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What Do Acceptance and Rejection Mean to Us?


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The following two to three weeks, a lot of us will receive emails from schools, and many years of our life will have more certainty. Either we receive acceptance letter, and go for grad school; or, we receive rejection letter, and start a new way of life. This is clear. What is not clear, is what does it mean for us personally.

Certainly, acceptance means recognition. It means the school believes that you can help it, and do well there. There is no doubt about that. Now, many will infer that rejection means disapproval, including me. Regardless how strong and rational we claim we are, deeply, we feel rejection means disapproval. Like many have described in this forum, it is like a relationship. There could many potential suitors, and you know that. But, as long as you want to be genuine and loyal, it always hurts to be rejected. We are just as fragile as it is.
I applied for PhD program in Finance, and today received yet another rejection letter. Disappointing. It is a school that I visited, and I even talked with the admission staff and students there. Very beautiful campus. Such vivid experience only makes the pain more tangible. However, I know one thing: I did not really get to know the scholars there well. They need someone that can help them in their specific field, and it could well be that I am not the one they think that can do the job, compared with other candidates. Education at doctorate level is about contribution to school, not the other direction. We know it, because we got paid to do PhD, not the other way around any more.

The question is what is the message of rejection: does the rejection mean that we are not qualified for the job? Certainly no. It is the opinion of schools, and we all know for certain that schools are not always right. By monetary measure, Harvard dropout makes more money that the one who completed, and hundreds of others who did not go to prestige schools ends up with purposeful and successful life, such as Steve Jobs, and many other entrepreneurs. Academic achievement seems to concentrate more in school these days, but I doubt how many of us really want to end up doing that.  It only means one thing, that you and the school has a disagreement. You believe you can help the school in the field you applied, and the school disagree. What we should do? Simple: move on.

Those who deeply believe in academic success will apply again next cycle. Those who really do not will think about what they really what, and find other opportunities in life.

I have four more school to wait. I have no idea, and I am only optimistic about one of them. I will only keep thinking about my own purpose during the last waiting, and then, see how it will turn out to be. I hope every body here stay calm and happy and finish this process, whether you end up doing your PhD, or discover new things in life. 

A master student in Washington DC.

 

 

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I think that this process has taught me that my opinion of myself and my talents and abilities is far too dependent on outside approval. I need to do some hard, introspective work to figure out why that is.

 

You have a lot of great food for thought here. Good luck to you!

Edited by midnight streetlight
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Very poignant and deep introspection there. I find that I put tremendous weight on the acceptances and/or rejections I will receive. It feels as if my self worth is determined by them, by a decision from a group of anonymous strangers sitting in some conference room somewhere. What do these strangers know about my worth? I am more than my GRE score, my statement of purpose, my letters of recommendation. Why do I let myself be enslaved by their mythical mastery?

 

It's pathetic, and I'm angry I feel this way.

 

I try to play hypothetical thought experiments: if I were accepted by my dream school today, would I be a different person tomorrow? Somehow, I think so. If I were rejected? I'd be a loser.

 

Of course, this is all false. I'm the same person today as I am tomorrow.

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applying for Counseling PhD programs- 13 rejections and counting (4 interviews):

 

I have come to acknowledge that this intense rejection is linked similarly to the tragic realization after I got injured performing at CalArts after 9 interviews, intense auditions in ballet, modern and world dance and 9 acceptances ranging from UCLA to CalArts...that I could no longer do what I was passionate about. Ridden by physical therapy and chronic pain I had to leave the stage. Falling into nursing I found potential to counsel others and found my way to counseling psychology.

 

Now I have injured myself again in my own career (rejection) and realize that maybe this is not my year for the path that I felt destined to do. What has the artistry of my creativity done in this moment? Pave another path to counsel...I applied to a MSW-clinical program without the 1-5% acceptance rate that appreciate my work, my art, my advocacy for my patients.

 

It was not what I intended, but I have become humble through this process. I have fallen but now I have gotten up. I am injured but I am going through the painful intellectual stretching my mind needs to understand a new element (social work). But that is life. Just because I did not get in does not mean I am not competitive, because I know I was among the top choices in some universities. But now I know that just because I know that I am capable of a PhD does not mean other people know that. In some regards, programs are able to find the best out of the group and need something to filter out the most most competitive and those who have the most relevant experience. I simply do not have that. It is hard to "prove" you are capable when you are a post-bacc up against a practicing masters LPC with a private practice...

 

so maybe I am not going to a PhD counseling program in the fall, but I am going to a funded masters program in MSW and applying for their joint MSW/PhD program in the fall (as the admissions counselor at the program suggested). In some way I learned through applying for 12+ schools (and getting rejections) that I belong in social work after all.

