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How to Cope with a Grad School Rejection Letter

written by: Ivy N. McQuain MBA•edited by: Amanda Grove•updated: 5/18/2011

You didn't get into your preferred graduate school, now what? Dust yourself off and try again, that's what! This article will help you cope with rejection and provide tips on getting into the right program.

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    You applied early. Your GPA was acceptable. Your essays were carefully crafted. Your recommendations were sound. But you still received a rejection letter from the graduate schools you applied to. Now, you feel lost and unsure if you should even pursue graduate school. Unfortunately, this is something that happens to millions of graduate school applicants but there is no need to give up just because you received that rejection letter.

    Let's put things in perspective...

    There are many reasons why you may have been rejected, and they don't necessarily mean you are not qualified. It could be that the school was losing it's funding. When you apply to a graduate school make sure the funding will last, at least while you are there. Another reason is that your targeted program may not have enough available faculty, or the program was just highly competitive and they did not have enough room for everyone. Of course, it is also possible that you may not have thoroughly expressed how you would fit into the program, either in your essay, through your selected references or in your interview.

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    What to Do After Rejection

    Get support. When you initially get your rejection letter, you may feel like your life is over. But it’s not. You just made a miscalculated step somewhere in your application process or you were victim of things out of your control. Either way you need to get support from family, friends or a professional in your targeted degree field.

    Thoroughly research your program. Researching the school, program and competition will help you determine if you are wasting your time or not. Many graduate schools have highly competitive business, medical and law programs so you have to be sure your information (from your application to your references) is perfect. So check, double check and then have someone check over you to make sure everything is accurate.

    Apply to more than one grad school. Unfortunately, many grad school hopefuls fail to apply to more than one school because of their passion for that school. This does not work and is not realistic, especially with more people returning to school to increase their marketability. So as you apply to your number one school choice also consider applying to smaller and privately held colleges in areas outside of your primary residence.

    Beef up your experience. This is important to understand that many graduate programs do not like to have applicants unless they are continuing from their undergraduate studies. They would also like to see applicants with some experience. If you want to get into a business program, then get some experience in business and this applies to all targeted programs outside of law and medical schools.

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    Develop a strong reference base. Never allow someone to be your reference letter or letter of recommendation if you have never seen them write or translate your work abilities. Many grad school applicants are defeated because their references are unable to effectively translate their strengths on paper. Be sure you have a deep connection with your reference because surface relationships always show up.

    Tailor your essay to fit the program. A one size fits all essay is never acceptable when you are applying to grad school. Each essay you write should reflect the school and your ability to learn, grow and develop in and out of that school's program.

    Remember, one rejection letter does not mean you can’t go to grad school. You have to be sure you research the program to make sure you are a fit for the program; apply to more than one school; learn more about your targeted industry and get to know your references. Most importantly, you have to pick yourself up and try again.