Special Contribution by Ashley Nicole Robinson, Graduate Student at the University of Maine
Rejection feels terrible. Let’s just get that out of the way. However, rejection is a part of life. I learned this lesson loud and clear during my grad school search two years ago.
I applied to three graduate programs in the winter of my senior year of college. I got one flat out rejection. I got wait-listed at the second school. And at the third (my top choice), I was academically accepted, interviewed for several assistantships, and was offered none. By the end of March, I was a hot mess.
Throughout this whole process, I was vehemently opposed to applying to my alma mater. I wanted nothing to do with it, wanted to start fresh at a new school and have a change of pace. But in April, when the director of my department told me that we still had a graduate assistant position open, that I could probably still apply to the program at my school, and that I should come talk to her about it, I developed a different viewpoint on things. I ended up applying for the assistantship and the program and landing both.
Almost two years later, I have had the most amazing graduate experience I could have asked for. I have developed immensely through my program with such amazing opportunities as taking a doctoral course, developing my own research, and building lifelong friendships with my cohort. I have learned more than I ever expected as a live-in Assistant Community Coordinator for ResLife, even if I did work for the department as an RA. I would not trade my graduate experience for anything.
However, I think there are things you can learn from my experience:
· Ask for help. If things aren’t going how you expected, if you are conflicted, upset, or confused, talk to student affairs professionals you trust. They, like my director, may offer you more help than you thought possible.
· Have a back-up plan. Mine was to do AmeriCorps for a year. Know that there are non-traditional options to getting to grad school and these do not make you any less of an aspiring student affairs professional.
· Try not to hate your friends who get into their top choice schools. This is not easy. Their success may remind you of your “non-success”. Just remember that we each have our own unique paths.
· Keep faith in yourself. This is the hardest part after a big rejection. I was so down on myself that it affected my relationships, my motivation, and my self-image. So make sure to keep trying, exploring your options, and renewing your commitment to go to grad school. You can do it. In one way or another, you can do it.