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nixipixi

Rejection hurts

26 posts in this topic

Ok, I'll start by saying that in many ways I am very lucky. I know that. 

I got accepted to some of my top choices this season, and I am very excited to be starting a PhD this coming fall. However...

The rejection of some grad schools keeps me wondering...why wasn't I good enough? The issue seems even more absurd since I know for a fact that I am not a typical candidate for various reasons (I've also been told that by every interviewer/POI I had talked to), so I may not be everyone's 'cup of tea'.

My friends tell me I am being ridiculous... I got accepted to some of the best schools in the world and I am bothered by those which didn't. 

Will I ever be doomed to focus on the bad and not on the good? 

Has anyone experienced this type of feeling? could sure use some coping strategies.

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Honestly I think in time you will get over it. At undergrad I had the same confusion of being rejected from some places that really stung - not least because on top of your attachment to the school itself and the prospective course/advisors, you also start to imagine living in that city, attending the university etc. So a rejection crushes a whole imaginary world you created in your head and thus it seems like you lost something even though you never really had it.

Just try to focus on all the exiting things you can do to prepare for you PhD and avoid comparing wherever possible. It's ok to admit that rejection hurts, but ultimately your friends are right that you have to try to stop yourself from focussing on that and instead focus on the joy of being accepted anywhere at all (especially a top ranked school).

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You likely already know this, but:

Many times, professors look for prospective students with specific features that their lab needs at a particular time, which change yearly with the lab's focus and composition. If their lab has a student with an unusual strength/background/whatever who happens to be graduating and leaving this year, the professor may look for a new student with similar features. It doesn't reflect poorly on the other candidates who are vying for that same spot - no one can possibly have every strength or background or sets of experiences - it just is what it is, unfortunately.

So often it just really is all about being an unusually-shaped puzzle piece who just happens to fit the lab's or program's jigsaw needs at the right time, and the final selection genuinely is out of an outstanding pool of candidates of which include you.

Coping tool: know this, and then binge on a great tv series. :)

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One of my recommenders wrote to me after I notified her about my most recent rejection: "I'm sorry to hear that, XXXXXXX, but keep hope alive! Excellent candidates are supposed to receive rejections in this system. Remember your value."

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my coworker told me this today, life is a series of rejections, it's a part of life for everyone. hope you feel better :)

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I don't say this with any malice. But you are being ridiculous. In the future, you are going to face rejections that both have a tangible impact on your life/goals and hurt much, much more than not getting into one of many graduate programs. 

Perspective. It does a psyche good. 

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I've had a good share of rejections so here are my two cents: 

  1. Rejections, like coursework, are part of grad school and your academic career. You are going to be rejected so many times in the future that I can't even find a nice sugarcoat for it. You will submit articles that will get bluntly sent back. You will apply for grants that take months to prepare and one day you'll get the horrible letter. Every one of those rejections is going to hurt so, if you want to succeed, you will need to eventually develop some type of coping mechanism. I give myself chocolate. 
  2. Rejections hurt right now because they are too personal. Academia is too personal. You will see that you will be trained to behave like a professional but at the end of the day, you are leaving things aside to pursue this. Everybody knows this. I don't have kids, but friends of mine do and I can see how much at stake they have in their hands. So, of course it hurts! It's natural, it bothers us, but wondering about it, unfortunately, does not make us any good. 
  3. Take rejections as an opportunity. I was rejected from a program that I thought was the program. Great fit, great funding, and extended conversations over Skype with POI. I mean, I just knew it was my place in the world. I was rejected with that cold letter that gives no explanation. That pushed me to the program I am now and I couldn't be happier. I seriously doubt I would have come to this program if I hadn't been rejected in the other one. Also, a rejection is a chance to re-evaluate how you deal with life itself. In my case, I used to cry for a day or two. Then I figured that was a total waste of time so instead I would give myself a nice meal -any of my choosing- and tell my advisors once I had dealt with it. I am surprised of myself!
  4. Rejections are not shameful. I don't know about you right now, but I am always ashamed of telling my advisor that I didn't get a grant, again. I feel like the ugly duckling who never gets anything. She never made me feel that way and is always encouraging me to move on, but still, I am the only one of her students who didn't get even a tiny grant. This is the hardest part for me, but as I said, I learned to deal with it. 
  5. Being hurt is an emotional response. We cannot control what makes us angry or happy or sad. But we can control how to react and what to do with it. Yes, take your time to be blue, but don't make it your sole response. 

