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The last month: 100% rejections, every school, internship, scholarship and fellowship, job


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I've been applying to tons of things with tons of backup plans. Many jobs in the public and private industry, grad schools, internships, scholarships and fellowships, and I've been rejected from 100% of them. Two rounds of grad schools all rejected, nothing but skill building in the past year.

Before all this, I had pretty good confidence, after seeking advice from several career advisers, mentors, supervisors at a previous internship. People were certain I had a great chance. They looked over my documents, pointed out weaknesses for me to fix, which I did, and they nodded their heads saying that it all looks great. The grad school aim might have been high, but, the internships and job applications were not aiming high. To rub it in, a coworker ended up getting the very same internship I was shooting for, so I get to work with him while he's excited about his opportunity. His qualifications were less, too.

It's just hard for me to even function anymore. I've been going at this for 2 years, hundreds of job applications, grad school applications, polishing the resume, building a portfolio, making personal visits to departments and jobs I'm interested in, even if it includes flying out of state and arranging an interview, doing research with the department here, doing teaching at the local university (love the teaching, hate the univ and city, everyone loves how I teach, though, and I've been getting stellar evaluations). I was a very different person 6 weeks ago. I was filled with confidence that something, even the risky "everything else failed" backup plans would pan out, but, in the last week, the last doors have closed. The last 6 weeks have been constant pitfalls, just adding to the years of constant rejection. After graduating with honors in AE, I've yet to see any sort of moving forward whatsoever. I'm already 25 and I don't even have my master's degree yet. I was planning on at least having some job experience in something other than an internship, but nothing has worked out. I've searched for jobs all over the country, government and non government, large and small companies, and out of the country: UK, Netherlands, Australia.

Sorry, just venting. Don't mind me.

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Oh man, that is a lot to handle at once. You sound like you have some great skills. Don´t lose hope or your confidence. You are qualified. You have particular skills to share with the world. You seem to have intrinsic motivation for a particular path. That´s a great advantage in the game of life. Many people don´t even really figure out what direction they want to move in until they are 30 or later. Don´t let age bother you. Sometimes it takes a while to accomplish the things we really want. It´ll will be sweeter when you do accomplish them after having worked your butt off and you´ll probably appreciate it more. Perhaps, this waiting period until the next round also allows you time to do something you have always wanted to or develop another aspect of yourself. Learn a new language, pick up a new sport/hobby, start a small business/non-profit, etc. Getting into a solid career is difficult at this time just about everywhere in the world and sometimes even when we do everything right it doesn´t work out. Complain and get it out. Or if you are like me shed some tears. Then move on and forward. You don´t have to be defined by past rejections. The future is still a blank page.

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I know it's tough to look on the positive side, but if you look at this as a skill-building exercise in perseverance, you'll most certainly have the strength and the experience to deal with setbacks in whatever program/job you enter with grace and with maturity, and that will be crucial to your experience as a student and/or employee. I mean, people sometimes think that once you get into grad school, it's a cakewalk from there, but there will be tons of difficult obstacles that you will have to face and overcome once you're in, and you will most certainly be qualified to tackle any difficulty you may face!

Also, next year will be different from any other year. Your cohort will be different, you will have more experience, and you never know what funding opportunities, professors deciding to accept new students or job openings may be out there that simply weren't before. That's the maddening, yet comforting thing about grad school admissions; success will vary widely from year to year, even if you gave the same exact application to the same exact school for the same exact research focus. Never give up hope!

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I am so sorry to hear that! The same thing happened to me last summer, but obviously on a much smaller scale. You sound like a great person and worker who has had some really bad luck. I hope that all these doors are closing because you're meant to find something better! Keep us posted?

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Maybe you were doing too much? You already seem pretty accomplished but I can't even imagine juggling a job and grad applications (and scholarships/fellowships too!) alongside JOB and internship applications in the same go. Focusing on just grad school apps is hectic and time consuming enough.

Just relax and try to take things one step at a time. It will be okay. :) Best of luck!

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^ I totally agree. The one thing that employers, ad comms and fellowship committees want to see in an ideal applicant is focus. They want to know that you are fully interested in and committed to what they are about, and you're doing everything you possibly can to enter that field. When you try to take on too many things at one time, you start to lose focus on what it is that you love to do. It's bad for the person reviewing your application, but more importantly, it's bad for your professional development. Don't give up at all; take this as an opportunity to think through your passion(s) and career goal and how the two intertwine.

