It is devastating to receive a rejection. We actually experience physical pain; the same parts of the brain that are activated when we are kicked or punched, light up when we experience rejection. Given the very real physical and emotional pain of rejection, as anyone who has been through it before can attest, there are some steps that you can take to come out of the experience with greater insight and a strong strategy for moving forward:
1. Recognize that you are not alone.
Thousands of people are rejected from medical school every year. They all receive that same rejection letter and experience that immediate feeling of disappointment. Repressing your feelings or avoiding addressing the impact can have negative consequences. Using the experience to observe your emotions and learn from them can be powerful and constructive. You can gain valuable insight on what you need to do to process the feelings in actively deciding to move forward, when you are ready.
2. Take some time to grieve.
Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself some personal time by taking a break or participating in the activities that will allow you to engage in some self reflection. By learning what works for you, you can more quickly recover from similar setbacks in the future (because disappointments are inevitable in life). For some people, a meditation retreat will allow them to recharge and for others a mission trip to another country will help them refocus. For some, maybe all you’ll need is a nice walk followed by a cup of tea.
Consider all the options and the level of introspection that will suit your preferences. Try one and then another, until you find what works best for you. Essentially, you are grieving the loss of an opportunity. You may experience the full spectrum of emotions that are associated with the grieving process. It can be useful to ask for help or even consider professional counseling if you are getting stuck in any one particular stage.
3. Decide what is important to you.
After you’ve had time to grieve – the amount of time required will vary from person to person – you can sit down and make a list of your goals. After reassessing what is important to you, you can let go of any of the negative emotions attached to the experience of rejection and actively decide to move on – taking with you any useful information that you learned about yourself and the process of applying. Enormous wisdom can be gained from these kinds of destabilizing events. You get the chance to consciously rebuild by integrating the experience into your identity and deciding the best way to move forward.
4. Select a strategy in moving forward.
You have lots and lots of options, if you allow yourself to be open to the myriad of possibilities that exist. Be strategic and thorough in your examination of the pathways open to you. Talk to other people about your experience and ask about theirs. Do not leave any stone unturned. If the experience only makes you more determined to go into medicine, get feedback on your application. Talk to pre-health advisors. Contact professional admissions consultants; we here at Accepted are available to help you. Critically evaluate your application and how to improve as much as you can before reapplying. Or if you are not ready to reapply, begin exploring the multitude of careers in healthcare that do not require a medical degree or take a gap year or two.
You have the power to mediate your experience and to make it as exciting as you want it to be!
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Alicia McNease Nimonkar is an Accepted advisor and editor specializing in healthcare admissions. Prior to joining Accepted, Alicia worked for five years as Student Advisor at UC Davis’ postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and related programs. Want Alicia to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!