:) 

 

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I'll just say something: some people, in general, speak from the position of being in a program and dealing with disappointment, where others are speaking about getting rejected from programs or not getting any acceptances. These are two very different places and hindsight is 20/20. Some of us just wanna get in and worry about the trials of grad school and academia later. We know that grad school isn't always a happy place, but it'd be nice to at least get there first.

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17 minutes ago, Peanut said:

I'll just say something: some people, in general, speak from the position of being in a program and dealing with disappointment, where others are speaking about getting rejected from programs or not getting any acceptances. These are two very different places and hindsight is 20/20. Some of us just wanna get in and worry about the trials of grad school and academia later. We know that grad school isn't always a happy place, but it'd be nice to at least get there first.

I think @AP offered some good advice, and it sounds like you are quick to dismiss it simply because he or she is not in your shoes.

This piece of advice is key:

1 hour ago, AP said:

 

  1. Being hurt is an emotional response. We cannot control what makes us angry or happy or sad. But we can control how to react and what to do with it. Yes, take your time to be blue, but don't make it your sole response. 

:) 

 

Whether you didn't get into any grad schools, you got denied a grant, you got dumped by a long-term partner, or whatever, this piece of advice *always* applies. It is tempting to think "this isn't fair," "why do I have to go through this", etc.. And on one hand it's natural and healthy. But you can't keep that outlook forever or else you'll never move on. You need to remember that this one thing doesn't define you, that there are lots of other options left in life. 

I've made big mistakes before. There is a strong desire to wallow in them. I think that comes from a place of desperation, where we want very badly to change what has happened. The unfortunate truth is that you can't change what has happened. The other, amazing truth is that you have the rest of your life ahead of you to not repeat your mistakes and to accomplish things that will make you proud of yourself. That might mean reexamining your goals, wants, and needs. There's no shame in that. It's easy to miss the meaning in the cliche "don't take life so seriously," but what I've written here is what it means to me.

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26 minutes ago, 2017 Applicant said:

I think @AP offered some good advice, and it sounds like you are quick to dismiss it simply because he or she is not in your shoes.

This piece of advice is key:

Whether you didn't get into any grad schools, you got denied a grant, you got dumped by a long-term partner, or whatever, this piece of advice *always* applies. It is tempting to think "this isn't fair," "why do I have to go through this", etc.. And on one hand it's natural and healthy. But you can't keep that outlook forever or else you'll never move on. You need to remember that this one thing doesn't define you, that there are lots of other options left in life. 

I've made big mistakes before. There is a strong desire to wallow in them. I think that comes from a place of desperation, where we want very badly to change what has happened. The unfortunate truth is that you can't change what has happened. The other, amazing truth is that you have the rest of your life ahead of you to not repeat your mistakes and to accomplish things that will make you proud of yourself. That might mean reexamining your goals, wants, and needs. There's no shame in that. It's easy to miss the meaning in the cliche "don't take life so seriously," but what I've written here is what it means to me.

@AP had great advice. I'm not dismissing them. I'm talking about posters in general on here. Although most posters mean well, I do think that thinking about perspective is important, however, because not everyone has been to grad school and has past experiences to reflect on. Someday, maybe we will. Grad school is a place where many of us want to be and have tried to be, and have failed basically. Many of us don't have the experience or the privilege to say "ok, this is how I felt at this time in my life. Now I feel this way still, even though I'm where I wanted to be years ago." Not that exactly, but I think this goes for everyone who can look back. Some of us can only look forward. It's not a criticism of posters. It's just a product of where we are in our careers. I'll say the same thing about my professors who made it through grad school and who now have jobs in academia: good job, you made it. I see that there will always be troubles. But...you got there. You still made it. Some of us haven't even gotten there and we don't know if we will.