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Not to diminish what you're feeling, because of course you have a right to feel it. But you're "ALREADY" 25? Oh honey. I didn't have my master's until I was 27, and that was 10 years ago. I'll start work on my PhD this fall, at age 37. You're not old, you've got time, and maybe what you need to do is step back for a few years and just focus on a few things at a time. Life experience can give you a huge edge, on a number of levels.

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^ I agree, but at the same time, I understand how he/she feels.. I'm younger than the op, but when you're in your early/mid 20s, you think you're running out of time for everything, and that there's no way to do it all later.

That, and I think some people would rather do school in succession and be finished with it earlier rather than later (parental, social, etc pressure). However, unfortunately, many grad schools are insistent on dismissing younger applicants as not worthy enough.

To the op - I am so sorry, that is really difficult to deal with. I imagine you spent lots of mentally-excruciating time and energy on these applications. However, keep going at it. Never give up. Ask around and see if anyone you know has some sort of connection that could help you. Focus on fewer things too - pick the things you REALLY want and put all of your energy into that. Otherwise, you run risk of spreading yourself too thin.

Edited by laviola
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Only been in your boat a year so I get the feeling of frustration, self-doubt and hopelessness... At least you've had skill building whereas I've been sitting around home dediting my resume until I feel sick looking at it for the past year. As with me keep trying, if you have medical try to keep yourself healthy and so on.

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Sometimes life gives you some hard knocks, and it isn't really your fault. I don't know if doing that many things made you lose focus, but I'm guessing not since your mentors etc. liked your application materials. It could be that you were just unlucky (b/c the programs you applied to had perfect candidates or whatever).

Try not to get too discouraged. If you give up, you'll never get there. Maybe next year apply to some master's programs (there's still time for some of them this year) or apply to some lower ranked schools.

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You should also check out the "how old are you" thread a few threads back. You'll see stories of people who are doing their PhDs in their 30s, 40s, 50s...etc. some of them have similar stories to you and others have their own unique ones. I'm personally in my 30s and I'm only applying to my PhD now. I only applied to 2 schools and may not get in this year. That won't mean this year is a waste.. it's just a year to let myself publish more, go to more conferences, and study my field more.

If I can attempt a horrible analogy I would say grad school isn't really like undergrad where it's a licence just to get on the highway and drive forward...don't think about grad school as a driver-licence but more like truck/motorcycle-licence... you can still always move forward in life with what you have and when you're ready (and lucky) you'll find a program that has the right fit as you move forward in your new vehicle. But you're always moving forward on the highway - it's just which vehicle you do it in.

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Sorry to hear how difficult it has been for you. I worry that my kids will face similar difficulties when they look for jobs. Just to echo other posters - try not to let it discourage you too much. Keep applying, you certainly sound qualified! Good luck!

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I understand how you feel, and I think it's perfectly natural. I'm glad you vented your feelings instead of keeping it all inside. The only advice I can give is... be kind to yourself, and be patient about regaining your self-confidence.

Try not to get too discouraged. If you give up, you'll never get there. Maybe next year apply to some master's programs (there's still time for some of them this year) or apply to some lower ranked schools.

I think this is a great idea.

This is what I did--after 7 years out of undergrad, I applied to a local state university (as in not flagship) to do my Master's. Not only was it cheap, but admission to the program was not an issue, I had a great cohort (people I still talk to and hang out with), and I have a thesis to show for it. The professors are not *superstars* in the field, but they are not slackers, either. My thesis adviser, an assistant professor, regularly published, presented at conferences, and had an active grant-funded research program.

So, what did it do for me? First, I was able to use my thesis as my writing sample. Second, the experience of doing the research and writing the thesis allowed me to write convincingly in my SOP about my future research interests and career aspirations. Third, I got three letters of recommendation from professors who were directly involved in my program and thesis. Fourth, I demonstrated that I could obtain a 4.0 GPA (I had to take graduate-level courses in Chemical Engineering!). Along with strong GRE scores, I think I was prepared for a successful application season (3 acceptances, 1 wait list, and 0 rejections).

By the way, despite going to a top private university for undergrad, I didn't feel like going to this local state university was beneath me--there are great people at "lower-ranked" schools, too!

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I'll tell you what my English teacher told me today:

"You don't get applauded enough. Seriously!"

Just keep working towards what you love and never give up.

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It's good you're getting it out of your system & into the "open"--It's one step to processing all of your emotions so that you can decide your next step. Like everyone else said, definitely don't give up because you do certainly sound qualified, motivated & disciplined.. You will get in, just keep trying.

