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What do you do if rejected?


YosemiteTam
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I have applied to four schools and have not heard anything back from any of them. They are not elite schools, but rather ones where I was excited about the program. But like a lot of people I feel like every day that I hear nothing, the more I lose hope. So now I'm trying to deal with the question: What do I do if I am rejected from all the schools?

I graduated from undergrad in 2005 and my GPA was not great. I think it was a mixture of being young, and not having great study skills. I wasn't a slacker, I worked hard for my crappy GPA. My GRE score was okay. In short, I don't test well. I had good letters of rec, and I worked hard on my essay. I do not have any undergraduate research because it was not a focus of the Geology undergrad program at UCLA. I have had some relevant work experience in my time off school, and have had some teaching experience as well.

Since I can't change my GPA or my lack of undergrad research, what can I do to make my application stronger next year? Give up teaching and try to go back to the corporate world? Try to take some courses, or a volunteer position in my field? Do I take a different approach with my essay? Would any of it matter, or is it just hard times for grad programs? Any advice would be helpful, this waiting game is rough.

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I felt like you just described my situation. I haven't heard back from my programs either - I graduated in 06, average gpa, good letters and essay, but not a very strong undergrad background. I feel the strength in my application has been my work and volunteer experience out of school. So this past week, I've started to prepare myself for potential rejections and start coming up with alternate plans. The thing I must remind myself, is that graduate school is great, but life will be just fine without it too. I'm looking into some teaching english abroad programs, or even extension certificate programs out of state. It's also been helpful to get my mind off of checking my email, to just look around at other options. I'd start doing some online searches, and then you can feel a little more prepared in case school doesn't pan out. Don't lose hope either way though, you might still get in, or maybe find something even more fitting/fulfilling for you.

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What I had to do to make my application more attractive when I started applying to grad school--and from what I understand, it did work, I've certainly gone from a first-round rejection to a waitlist/last minute 'circumstances' toss so far--was go back to school and take more undergrad courses in my discipline. I just did them at my local university, although I have applied there in the past for grad school as well. Even if your GPA from undergrad isn't great, chalk up a few strong As and some fresh writing now and you look like a more committed student, which of course is what they want. I also stumbled across a research assistant opportunity when I went back, which certainly didn't hurt.

So if you want to apply again, that is my advice, which is secondhand because that's what I was advised to do.

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Also, don't get to worried about how late it is. The geoscience programs all seem to be late this year. I've only heard back from one school, and most of the people I know haven't heard back from anywhere. Some got one or two early rejections in February (I did), but most still seem to be waiting on 3-5 schools. I think they're just really slow this year, and I know at least one school is doing rolling admissions within the department. So while it's good to be working on an alternate plan, don't stress too much until you get rejections in print. In some disciplines, not hearing anything by now would almost certainly equate to rejections. Ours is not one of them.

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The wait is killer isn't? I've applied to 5 geoscience programs for my masters (VT, UMD, UFL, USF, and ND) and haven't heard anything back yet from any of them. From the corrospondence I had with them they all said they were making decisions hopefully by the first week of March, with the exception of VT who jsut said they were sending out offers from Feb-April. I felt my application was fairly strong but there is tough competition out there. If I end up not getting in I plan to try again next year, probaby retake my GREs to get them a little higher and see if I can't find a job in my field. Try to stay positive you haven't heard a no yet at least, but be prepared in case it is a no. Probably not the most helpful advice, but hey at least you aren't alone!

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Yup. I know of very few people who even have enough information to accept the offers that have managed to trickle out (they still want to know what the other schools are going to offer). We'll get there eventually.

In the meantime, YosemiteTam, you can take classes at a local uni or cc to improve your application. Can you boost your math skills, computer science (programming is important these days), GIS, etc. You might be able to register as a non-degree seeking grad student and pursue a certificate or just take courses that are relevant to your area of interest. Also, if you could take a volunteer or temporary geology-related position and get a reference from there, I'm sure that would be helpful too.

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I have a pretty horrible undergrad gpa and ok GRE scores (70th percentile, had a fever and a bad cold when I took them!). I've been out of school for several years and have been teaching high school. I also have a few graduate level courses with a much better gpa, though not in the subject subject I am going back to school for. I applied to 7 schools and have only heard back from 2, 1 rejection and 1 acceptance (my top choice!!). I think the primary reason I got in there was that I had several conversations with my now adviser and I was also able to get a recommendation letter from someone in the same field (only sent to that school). I highly doubt I will hear any good news form the other schools I applied to, not that I am too concerned now. I also did not contact professors much at any of the other schools.

So I guess my $0.02... if you don't make it this year, visit and speak with everyone you can at the schools you're interested in, get a letter of recommendation from someone in the same field you're interested in, and if possible, some more recent relevant work experience in the field.

My acceptance is proof that GPA isn't everything

Edited by stell4
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My undergrad GPA wasn't great either, a little lower than most programs require - but mostly because I was distracted by other activities and I had never considered grad school. This year I'm doing a 'qualifying' year, taking 3rd and 4th year classes at University of Toronto (where I did undergrad). Apparently it's pretty common and a lot of schools will primarily consider you based on that GPA, as long as you have other assets/experience. Maybe that's an option?

I haven't heard back yet either, but if I don't get in, I'm going to give it another shot. I think what I'd change in another round of applications is doing some more volunteer work, trying to get an interesting contract position in a related field, and spending more time on my portfolio and statement (tough to do while in school again full time and still working!).

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I agree it is a slow year and not to give up yet.

If you are rejected at a school, reach out to your POI to ask what the deficiencies in your application materials are and how you can put together a more competitive package for next year. I have found that most professors who have been willing to work with you on the applications package so far will also be willing to give you a little constructive criticism as well. You have to really steel yourself to be tough to go seek out criticism like that, but it can be worth it. These are the people who are evaluating grad student applications and will really know what it is you need to be more competitive.

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I agree it is a slow year and not to give up yet.

If you are rejected at a school, reach out to your POI to ask what the deficiencies in your application materials are and how you can put together a more competitive package for next year. I have found that most professors who have been willing to work with you on the applications package so far will also be willing to give you a little constructive criticism as well. You have to really steel yourself to be tough to go seek out criticism like that, but it can be worth it. These are the people who are evaluating grad student applications and will really know what it is you need to be more competitive.

I couldn't agree more. Brace yourself for what may be very honest criticism. But, this is the best way to know how to move forward. Believe me, I am there right now. I have heard some answers I may not have liked, but I have also heard some helpful ones.

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