Two weeks ago, I had just received my second rejection from med school. It was absolutely devastating. I had spent the last year getting top marks in the final year in my degree, volunteering multiple days a week, and navigating the pandemic with a toddler to raise. Additionally, I had tremendous support from my family and friends as they all cheered me on through another application cycle.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out this year. I was in our storage room wrapping Christmas presents when I received that fateful email on my phone. I cried. Hard. Words couldn't describe how disappointed I was in the outcome of this application, and I was dreading having to call and update my loved ones.

I felt like I had let my family, friends, community, and myself down for not getting into school this year. Everyone responded to the news with support and kindness, and a few shed some tears.

Recovering from Academic Rejection

Rejection doesn't mean 'No', it means 'Not Right Now'

Thankfully, this is just a temporary setback. I know that this is so much easier said than done, but remind yourself over and over again that this situation and your feelings associated with it are temporary. Whether you didn't get accepted into your dream school or just failed an important exam, I PROMISE you that this is not the end of the world. So if you're experiencing a seriously negative dialogue right now, here are some tools that can help.

It can be helpful to write down each negative thought that you may be feeling in the moment. An amazing resource that I was introduced to was the work of Byron Katie, appropriately referred to as The Work. The idea is that for each individual negative thought, ask yourself the following four questions;

Q1. Is it true? (Yes or no)
Q2. Can you absolutely know that it's true?
Q3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
Q4. Who would you be without that thought? How would you feel if you did not believe it was true?

Bryon Katie, The Work

Additional Questions to ask Yourself

  • What feelings am I experiencing right now?
  • What feelings am I hoping to feel tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Next year?
  • So what will this small setback mean to your overall story?
  • How will this serve you and your career someday and maybe even inspire others?
  • When my child is grown and we're gathering for dinner someday, what story will I tell him about this? How did this outcome influence our family culture?
  • (If relevant) What do you hope family and friends will say?
  • What opportunities are available to me?
  • Who can I reach out to for guidance and support?
  • What are my next steps?

Proactively deciding the version of the story you're going to tell yourself will create the courage you need to then share with others confidently. Feel the feelings today, and don't be in a hurry to move past the disappointment and sadness. It's important to fully feel because otherwise, they'll keep popping up later when you thought you had moved on. Once you're confident that you've fully experienced every feeling necessary

Now What?

We can do hard things

Glennon Doyle, Untamed

What happens next in your life is up to you. If you feel in all your heart that pursuing this exact career is what you were made for, then do it! It will happen, regardless of the timeline. It may be time to talk to an academic advisor to see if you should focus on boosting your GPA, retaking entrance exams, or gaining more volunteer hours.

Or, perhaps you may feel like you need to take a break or pursue one of the thousands of other joys that this world has to offer. That's 100% ok too. Just please, please please please PLEASE don't take this temporary setback as a permanent rejection of you as a person. You are loved and worthy and beautiful exactly the way you are right now, even if you don't feel that way.

Take some time to listen to your body, and don't make any significant decisions until you feel ready. Take some slow, deep breaths, go move your body outdoors, and eat some healthy food. Take a look at why you started this whole process. Are your values still the same? Then keep going, mama! Nothing is going to stop you without your consent!

I believe in you!