I'll also say that if I ever make it into grad school, I will never again understand what it's like for an applicant who hasn't gotten in. I may be like "well, it took me a couple tries, but eventually...." okay. An applicant who gets rejection after rejection doesn't even know if they'll get in "eventually." It's the uncertainty that sucks more than anything. People told me, "oh, you're an excellent applicant. You'll get in!" and then I didn't. It's a total crapshoot.

Edited by Peanut

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51 minutes ago, Peanut said:

@AP had great advice. I'm not dismissing them. I'm talking about posters in general on here. Although most posters mean well, I do think that thinking about perspective is important, however, because not everyone has been to grad school and has past experiences to reflect on. Someday, maybe we will. Grad school is a place where many of us want to be and have tried to be, and have failed basically. Many of us don't have the experience or the privilege to say "ok, this is how I felt at this time in my life. Now I feel this way still, even though I'm where I wanted to be years ago." Not that exactly, but I think this goes for everyone who can look back. Some of us can only look forward. It's not a criticism of posters. It's just a product of where we are in our careers. I'll say the same thing about my professors who made it through grad school and who now have jobs in academia: good job, you made it. I see that there will always be troubles. But...you got there. You still made it. Some of us haven't even gotten there and we don't know if we will.

I'll also say that if I ever make it into grad school, I will never again understand what it's like for an applicant who hasn't gotten in. I may be like "well, it took me a couple tries, but eventually...." okay. An applicant who gets rejection after rejection doesn't even know if they'll get in "eventually." It's the uncertainty that sucks more than anything. People told me, "oh, you're an excellent applicant. You'll get in!" and then I didn't. It's a total crapshoot.

I was about to make an initial statement in my post saying something along the lines of "I know some will not like my words because I'm already in...". @Peanut my post responded to @nixipixi need to vent about rejections, even though they got an acceptance. As you can see, I do not post on the rejections topics because it is not my place there to say "everything will be alright". In those threads, people just want to get it out of their system and I would be there for a friend who just wanted to be upset about a rejection. This post was different because it went beyond that initial phase.

On a secondary note, I disagree with your statement that because I (or anyone) is already in, I cannot be in your shoes (even though I was). Human empathy does not require previous experience on the same exact matter or present-day experience on it. (And it is often the case that works better from people that have gone through what you are going through. Eg: any addict support group). The uncertainty of not knowing sucks for everyone.  I wish I could tell you it is just a grad school admission thing, but it happens with every little thing around the world, and my post was aiming at that big picture. You are right to say that thatprecise uncertainty -the one of a particular person not know if they would get in anywhere- is daunting and too personal. I wasn't trying to minimize this feeling. I hope you understand that I was referring to rejections as a general fact of life.

Finally, do I see an acceptance in your signature? Congrats! I hope it's one of your top choices. 

 

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45 minutes ago, AP said:

I was about to make an initial statement in my post saying something along the lines of "I know some will not like my words because I'm already in...". @Peanut my post responded to @nixipixi need to vent about rejections, even though they got an acceptance. As you can see, I do not post on the rejections topics because it is not my place there to say "everything will be alright". In those threads, people just want to get it out of their system and I would be there for a friend who just wanted to be upset about a rejection. This post was different because it went beyond that initial phase.

On a secondary note, I disagree with your statement that because I (or anyone) is already in, I cannot be in your shoes (even though I was). Human empathy does not require previous experience on the same exact matter or present-day experience on it. (And it is often the case that works better from people that have gone through what you are going through. Eg: any addict support group). The uncertainty of not knowing sucks for everyone.  I wish I could tell you it is just a grad school admission thing, but it happens with every little thing around the world, and my post was aiming at that big picture. You are right to say that thatprecise uncertainty -the one of a particular person not know if they would get in anywhere- is daunting and too personal. I wasn't trying to minimize this feeling. I hope you understand that I was referring to rejections as a general fact of life.

Finally, do I see an acceptance in your signature? Congrats! I hope it's one of your top choices. 

