Rejected From Grad School? How To Handle Not Making the Cut

Written by Grad School Center Team We are a passionate team of experienced educators and advisors at, dedicated to guiding students through their graduate education journey. Our experts, with advanced degrees across various disciplines, offer personalized advice, up-to-date program information, and practical insights into application processes.

Reviewed by David Krug David Krug is a seasoned expert with 20 years in educational technology (EdTech). His career spans the pivotal years of technology integration in education, where he has played a key role in advancing student-centric learning solutions. David's expertise lies in marrying technological innovation with pedagogical effectiveness, making him a valuable asset in transforming educational experiences. As an advisor for enrollment startups, David provides strategic guidance, helping these companies navigate the complexities of the education sector. His insights are crucial in developing impactful and sustainable enrollment strategies.

Updated: February 23, 2024, Reading time: 8 minutes

Rejected from Grad School - featured image

Find your perfect college degree

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Finally, you have your undergraduate degree, and now you’re looking to obtain a master’s or a Ph.D. degree to land higher-level positions. You’ve studied for a high GRE score, got a stellar letter of recommendation, and perfected your essays, cover letter, and personal statement.

Now, you’re picturing yourself attending your top choice for graduate school. But then the unexpected occurs: the admissions committee rejected your grad school application.

So, now you’re sad and wondering why the admissions team rejected your application; you have no late or incomplete applications, LORs, or transcripts. And you were a strong applicant!

Although it’s disappointing to hear that you weren’t selected for the graduate program, grad school rejection happens more often than you think.

Statistically speaking, graduate programs, especially doctorate degrees, receive ten times more graduate applicants than they can accept. But regardless of this fact, you don’t feel better. So, what can you do to make yourself feel better after the rejection?

This article will help you understand the possible reasons for grad school application rejection and how to handle the problem.

Take a look: Can grad schools tell if you are lying on your application?

Rejected from Grad School - fact
Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

How likely are you to get a letter of graduation rejection?

Many students prepare for grad school during their undergraduate studies. They decide which school to apply to, research the school’s requirements, and how to get in. Regardless of your immense effort, you were still rejected.

The likelihood of being rejected from grad school is high. Grad schools reject applicants for various reasons.

The first reason some students get rejected from grad school is the quality of their application. The following qualities are typically present in a robust college application:

You should read the Kiss of Death before sending out grad school applications. This study will tell you what not to do when applying for graduate schools and the common reasons why students get rejected.

Despite having all the qualities of a strong candidate, you can still be rejected from grad school. If you know you were a strong candidate for the program and still got rejected, it’s also probably because of the school’s acceptance rates.

Ivy League and other prestigious schools are frequently chosen as the top schools by students and professionals seeking graduate degrees. This makes sense since graduating from one of the country’s most reputable schools often gives you a higher chance of getting accepted to your desired job position.  

However, the most reputable institutions in the United States have significantly low acceptance rates and have thousands of graduate school applicants. Despite how much internship experience you have and how great you were in your previous degrees, you still can get rejected. 

Additional Read: Best Online DBA Degrees with No Dissertation Programs

How to Cope With Grad School Rejection

Grieve the Rejection

Grieve the Rejection - Image

It’s normal to feel as if your whole world collapsed after receiving a rejection letter. It’s normal to grieve your rejection. 

It’s important to give yourself space when something negative occurs. In this situation, even though you presumably worked incredibly hard in school, you lost the opportunity to attend the college of your dreams. Your entire future must be altered, which is a bummer. It’s acceptable—indeed, expected—to feel angry about this.

However, do not wallow in your grief for an extended period of time. Once you’ve given yourself enough time to adjust, get moving and concentrate on your other possibilities.

Process Your Emotions in a Healthy Way

While it’s normal to feel sad, angry, or disappointed, it is very important to give yourself time to process what you’re feeling in a healthy way. 

Some healthy ways of dealing with such a negative occurrence are crying, spending some alone time, talking with close family, friends, or other rejected applicants, and getting yourself diverted in productive ways. It’s also okay to be more dramatic; burn, shred, or throw away your rejection letter. 