Besides with all the doors shut (for now), another door will open. It always does. Whether you go out and actively try something or you just happen to bump into it, things will be okay. :)

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I feel you. I have been in a similar situation and have, at times, felt at the bottom of despair.

Don't give up. I try to think of historical figures or personal heroes whose trademark was persistence even in the face of adversity. I know that when looking at abstract stories of others can be a bit difficult since we are faced with superficial values all around us. The thing that has made it so much harder for me is that I define my self worth through accomplishments. I have been working on redefining myself to something more healthy for years, but it is a daily struggle. I had no idea that I did that until I fell from success. To make things worse, I think it is really reinforced by TV, a weird abundance of bullsheet articles in normally legitimate journals about our generation being bums because we're unemployed and have to live at home (the lamestream media, haha), and facebook friends bragging and exaggeration about how well they are doing.

Still, for the past few years, I have been focusing on genuinely keeping up my confidence, not just superficially being confident, and it has really helped. Though my situation still has a way to go, it has improved and I know it will continue to improve because I am opening myself up to more opportunities than I did at my bottom. And I am just happier in general. Just know that you are not alone and that it will get better. It could be tomorrow or in a few years, but you will be where you want to be if you keep at it. And I agree with Ameonna. When it happens for you, you will be in a better position to deal with the hardships that come with that success and graduate school.

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It's really hard to gauge what I need to do to fix it, I suppose. I mean, if I had a string of successes and failures, I would have some sort of metric on which to hone my application technique. But, even with simple engineering jobs, I'm just not getting in anywhere. I've gone everywhere from super formal and reserved cover letters to really striking and "in your face" cover letters that are designed to just get a phone call.

It also doesn't help that I absolutely hate living here, but it feels irresponsible of me to just move somewhere else without an actual plan (read: job, means to sustain myself). I'm only here because it's where I have a part time job and some research, working towards some papers. I hate every minute of it, though. It might be because it now just reminds me of the years I've tried to get out of here. It's strange. I mean, just 6 weeks ago I was really enjoying it here, but, like you said, rowlf, it might just be because that happiness was false, and based on the hope that things will get better and I won't be here forever.

But, now, every last plan fell through. Since I started this thread, I applied to more positions, but, I've already been turned down a few more times.

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I know what it feels like to be stuck.

I've been there where every last plan fell through, and it seemed like the universe was against me. Everytime I got up again, it seemed like something conspired against me. I felt stuck in my little "nowhere" town, doing something I liked, but not something that was long term. I worried that I didn't possess the attributes or the talents to work my way out of it. I worried if I did get out of it, that I would be knocked down again. After all I did have about 4 straight years of setbacks whenever I made progress.

I've stopped seeing life as a series of finish lines, but rather as a journey. I feel like getting into graduate school (with funding!) was a long-awaited break, and this opportunity will be what I make of it. I don't worry about being the best anymore (like I did in high school and much of college). I focus on being the best person I can be. Integrity, patience, and gratitude have replaced perfectionism at the top of my value pyramid. In the past couple of years especially, I've taken pride in being a good friend. I've stopped seeing life as a competition, and my life has improved ever since. I have better friends. I have a deeper sense of empathy. These past couple years of detour have been anything but fruitless.

Your situation is different, of course. I hope you aren't stuck in your current situation for a few years like I was. Although it has had its upside, it has been frustrating because at times I've felt like I was always waiting for my life to really begin. I had more than one "crash and burn" takeoff, so I know how disheartening they can be. The only advice I can offer is to focus on the things you do have that you most appreciate, but don't give up on your dreams. I truly believe that things will get better for you.

Re-posted to cut down on novella length!

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Hey I'm really sorry to hear that. It might just be me, but I think what you need are some answers now. Specifically, why all the rejections when it seems that you have done everything in your capacity to make yourself as attractive a candidate as possible. It probably won't work for your job applications, but have you considered calling up some of the grad schools and asking for the rejection reasons? Some won't give you a straight answer, but some might. I'll suggest calling the admissions chair/POIs directly and find out why. At the very least, if you choose to try again, you won't be searching your way in the dark, and you'll know how to improve your application profile. Remember, you can always try again!

Edited by Ken Koh
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I've tried messaging, but I've never gotten a response. The entire last week has been a recovery week for me, with, unfortunately, a completely empty email box. I'm kind of afraid to post any stats here, because, the last time I did it (in chat here) I was accused of trolling, since they didn't believe that I'd be rejected with those stats. I guess some people aren't fully aware of just how bad the job market is, right now.

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