 

Yes, I understand. I thought that your initial comment was very good at putting rejection into perspective and comparing academia to things outside of academia. I'm in no way saying that people who were once in my shoes can't be empathetic, but I am saying that grad students and grads/professors have the gift of certainty in terms of being in a program and hindsight in terms of being able to reflect. I have the gift of certainty with college; 5 years ago I was a wreck waiting for undergrad schools to get back and I didn't know what was gonna happen. I thought that the world was gonna end because I didn't have a concrete plan. Now I think "well, now I'm in a different place and I'm facing new struggles." People in the workplace will probably always feel this way, especially when it comes to job security. I could go to an undergrad forum and give some good advice to some kids in agony, and I'll have a certain understanding of that, but I also have the sort of "bias" or whatever because I've been where they're trying to go. Again, this doesn't mean that advice from me wouldn't be helpful or that I wouldn't be empathetic. That being said, I think that everyone's struggles are relative and they all should be acknowledged as valid, so someone struggling to get into grad school and someone struggling to get a job or to get grants have something in common. We're all at different places.

I got one acceptance last year, but it was to a MA program with minimal funding in a very expensive city, so I decided not to attend. The decision not to attend ended up being for the better because now I'm really glad that I didn't go to grad school right away. Hindsight is a gift because only now do I understand that the choice not to attend was a good one. 1 year ago if you had told me this, I would have called you crazy because I was hellbent on going to grad school.

 

Edited by Peanut

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I also feel this way. I got one acceptance and two rejections, still waiting on 4 more schools. As much as I told myself I wouldn't care about rejections as soon as I got accepted, it still REALLY HURTS to be rejected. It makes me question why I was accepted into the one school in the first place--was it just a fluke? It's a huge blow to your confidence.  I think if I only get in to the one school my confidence will be a lot lower than it would be even with two acceptances. I don't think you're being ridiculous, and it's a tad unfair of others to say so.

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28 minutes ago, hlsny said:

I also feel this way. I got one acceptance and two rejections, still waiting on 4 more schools. As much as I told myself I wouldn't care about rejections as soon as I got accepted, it still REALLY HURTS to be rejected. It makes me question why I was accepted into the one school in the first place--was it just a fluke? It's a huge blow to your confidence.  I think if I only get in to the one school my confidence will be a lot lower than it would be even with two acceptances. I don't think you're being ridiculous, and it's a tad unfair of others to say so.

Just because you and OP have the same emotional reaction to a similar situation (your situations don't appear all that similar) does not mean that OP's reaction is automatically warranted. It is possible both of you are being ridiculous.

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8 hours ago, Entangled Phantoms said:

I don't say this with any malice. But you are being ridiculous. In the future, you are going to face rejections that both have a tangible impact on your life/goals and hurt much, much more than not getting into one of many graduate programs. 

Perspective. It does a psyche good. 

I wanted to say something like this but I wasn't sure how to do so politely. I'm not sure this was quite right either. I've noticed a lot of young people, especially the typical college-aged person these days, has very little experience of rejection, so I don't think they are as well equipped to deal with it. The changes to the K12 environment, helicopter parenting, "everyone gets a trophy" attitudes, class-level entitlement, the general privilege of the average poster on these forums, etc. I think it's a lot more complicated than "get some perspective." But I don't have the solution either. The title of this thread is correct "rejection hurts," but some of us have a lot of life experience which lends perspective and the ability to manage emotions and others don't. I try to remember that this is the type of person I'm chatting with here on these forums, and that the differences between us aren't going to be rectified by posts over the internet.

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8 minutes ago, redikulus said:

I wanted to say something like this but I wasn't sure how to do so politely. I'm not sure this was quite right either. I've noticed a lot of young people, especially the typical college-aged person these days, has very little experience of rejection, so I don't think they are as well equipped to deal with it. The changes to the K12 environment, helicopter parenting, "everyone gets a trophy" attitudes, class-level entitlement, the general privilege of the average poster on these forums, etc. I think it's a lot more complicated than "get some perspective." But I don't have the solution either. The title of this thread is correct "rejection hurts," but some of us have a lot of life experience which lends perspective and the ability to manage emotions and others don't. I try to remember that this is the type of person I'm chatting with here on these forums, and that the differences between us aren't going to be rectified by posts over the internet.