Get Excited About Other Schools

Get Excited About Other Schools - Image

You should get excited about other schools, too! Many other grad schools offer the program you want. Focus on the unique qualities and possibilities you loved about each school as you go through the ones you were accepted to.  

If you can, speak with current students at the institutions so you can begin to see yourself studying there. The story you’ll hear will help you stop thinking about your first choice of school and help you become excited about the next school.

Take a Gap Year

You may be too disappointed to apply immediately to other schools. If you are yet to gather the energy and courage for another application process, you can take a gap year. 

A gap year doesn’t mean you should stay home binge-watching your favorite series or going out to party. A gap year should be predictive. Think about what kind of education and career path you want and apply for jobs that will give you a unique work experience to aid your future grad school application.

You can also gain a valuable volunteer experience in your area.

Ask for a Feedback from the Graduate Admissions Committee

Ask for a Feedback from the Graduate Admissions Committee - Image

If you know that you are a strong applicant, you can genuinely ask why you weren’t accepted. However, you need to do it in a humble and respectful way; otherwise, you’ll only lower or eliminate your chance of re-applying to the university. 

Ask them questions. Was it your GPA? Did you have a lackluster personal statement? Was it your LORs? Have you not properly explained your purpose for applying?

You can contact the admissions office or talk directly to the individual you spoke with during your interview. Most master’s admissions officers are more than happy to give feedback to rejected grad school applicants. 

Reapply for the Next Round of Admissions

Once you have all the information you need about why you weren’t accepted into the grad school, you can evaluate yourself and consider reapplying for the next admissions.

If the feedback wasn’t to your liking or you deemed it “unreasonable,” you can challenge the rejection. But we discourage doing so because not all applicants succeed in appealing their rejected applications. 

Create a Rejection Resume

Create a Rejection Resume - Image

Only a few know what a rejection resume is. But to give you an overview, a “rejection resume” is a document that lists your past failures. 

A rejection resume allows you to list all the challenges you went through in the past to achieve your current success. It’s a tool that enables you to take stock of your difficulties, learn from them, recognize your wounds from the fight, develop resilience, and better handle adversity in the future.

The purpose of a rejection resume is to help you reflect on how far you’re willing to go to achieve your goals in the face of difficulty. It can be a fantastic incentive for you throughout your career, and you can refer to it when you’re attempting new things or trying to improve your skills.

Consider Grad School Alternatives

Even if you weren’t accepted into graduate school, you could still advance your education and profession. Even though it may hurt, now is the best time to reconsider whether graduate school is your best or only option. There are several options to consider that might be better suited to your objectives.

Take individual classes and earn certificates.

Think about the knowledge and skill sets you want to obtain. Do you really need a new degree to get them? Are there any private or online courses you may take to increase your knowledge in a particular subject?

Learn more about what local credential programs and online learning have to offer. You’d be astonished at how quick and inexpensive it is to obtain a top-notch education without postponing your career. This will help you reduce the stress of not getting into a graduate degree program. 

You can also enroll in certificate programs. A high GPA in a certificate program can help you get into competitive programs. Your credits often transfer toward a master’s degree, too.

Find a mentor or work as an apprentice.

An excellent way to broaden your knowledge is to learn more from experts in a particular field. Mentors challenge you to go beyond your comfort zone and will speak out for you at work.

This works particularly best if you already have a professional network. If you don’t have any, consider joining one related to your field. Professional organizations offer mentorship or apprenticeship opportunities to professionals who want to advance their abilities. 

Attend relevant conferences.

Attending conferences relevant to your area of interest allows you to learn the ropes of the field and have the opportunities you’ve been looking for. You’ll hear advice and real-world experiences from experts, participate in the hottest discussions, and be able to create professional networks.

You’ll leave the event full of fresh ideas and knowledge about the industry and the next steps to advance your career.

Consider professional development training.

The best way to find professional development training is by talking to your employer (if you are employed). Ask your employer important questions. Is it leadership training? Will they cover the cost? Do they have a rotating schedule?

Check this out: Super Helpful Tips to Improve Your Grad School Application

We’re certain of one thing—your search for more information on picking the best graduate degree or school landed you here. Let our experts help guide your through the decision making process with thoughtful content written by experts.