Competition for graduate school programs is intense. You might do everything right. You might have great letters of recommendation, write killer admissions essays and nail your interviews. Your GRE score, or MCAT score, or LSAT score might meet or exceed the requirements.
But even so, you may end up getting that dreaded rejection letter.
This can be a devastating process. But, let’s choose to focus on how you can make your come-back instead of dwelling on the rejection. The good news is that you have some options if you didn’t get accepted to your preferred graduate school program.
What To Do If You Get Rejected
First things first, give yourself a moment to heal. Be kind to yourself. Consider that the majority of students applying to graduate school programs will receive a letter of rejection. It is unfortunately a sign of the times. Competition these days is rife, and you are not alone in this experience.
The next step is to get some feedback. Contact the admissions office that reviewed your application. Ask them why you didn’t make the cut.
It sounds super intimidating, but feedback will help you determine your next move.
Do you have a plan B?
If you want to be successful, you need to be adaptable. Things won’t always go according to plan and when this happens, a backup is essential!
Plan B can go one of two ways. You either take the opportunity to improve your candidacy for your preferred program, or you choose to go in another direction entirely.
Search for graduate school alternatives
If you plan on re-applying, alternatives to graduate school should be aimed at strengthening your eligibility. Feedback will help direct you in this regard.
Depending on the weak points in your application, you might want to look out for any online degree programs or internships that would boost your eligibility.
Additionally, see if there are any relevant professional certificates you could obtain. All of these extras will help you gain relevant experience and strong letters of recommendation.
You may need to retake tests to improve your GRE, MSAT, or LSAT scores. If this is the case, be sure to factor in enough time to properly prepare for these.
If you decide to change your career path, do plenty of research! To narrow your search, consider where your strengths and passions lie and what work you are qualified for.
Find a graduate program that is the best fit for you
Following letters of rejection, it could be a good idea to reassess your preferred graduate program. Perhaps you simply weren’t suited to your first choice or maybe you aimed a bit too high. There is no shame in this.
You now have some time to consider alternative schools or graduate programs that are better suited to you. You might find something even better!
Identify your gaps and opportunities
Possessing an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses is very important moving forward.
Start by making a list of your qualifications and skillsets. Then, draw up a list of any extra qualifications that you can work towards in the interim. Again, consider any online degree programs or professional certificates that you could work towards that would boost your eligibility.
Keeping busy sends a message that you are hard-working, determined, and adaptable.
If you plan to apply again, revisit your application strategy. Think about how you can stand out within the pool of applicants. Consider where your strengths lie and how best to showcase them.
Improve your test scores: test prep resources
If your downfall was your GRE/MCAT/LSAT test score, now is the time to improve it.
Give yourself sufficient preparation time. Click on the following links to learn more about the various test prep resources.
Take a gap year to work and strengthen your profile
Other than acing your GRE/MCAT/LSAT scores, think about the various ways in which you can improve your chances in the year before applications open again.
How To Improve Your Chances
Work experience counts for a lot these days. If you are unable to study, consider joining the working world.
Research assistant positions will help you gain invaluable experience that will help you churn out a thesis when you make it to graduate school.
Internships can also provide you with skills that will aid you in a future graduate program. The experience they provide will also make you more hireable when you graduate.
If you work hard, these positions will provide you with strong letters of recommendation. A good recommendation letter helps a lot in both job and graduate school applications.
Finally, consider signing up for some online degree programs. There are plenty of extra modules you can add to your repertoire while you wait for applications to open up again.
Online degree programs will help you stand out and show that you have not been idle between applications.
If Not Grad School, Then What?
You might decide that grad school is not for you after all. If you still want to gain more experience and knowledge before entering the working world, consider branching out a bit.
Learn additional marketable skills through boot camps or by attending trade schools. Again, research what relevant professional certificates you can work towards while you figure out your next move. Professional certificates are always nice extras to add to your CV as they demonstrate versatility.
Things may not have gone according to plan, but it is by no means the end of the road for you. Do not let a rejection letter kill your motivation!
If you are determined to apply again, show the admissions team that you took every opportunity you could to improve your skillset. Work towards a killer GRE, MCAT, or LSAT score. Join an online degree program or get a professional certificate in something relevant.
If you can, join the working world, do some networking, and secure yourself some top-notch letters of recommendation to boost your application.
It may be cliché but many of the greatest success stories began with a rejection letter. Keep on striving for greatness!