(Mastering) The Art of Getting Rejected



Getting rejected from a university of your choice will probably leave you feeling anything but ecstatic.  Even though it isn’t exactly the world’s greatest scenario, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it ought to be an outright despairing experience. Read Sarah Teja’s story on how she swallowed her bitter pill and climbed back up.


“Your application has been unsuccessful”

After seeing that UCAS status, my heart sunk in disappointment.  Frankly, it was not a huge surprise to me.  This is not because I have been gifted with perfect foresight, but walking out of that Maths C4 paper exam I remember thinking to myself, “There goes my A grade.”  (As all university applications were made before exam results are published, the majority of the offers would be conditional on certain grades that students must achieve, e.g. AAA).

I was just hoping for a miraculous twist of fate so that somehow I could still end up being accepted in my top choice of university.  If the odds are in your favour, some universities might be lenient and still accept you. But, at the time, luck was simply not on my side.


Don’t Be (Too) Disheartened

Bawl as much as you need.  It is normal to be disappointed upon hearing such an unhappy news (especially after all those efforts you’ve put into your application!).  However, there’s little use in dwelling in sadness for too long.  Getting rejected isn’t really the end of the world.  Just because one door has been closed for you, it doesn’t mean that there are none left for you to open. For example, the United States of America has around 4,140 universities.  This means that getting rejected by a university still leaves you with a superfluous number of university options to choose from.

Although this might be a contentious idea, I believe that university application process is not far from being stochastic.  No one knows for certain what type of applicants will be accepted to a university, even the world’s best students are unable to escape the risk of getting rejected.

Admissions officers has nothing against you personally by giving out rejection letters.  Sometimes, it may just be the case that you don’t fit the picture that they have in their minds.


Stay Open-Minded

Oftentimes, people would immediately dislike the idea of going to a university that is not their penultimate dream, and this includes me as well.  It was not that there was not any fall-back plan, it was just that I simply never bothered to think that I would ever go there.

Something was holding me back from accepting my insurance offer. I could not quite picture myself thriving in that university, and that alone was enough to push me to look for other options.  So, instead of considering your alternatives only after receiving the rejection from your preferred university, try to really think about it as an option prior to the announcement.


Building Back Your Confidence

Self-doubt is just a by-product of getting rejected.  Fresh after being rejected, the notion that “I wasn’t good enough” kept echoing in my head and the fear of being inferior to others crept up on me.  Starting university, I was utterly convinced that maths was not my forte (cheers to that C4 paper) and I tried to steer clear of any modules with any traces of math.  However, that strategy of mine fell through because reading Economics at university level indubitably involves a lot of maths – and I do mean a lot.

Determined to overcome my irrational fear, I took a leap of faith by choosing the notoriously-challenging Econometrics stream.  Even though there were times when I felt out of place in the midst of all of my bright peers, on balance I felt tremendously motivated to do my best.  By doing so, regardless of the outcome in the end, I felt that there was really no room for regrets. Calm and poised were signs, that I did not focus too much on the finish line, but instead on the process.  The little things, the good, the bad, the journey as a whole.


Success is How High You Bounce When You Hit Bottom

Posting your acceptance letter to social media accounts is not uncommon, but putting your rejection letter out there for the rest of the world to see has yet to become a trend.  Is it because that it is often perceived as somewhat a form of public humiliation?

When a professor, Johannes Haushofer, from Princeton University posted his ‘CV of failures’ online, I was profoundly struck both by his bravery and even more so by what’s written inside. I wouldn’t have imagined that it would be filled with multiple rejections from reputable universities.  Come on, this guy works at Princeton, natural habitat of the crème de la crème.  Nevertheless, this shows that that no matter where you are at in life, such as at the point of just getting rejected, you should never allow yourself to think that that is the end and life suddenly becomes purposeless. It might have felt as if you hit rock-bottom after being declined a place at a university, but as George Patton once said, success is about how high you bounce when you hit bottom.

So, the question remains: are you willing to bounce back?


Photo provided by author. 


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