Christensen still holds on to the lessons he learned from not making it into the program the first time around.

“I think the cuts are hard, and they do make the program really good, but I think everybody has to figure out their way of doing it in a healthy way,” Christensen said.

Though it was initially a tough pill for him to swallow, Chisrtensen looks at the experience as a lesson that trying is more important than the potential of being rejected.

“It’s hard to see failure as part of the process, especially when you get grades for it,” Christensen said. “You have to get to a point where you’re not thinking about failing, you’re just thinking about moving forward and creating.”

One door closes, another opens

As she read the words on the screen, sophomore Ivy Cole felt what one would expect for not getting into the program. As she processed what this meant, she flashed through frustration, sadness and uncertainty.

However, it wasn’t long before she felt an odd sense of relief wash over her as her parents reminded her of another passion of hers — interior design. It wasn’t the path she chose after transferring to UNT in the fall of 2016, but it was the one that still had its door open.

“I think everything happens for a reason,” Cole said. “When I didn’t get in [communication design], it solidified my passion for interior design, which is what I’m studying now.”

Like Doherty, Cole also considers her rejection from the communication design program as the decision that pushed her into what she is really supposed to be doing for the rest of her life.

“I feel like this decision kind of forwarded my whole life,” Cole said.

Interior design sophomore Ivy Cole was not accepted into the communication design program in the fall semester of 2016. Since rejected, Cole found that her true passion lies in interior design, and saw the rejection as a relief. Sarah Schreiner

For most people, not getting accepted into their intended major’s program may seem like the worst thing that could happen in their academic career.

But for Cole, it was the best thing that could have happened.

“I kind of stopped for a second,” Cole said. “I kind of quit moving forward because I wasn’t sure if I should transfer or try again. The biggest thing I learned is that there’s always a ‘plan b,’ and you can get through anything. Life goes on.”

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Rachel Linch

Rachel Linch

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