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Rejected by your dream school? This is what you can do

how to handle rejections

Getting rejected hurts. After all that hard work, when you get that ‘we are sorry’ email from your dream school, it is not easy. So, what can you do now? The good news is – there is always a silver lining.

I know the feeling because I have been there. I got 9 rejection letters out of 10 when I applied for MS the first time. And 10th admit was from a university ranked lower than 80 and I don’t even know why I had applied there. So, of course, I decided not to go there and stayed back to work for a year. Next year, I was heading to UIUC for a MS in CS that admitted only 18 students. If I had gotten into a 20-30 ranked school the first year itself, I might have gone and probably missed the chance to be at UIUC. That is how I choose to look at my results.

And that wasn’t the only unfavorable result I had seen, when I applied to MBA programs the first year, I was rejected by them all! Couple of interviews but no final admit – it was heartbreaking and tough. I persisted, applied the second time around and got into NYU Stern! Frankly, I did a lot of introspection the second time around and had a much clearer vision for what I was looking for. And I can tell this with conviction, if I had received an admit in my first attempt, I would NOT have made the most of my MBA because I might have followed the herd, gotten into a stream that I am not that passionate about. When I joined NYU finally, I knew I wanted to work with startups only and had a plan of action. It helped me get a job offer after my first summer itself and I dropped out of the program saving one year of opportunity cost and MBA fee!

So, while our results page is full of glorious admits (which have even caught me by surprise), not every result is a positive one. I have a student who has great potential and he has not received admits at par with his capability. It happens sometimes even though you try your best to improve your success probability. In this post, I am going to talk about rejects and how to deal with them.

I shared my story above to just convey that rejects are not necessarily bad if you do not give up and if you learn from your past experiences. Most of the successful people I know have not been simply lucky, they are just better at dealing with negative results. Did you notice that I haven’t used the word ‘failure’ at all here? It is because these negative results are not a failure by any means. They are only telling you that you should try things differently and get better results. They are telling you to take a breather and punch back harder.

Frankly, I am the kind of person who punches back stronger when I am down. I know you are too. So, cast aside your doubts, ego-bruises and take some time off to relax. And, then get back to work – whatever it is that you need to do to leave these rejects behind.

What to do when you get rejected in your application?

First, let yourself feel disappointed and mourn a little. It’s okay – we need to let our emotions come out. Once you are feeling more composed, it is time to sit down and think of next steps. This is how I would go about it-

1. Re-evaluate your school list

If it is an early reject and you still have time to apply to more schools (assuming there are ones that you are motivated to go to), go for it.

2. Ask for feedback

Do not forget to email the school after you are officially rejected. It never hurts to express that you are disappointed – tell them how much you wanted to attend it. Ask them if they can pass any feedback and what else you can do to improve your candidacy in future. Remember to be polite and nice. It is not a good feeling to receive a reject but it doesn’t justify being nasty on your email. The whole point is to let them think about you in a positive light.

There have been times when the school tells that they could not admit a candidate simply because they did not have funds. That is good to know!

3. Figure your Plan B

We ask our clients to do this at the beginning itself because it forces you to think of alternatives. If the whole season is done and if you haven’t received an admit of your choice, you will have to decide whether and when to re-apply.

  1. If you have an admit that you are not too keen on (ideally, you should not have applied to such a school in the first place), you should request them to DEFER your admission. Not all schools will allow it but give it a try. It will give you a backup next time you apply.
  2. Should you re-apply? That is up to you. If you don’t have very long work-experience, it is always worth to re-apply at least once since you have done most of the work anyway. If you decide to re-apply, the most imp question is applying for Spring or waiting till next Fall. We covered pros and cons of Spring applications in another post.

4. Reflect why you got rejected

Now that your results are out and if you got rejected by seemingly safer schools, you must reflect on your applications and try to figure out what went wrong. Is it wrong selection of schools, weak LORs, rushed SOP that you were not feeling good about or what?

5. Consider working with a consultant if you reapply

We have worked with few people who were simply not good at writing SOPs or telling their stories. With our guidance, they were able to crack their desired schools in their next attempt. A good admissions consultant can easily help you there. It is worth paying an expert than spending another year and more money in your reapplications.


Our counseling is open for next season. Check out our counseling packages here.

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