Handling Rejection from Schools, Jobs, and More

Close up of sad student receiving bad news on laptop sitting on a desk at home at night


Let’s face it, “rejection” in general is a harsh word. It hurts hearing it, saying it, and most of all receiving it—but it is and always will be a part of life, so how do we deal with it?

Rejection is scary and hard for people of all ages to deal with—especially if you are rejected from something that you think the rest of your life depends on. This means being rejected from your dream school, scholarship, or dream job can feel like the end of the world.

Not to be a downer, but you will be faced with rejections in your life and they are difficult to accept. Here are some steps to take when dealing with rejection letters:

Rejection from A Dream School

Most teens grow up and dream about going to college, sometimes one particular college. We spent most of our adolescence watching coming-of-age movies about high schoolers applying to their dream schools. But, applying to college is not all nervous giddiness and signatures and running to put your envelope in the mail. Applying to schools can be a tedious and rigorous process. When submitting applications, be realistic about the schools you know you will get accepted into vs. the ones that are more competitive and you may not get into.

Choose to celebrate the acceptance letters instead of mourning the rejection letters. It’s a big accomplishment getting into any college and every “yes” deserves a celebration. That dream school rejection letter might be disappointing at first, and that’s ok, but it's important to look at your next steps in a positive way. This doesn’t mean you won’t go to college and achieve your goals, it just means you won’t go to THAT college. 

When working through your disappointment, try this:
  • Remember that you likely won’t be able to get into every school you apply to. Rejection letters are pretty much inevitable, at least one.
  • Celebrate that acceptance letter! You did it, you got into college. Maybe it wasn’t the acceptance letter you were expecting, but don’t let that get you down.
  • Get excited for your freshman year. What are you most excited about? Try and envision yourself doing that exciting thing at the schools you get accepted to.

Scholarship Rejections

Applying to scholarships is so important but can be really training. They are competitive and time-consuming. You will likely apply to a lot and get rejected or never hear back from a lot, but that shouldn’t dampen your spirits. All you need is just that one scholarship win to be excited again! So keep applying, keep trying. 

There are many different types of scholarships you can apply for, you just have to find those that suit you the best, so be smart when applying and play to your strengths. If you do get rejected from one you were confident in, go back and try to figure out why they might not have given it to you. Take the knowledge you gain from this experience and apply it to your next application!

Try doing these things to better your chances of getting a different scholarship:
  • Take your rejected scholarship application and try to figure out what could have made them reject you. Was it a weak essay? A nervous interview? Whatever it was, practice that skill to improve your next application.
  • Apply for more scholarships—there are literally thousands of different scholarships to choose from—and choose the ones that suit you best. *pro-tip: the more work that is required to apply for the scholarship, the smaller the applicant pool (which means a better chance at winning that scholarship).
  • Celebrate the scholarships you do get. Free money to spend on your next four years of education, now that’s exciting!

Rejections From Potential Employers

Job rejections can be brutal. Stuffing down feelings of inadequacy can be the hardest thing to do. When applying for jobs or internships, we can tend to romanticize what our lives could look like if we did get that position. Getting rejected from jobs that you are excited about can make you second guess yourself and your skills.

Take that experience and use it to motivate yourself to apply for more jobs or more internships. The goal when looking for a job is to continue applying until you get a “yes” or you find your best fit. When dealing with this type of rejection, look for things you could gain more experience in when applying for another job of the same kind. The best thing to do in this situation is to reorganize and regroup, so you can continue your job hunt.

Here is what you can do after being rejected from a job:
  • If the employer doesn’t explain why they went in a different direction, and you feel comfortable doing so, ask them what you can improve on for your future job search. It might be a lack of experience, or they might have just decided you weren’t a good fit for their company. Whatever it is, you can use this feedback to better your resume or next application.
  • You might need to refine your job search. Maybe you aren’t applying for the right jobs with the experience or skills you possess. Re-evaluate your options and work from there.
  • Apply to more jobs! This one wasn’t for you and that’s ok. Use this rejection to motivate you to find a new job to apply for.

Rejections are never going to be easy, but hopefully these tips will better equip you to deal with them in a positive way. Using that rejection to your advantage will help you get accepted to the next school, win the next scholarship, and land the next job. Always keep looking ahead!


Maggie is an editorial intern at Potential magazine and a senior English major at Birmingham Southern College. She enjoys reading and writing articles and blogs and is excited to share some of her college experiences with Potential readers.

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