You applied to grad school.
And you waited.
Hopefully, you don’t have to deal with the rejection process, and you have an offer (or two) to access.
And then…you get the results of your application(s). It could be delivered via email, or through the mail.
Sometimes, the results aren’t what you hoped for: you get a big, fat, NO.
Or, in more words: “This year we received a large number of high calibre applicants. Unfortunately, your application was not deemed acceptable. Best of luck with your future endeavours.”
If you are lucky, you may be wait-listed to a program. However, because the applications for grad school are so competitive, many schools do not have a wait-list.
You now have a couple of options.
The first is to wallow in your own crapulence. Of course, being rejected and upset is normal, and even okay. But you can’t dwell on these feelings, because it will not help you in the end. What you need to do is learn from your application, see your faults, and move on.
This doesn’t mean graduate school is closed off to you forever. Instead you should think long and hard about things, and re-evaluate should you decide to apply again the following year.
You should most definitely contact the graduate director and ask what the shortcomings of your application were, and how you could improve. This feedback can be instrumental in helping subsequent applications.
Or, you could reject the rejection letter, but you can’t be certain that option will get you the results you want.
Hopefully, you don’t have to deal with the rejection process, and you have an offer (or two) to access. If that’s the case, you want to find out how much information the program is willing to give to you.
Do they provide or offer you the contact information of current or recently-graduated students in your program that you can contact with questions?
How much will your tuition and student fees run you for the length of your program (be it 12, 18, or 24 months)? What kind of financial assistance is offered to you (are you offered a TA or RA position, or must you finance your schooling on your own)?
What are the costs of housing and living in the area, and how easy will it be for you to find a place? Is there residence available on-campus for graduate students?
If you need to relocate to a new city, how much will that cost you?
Perhaps most importantly is what can this degree program give you? Will you have access to a better job, or does it provide you more training to help you get a better job? Are there co-op or internship components to your program?
If you have been accepted in a program, they (and this means anyone and everyone associated with the department) should be doing everything in their power to help answer your questions. If they aren’t, it likely means that they won’t offer you the level of support you will need when you are in that program.
This decision isn’t an easy one to make, so take the time to assess all the possibilities that have been laid out for you.