Dealing With Admissions Rejections
What do you do when you are rejected from your first choice school?
As admissions consultants, we are always cognizant of the fact that our work has the potential to dramatically alter the lives of our clients. Decision letters will roll in over the next few months, and we’ll hear back from hundreds of clients who are moving halfway across the world to go to a school we consulted on. These client’s relationships, finances, perspectives, and so much more are about to be transformed—very exciting!
But… what about someone who got rejected from their dream
Here are four interesting things people have done after
1. Become President of the United States
Barack Obama’s political and personal style can be summed up in one word: professorial. Obama’s background as a professor of constitutional law shows through in everything he does, from the way he argues, to his clothes, to his smallest rhetorical tics. But the 44th president wasn’t always so comfortable in academia. According to his wife, “[Barack] … didn’t take school seriously in high school, he barely got his work done – he was a bum.” Harsh! Perhaps predictably, then, a 17-year-old Obama was rejected his dream school, Swarthmore College, back in 1979. Obama says of the rejection “It really broke my heart, actually.”
Everything turned out okay for Obama in the end, however. He
The lesson? There are still a lot of chances to turn things
2. Start a civil war
In 19th century China, the key to success was the civil service examination system. Pass, and you could become a government official, move to a larger city, and secure your family’s future for generations. Fail, and you had to settle for your lot in the provinces. Hong Xiuquan was, by all accounts, a promising student. But when it came time for the actual examinations, he just couldn’t handle the pressure. He choked. Then he choked again. And again, in 1837. After the third rejection, the young man suffered a nervous breakdown, described by historian Stephen Platt:
“When he got [home], he collapsed
The visions brought on by Hong Xiuquan’s failed exam became
This is a good example of what NOT to do after a ding. Like
3. Revolutionize physics
You probably already know that Albert Einstein invented
What interests us, however, is his rejection from every university assistantship to which he applied. Essentially a funded dissertation, admission to any one of these programs would have allowed Einstein to avoid the patent office job and focus on his studies. Instead, Einstein was rejected from everywhere—for some time, repeatedly. The cause? According to Einstein, a bad letter of recommendation from his professor Heinrich Weber: “I would have found long ago if Weber had not played a dishonest game with me.” Fortunately, it turned out that der Depperte (“the dopey one”) was perfectly capable of handling patents and doing groundbreaking physics at the same time.
Folks, always be 100% sure about your recommenders! If
4. Start an artistic movement
Impressionism might be a bit basic these days, but in the 19th century Monet and Manet were considered quite edgy for… not having many hard edges in their paintings. Both were rejected from art schools, exhibition spaces, and prestigious fellowships, and both lived in poverty for large portions of their lives. You may think these parallel struggles would have made the two Frenchmen friends—and it did, but not until after a bitter rivalry over their too-similar names and mutual refusal to adopt a pseudonym.
It’s hard to imagine these artists being nearly as famous as
Are all these examples unrealistic? Probably. Most of us can’t turn a rejection into a presidency or a total war. But the key idea is that these historical figures didn’t let rejection stop them. Neither should you. You might have to take a different path, a longer path, a less prestigious path, but there is always still a path to your goals… or possibly an even cooler outcome. So keep on going!