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I feel I am much more affected emotionally by rejections than by acceptances. I was really happy when I got my admits but when the rejection mails came, it felt like I got stabbed in the stomach! Maybe sometimes you get so much attached to a school or the work of a professor who interviewed you that anything other than acceptance just breaks your heart. :(

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I appreciate the OP introspection. I am currently awaiting a response to the application I submitted a month ago. But it certainly is Not the only time I have applied to graduate school. I admit it hurts and difficult to adjust to. But, I am glad I was rejected my first round of applications (8 total). Why? It wasn't easy, even now, its not easy, but its a experience that made me think of my goals and what my desires are for studies. I applied 3 years ago. (First round). It took 3 years for me to develop what I really like and interests me for a "career". Which got me to apply for the program I am really interested in. But, I recognize that even with a strong statement, 4 recs (3 academics), and a strong gpa/cv, I could get rejected. Which is why I have already started the wheels to apply to 2 more programs (a secondary and even a third backup plan). If anything you get from this, remember a rejection is not personal, think about priorities/goals, grow and continue to explore new paths :)

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Acceptance means that I get to follow my dreams. Acceptance at a particular school means that everything falls into place the way I need/would like to. Rejection means that I need to rethink my plans.

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This post prompted me to join the site so I can thank you for this post. Waiting is so agonizing...

I am sorry to hear you were rejected but you seem to have a great outlook on life. I admire you for what you said and I hope everything works out for you in the end!

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  • 3 months later...

I was rejected to one school that I really wanted to go to for an MPH.  They told me that I needed to have more experience in the field and that I should take some extension classes.  My transcript wasn't stellar, so I wasn't too surprised.  I was accepted to 4 other programs and the one that I ended up going to turned out to be a great experience.  I applied myself and got a lot out of the program.  In retrospect, the program that I went into afforded me a lot more opportunity than the one that rejected me and was on the upswing as a developing program.  The other program seems mediocre at best in comparison now.  

 

So if a program rejects you, eff em:)  I've heard stories of medschool applicants being rejected numerous cycles and still getting in.  Be persistent and improve on your application.  I'm currently applying to a MS in biology at the same school I got my MPH and my transcript is full of holes from undergrad (much better in grad school).  Will I get in?  I don't know.  I certainly hope, but at the same time, if I don't, I'm going to be taking a lot of relevant classes to improve my grades and try again next time.  I have good research experience, statement of purpose, etc.  So it is a possibility that I will be provisionally accepted, but if not, I'll do this again.  

 

Yes, rejection hurts, there's no way around it.  I was informally rejected a few months ago when I applied to this other biology program.  I needed to get a faculty researcher to take me on.  She thought we were a good match and we clicked well, but in the end, she did not because the project that I would have worked in wasn't established.  I didn't get rejected from the school as I did not send in my app, but it still stung to get that phone call.  So, yeah, I can relate.  rejections are always valuable in their tendency to cause self-reflection.  Good luck!  

Edited by jren76
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The following is a confusing late-night ramble of mine inspired by the first post in this thread.

 

I am increasingly inspired by the successful people in my field in the world today.  Of course, the top schools will have a higher proportion of people who end up with Wikipedia pages or positions in Forbes lists.  Upon a cursory investigation through the crowds of successful people, one might easily feel discouraged to see such a disproportionate amount of people from top schools.  However, it is dangerous to make the following fallacy: If A then B, if not A then not B.  In other words: "If someone gets accepted to lots of great schools, they will become successful.  If someone does not get accepted to lots of great schools, they will not become successful."  This logic does not work, because we can easily find cases of "Not A, still B"  However, our minds become twisted because the statistics encourage us to have a bit of a confirmation bias.  If we see 60% of a sample of successful people coming from dream schools, we might find ourselves mitigating or discounting the other 40% who have not.  Your reference to Steve Jobs is important.  The sheer force of his personality, his ability to make friends (at his convenience) and his ability to convince people of his ideas (and his ruthlessness) led him to his success.

 

Tons of successful people come from top schools because the top schools clamor to find as many potentially successful people as they can and have them as students.  If you are rejected from lots of schools, all it says is that you are possibly one of the successful people the schools missed.  Their limited slots forces them to narrow their scope to low-risk commonly-used metrics to determine future success.  This has a massive amount of error, though, as shown by any sample of successful people you feel like picking.  I try to take advice from some other other forum members here that they me gave last year: remain tenacious and demonstrate how much you want something.

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GradHooting is right, I think this is the way to see things. When you apply for something and that you don't get it, it's obvious that you get frustrated. I mean, last fall I had applied for some PhD programs to get a taste of the whole application process so that I can be ready for my serious shots. Even with rejections that didn't mean the world to me, my blood was boiling. That was just a reminder that I bloody hate people doubting my abilities.

 

In my professional experience, many (vastly experienced) people doubted me because of my inexperience when I first arrived on the job. I've been working in my current job for 3 years now, and my colleagues are like "How the hell we didn't find you before ?!". Those were the same ones who raised questions on my ability as a research engineer. In the end : I knew that I had all that is needed to prove people wrong (in the right sense). In my current job particularly, I've had many things to prove and achieve so I've had many situations where I had to face challenges and overcome them. Applications to graduate schools are no different in that respect : prove them wrong if they reject you, by becoming WAY better than the students they produced.

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