The process of applying to graduate programs of your choice can be arduous. Usually, the first step is to find programs and potential mentors/advisors in the program who are best suited for your research interests and career goals. Then, time and money are spent on applications, getting transcripts, GRE test scores and reports, and trips to universities for interviews (unless the university pays for your travel costs). Next, you have to confirm that your supervisors and professors can write strong recommendations for you to be accepted. You are also required to draft and edit your personal statements several times to fit each program and the professors you hope to work with. Then, you review all your application requirements and decision-making in minute detail. By this time, you feel exhausted and don’t want to look back at the number of hours of preparation, but it is part of the nail-biting season of graduate school application.
Your enthusiasm is increasing in getting all 4, 5…10 applications completed. Your level of confidence fluctuates…you’ve got research experience, competitive GPA and GRE scores. There is the panic: can you see really yourself living where the university is located? What about moving with family? Can your spouse or partner find a job or attend school during your years of study? Will the graduate program financially assist with paying for your tuition, health insurance, etc.? You did all you can…but then it starts pouring in: interview invitations, waitlisted as alternative, rejection from waitlist, rejection after interview or just utter rejections. After all your hard work, you got rejected. What will be your next move when your academic goals have been derailed?
It is a normal feeling of anxiety and disappointment when you are rejected after spending a long time preparing graduate school applications. During the preparation time, you imagined long term goals coming to fruition, such as, travelling the world doing research, having your own lab, writing books, being a tenured professor, publishing numerous articles for academic journals, mentoring students, serving as an expert in a specific area or maybe giving back to community-based programs. Now, all your dreams are postponed. There is also the feeling of dread about what to tell your friends, family and mentors that you did not get accepted in any programs especially when everyone believed that you have what it takes to be successful in graduate school.
Try not to take it personally that you were not accepted. There may be reasons beyond your control: schools have more applicants than spaces to accept highly qualified applicants. Sometimes, there may be financial obstacles at the university or at the program of your choice. In some instances, your potential advisor may not have spots available for the year that you apply. Keep in mind that it is not the final result of your life, it is only a setback for now.
In some instances, it is difficult to accept the outcomes especially when you do not have another plan because of your certainty that you would get in. Some of us put all our eggs in one basket without looking at other options that may come along the way. It could be a lesson to be prepared for when plans do not go according to your desire. Perhaps, rejection is a good thing http://www.gradhacker.org/2012/10/18/why-rejection-is-a-good-thing/ You can experience some advantages to not starting graduate school at the current moment. There are persons who got rejected from graduate school and yet became successful with trying again or creating another path for their life http://time.com/money/4247684/famous-people-rejected-by-dream-colleges/?iid=sr-link1
There maybe be tears, screaming and other ways to de-stress with or without friends and family. Nevertheless, you need time to process what it all means and realign your goals or develop new ones. What do you do next? What is your new plan? Should you try again next year? If possible, should you ask what would make you more competitive next year? Was the program really a good fit? Is graduate school right for you? Should you re-apply to the same or different programs next year or the year after? What could considering a different career path? Do you really like research? Do you need add PhD, EdD, MA, MS, PsyD or any other acronyms to your name to accomplish your career goals?
Keep in mind that there is a life outside of graduate school. Perhaps not getting in at this time is an opportunity to learn about new activities. There would be more time for fun in whatever ways that you define it. It could be an opportunity to focus on your family or making a family. New plans for new adventures would be created. Maybe it is a chance to live abroad…a dream that you have been putting off. It could be a great time to practice meditation and other forms of relaxation after intense focus and preparation for graduate school. Or is it a time to get in touch with who are you outside of graduate school and academia?
The next step is deciding on whether or not to reapply depends on many factors. There are financial and time obligations involved. Financial commitment entails application fees, cost for travelling for interviews, retaking the GRE and paying for score reports, getting transcripts from all your higher education institutions or looking into student loans. Time is needed for reapplying, searching for schools and getting all elements of your application together. As said earlier, you need to consider if graduate school right for you. Or do you need a longer break to gain more experience in other non-academic or academic areas? Have you thought of where do you see yourself in 10-15 years? Are you someone who is self-motivated to complete the rigorous demands of a master’s or doctorate degree? If not, do you have the resources to boost your academic journey of less sleep and recreation, lots of reading, projects and assignments? If you have a family, can they relocate with you and can you cope with relocation costs?
How have you handled rejection from a graduate program or job of your dreams?
Did your goal change after the setback?
What advice would you give to someone who recently got rejected from graduate school?