Fail Better: Shubham Tayal

Tayal was rejected from WashU's elite Emergency Support Team -- twice; Bollywood fusion helped him find his groove

Shubham Tayal came to Washington University in St. Louis with his emergency medical technician certification and a plan to join the Emergency Support Team (EST), the university’s elite group of student first responders. He didn’t even score an interview.

“EST was the first organization I applied to and the first one I got rejected from. So it was definitely shocking,” said Tayal, who is set to graduate in December with a degree in biology from Arts & Sciences. “But I used it as motivation to look at other organizations, which is how I found my dance team, WashU Chaahat.”

Tayal did not start off as a strong dancer. At first, he danced in the back row where no one would see his mistakes. But over time, he improved. Sophomore year, he was a team captain, choreographing dances for the annual Diwali showcase at Edison Theatre and leading the team at competitions nationwide.

“Dancing in front of my peers is one of the most amazing feelings I’ve ever had,” Tayal said. 

You may be thinking this is a story about how Tayal discovered his true passion — Bollywood fusion. It’s not. Tayal never stopped wanting to be a doctor. In fact, he tried again to join EST. And again, he was rejected. But this time, he took the rejection in stride.

Shubham Tayal was selected to serve as the student speaker at the Class of 2025 Convocation ceremony in Brookings Quadrangle. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)

“I went in with a different mindset,” Tayal said. “I was more confident in myself. I had accomplished a lot and I knew I would accomplish more in the future regardless of whether I was part of EST.” 

And he has. Tayal has excelled in his studies, volunteered at St. Louis VA Medical Center and works as a scribe in the Saint Louis University Hospital emergency room. Next fall, he plans to attend medical school.  

In a weird way, dance has prepared Tayal for the career he always wanted. 

“As the captain of a dance team who didn’t really know how to dance, I’ve learned how to sit in discomfort and be confident in myself and my capabilities,” Tayal said. “That’s important because health care is something that is constantly evolving and changing. Of course, I will be going through medical school and residency and all of the required training. But it’s also important to be willing to challenge yourself and keep learning.”

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