If OP fit this demographic, I would not have said anything. My generation is pretty hopeless and I try to avoid posts where people suffer from special snowflake syndrome.

OP described his/her situation, and from what limited information we have, I believe it is reasonable to conclude that his/her friends have a point. I am not trying to rectify anything. 

 

 

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I was crying the whole day after receiving my rejection letter:( I still feel sad now 

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Many thanks to all those who participated in this discussion (except @CoyoteBlue, who simply dished out her own frustration...not cool)

especially @AP for your sound advice and logical reasoning and also to @Entangled Phantoms for "giving it to me straight". 

To clarify, I got over it and am moving on. Had to mope for a few days because I have faced quite a few rejections in the past (significant and not) but this one was unique: I got to the interview phase, I thought it went really well, and I got my hopes up....mistake. I understand there are many factors for choosing the "right" grad student and I simply did not fit that square. That's fine.

All in all I think everyone is entitled to mope for a bit for valid reasons and less valid reasons. I may not always agree or understand...but I try not to judge too swiftly.

 

Good luck everyone, hope there are a lot of admits in your future (you too @CoyoteBlue)

Cheers.

 

 

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4 hours ago, nixipixi said:

Many thanks to all those who participated in this discussion (except @CoyoteBlue, who simply dished out her own frustration...not cool)

Yeah .... I would probably think twice about calling people out over their reaction to your post. 

First off, no one is judging you. I think everybody here in on board with the fact that people have human reactions to adverse events. The question is whether it is a little unseemly for someone to broadcast their frustration about the end of a one month relationship while within earshot of a widow/widower at their spouse's funeral. Are you really surprised that there are some grieving folks yelling at you? 

Now if you want to starting a venting/moping thread for people having great application cycles, I will be the first to join. There are some interviewers at Princeton I'd love to give a piece of my mind ....

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On 02/18/2017 at 9:07 AM, nixipixi said:

@CoyoteBlue@AP@Entangled Phantoms

To clarify, I got over it and am moving on. Had to mope for a few days because I have faced quite a few rejections in the past (significant and not) but this one was unique: I got to the interview phase, I thought it went really well, and I got my hopes up....mistake. I understand there are many factors for choosing the "right" grad student and I simply did not fit that square. That's fine.

@CoyoteBlueA

Sometimes you did fit the square but there is simply no space. It is possible to have everything they want but still not get selected. So remember that.

I am currently waitlisted at UCB and my colleagues are telling me congrats and I was like, "no, I might not get in." But then I said, okay I will accept their congrats; it reminded me to celebrate every milestone along the path of the journey.

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On 2/17/2017 at 6:02 AM, Peanut said:

@AP had great advice. I'm not dismissing them. I'm talking about posters in general on here. Although most posters mean well, I do think that thinking about perspective is important, however, because not everyone has been to grad school and has past experiences to reflect on. Someday, maybe we will. Grad school is a place where many of us want to be and have tried to be, and have failed basically. Many of us don't have the experience or the privilege to say "ok, this is how I felt at this time in my life. Now I feel this way still, even though I'm where I wanted to be years ago." Not that exactly, but I think this goes for everyone who can look back. Some of us can only look forward. It's not a criticism of posters. It's just a product of where we are in our careers. I'll say the same thing about my professors who made it through grad school and who now have jobs in academia: good job, you made it. I see that there will always be troubles. But...you got there. You still made it. Some of us haven't even gotten there and we don't know if we will.

I'll also say that if I ever make it into grad school, I will never again understand what it's like for an applicant who hasn't gotten in. I may be like "well, it took me a couple tries, but eventually...." okay. An applicant who gets rejection after rejection doesn't even know if they'll get in "eventually." It's the uncertainty that sucks more than anything. People told me, "oh, you're an excellent applicant. You'll get in!" and then I didn't. It's a total crapshoot.

This.

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On 2/16/2017 at 0:37 AM, Peanut said:

One of my recommenders wrote to me after I notified her about my most recent rejection: "I'm sorry to hear that, XXXXXXX, but keep hope alive! Excellent candidates are supposed to receive rejections in this system. Remember your value."

A very encouraging message from your recommender! :) 

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