By now, many of you have received answers from early application efforts – either you got in…or you didn’t. If you got in, congrats – you probably feel amazing! However, if you face a fistful or rejections or waitlist notifications, then it’s normal and ok to feel disappointed and to express that disappointment. But try and move on quickly. Rejection is not a tragedy; it’s not a judgment of your worth as a person. Your career goals have not been demolished. No one has told you that you’ll never be a (fill in the blank – doctor/lawyer/teacher/consultant/engineer). This rejection may very well delay or modify a career dream, but the only way it can derail you completely is if you let it do that. It simply means that this particular school can’t take you for this particular class.
So what’s a proper response?
Think about what your goal is. Was going to grad school really the only path to achieving your dreams? Did grad school need to happen now?
If grad school truly wasn’t an option anymore, what would you do? Long-term plans are important, but it’s important to grow every day, in some way, and to avoid staking your entire future on one major event (i.e. getting into graduate school).
What are short-term goals you want to achieve at work and in your personal life – job-related, fitness, family, friends, hobbies, spirituality? Don’t just give lip service to these things, think them through, in part because they may be crucial to the next strategy.
If you were rejected but ALSO have acceptances, then a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush: if you applied to these schools, then you should be happy to attend. So you should probably accept one of these acceptances and stop worrying about the rejections.
If you are dealing exclusively with rejections, then you need to get to work analyzing what went wrong.
The 3 categories of rejection
There are 3 categories in which you can usually place your cause for rejection:
You weren’t competitive/qualified at the schools you applied to.
You simply shot too high.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Here you’ve got two choices. You can either spend the next year improving your qualifications and reapplying to these same schools next application season, or you can lower the bar and apply to less competitive programs.
More and more applicants these days are reapplicants – people who didn’t give up. And guess what? Reapplicants are more likely to get in than those in the general pool. Why? Usually because reapplicants represent a more dedicated, focused, “serious” group. They know they want to get into a particular school, they know why, and the (usually) know what it takes and have worked hard to achieve it.
So start thinking about which programs you really want to focus on next time, and start building an application that will turn a disappointing “no” into a triumphant “yes.”
Also, be willing to cast a wider net if you didn’t get a least some positive results (e.g. interviews) overall.
You WERE competitive/qualified but didn’t present yourself well.
In this case, you applied to the right programs based on your qualifications – that is, you had what it takes to get in – but for some reason, you didn’t tell your story well in your application or made some other application error. You didn’t apply effectively.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
If the problem is that you failed to tell your story well, then you need to make sure that when you reapply (either to these schools or to others), that you tell a more compelling story. You still have a chance to get into competitive programs this year, but you’ll need to make sure your application is 100% awesome.
You were a victim of sheer numbers.
This can happen if you’re in an overrepresented group – bio major applying to med school, Indian IT guy applying to b-school, Political science majors applying to law school, etc. Being in such a category makes it harder to distinguish yourself, and harder to get in, even if you’re super qualified, and even if you’ve done a good job on your application.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
The thing here, is that if you’re a victim of sheer numbers, then you can’t just do a “good” job on your application; you need to do a slam-dunk, smash-hit, out-of-this-world job on your application. This is probably the most frustrating result. Because of intense competition with people of your background, and the fact that schools value diversity, you’re stuck. You can’t change who you are, but you can change the way you tell your distinct story. Apply to more schools this year or to the same ones next year, and make sure that your application shows the adcom why you’re different – and special – and a necessary asset to their next class.
And yes, it is possible that you fit into more than one of these categories and have to address more than one of these issues.
Watch: Four Reasons for Rejection
For more insight into why applicants get rejected, check out Linda Abraham’s video, “4 Reasons for Rejection.”
It’s not the end of the world!
Getting rejected from grad school is the pits. But we promise, it is NOT the worst thing in the world! Through this experience, you’ll learn loads about yourself: you’ll re-prioritize your goals, adjust your timeline, gain more experience on the job, take additional classes, network with more people, and overall, enrich your life so that when you apply next year or when you decide to head out on a different career path, you’ll be more prepared and more successful.
One aspect of your response to this rejection has to be the same regardless of the cause or category: You need to get over the disappointment and respond constructively to the situation. This may be scant comfort now, but you’ll end up stronger because of this healthy response…and hopefully win that much-deserved acceptance letter in the near future.
These tips will help you keep things in perspective, even when the news you get isn’t the news you want. If reapplication is your answer, then have an Accepted consultant review your application, help you figure out why you were rejected, and what you can do to GET ACCEPTED next time. Check out our services here for more information.For 25 years, Accepted has helped applicants gain acceptance to top undergraduate and graduate programs. Our expert team of admissions consultants features former admissions directors, PhDs, and professional writers who have advised clients to acceptance at top programs worldwide including Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Penn, Columbia, Oxford, Cambridge, INSEAD, MIT, Caltech, UC Berkeley, and Northwestern. Want an admissions expert to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!