Growing From The Post-Graduate School Rejection Letter


Anxiously looking at the clock, you see him walking up the driveway. Finally! He’s 10 minutes late! Each day you wait for him to arrive and deliver the confirmation of your professional destiny. You rush to the door, barely mutter a hello, and grasp the mail from the Canada Post guy.

Taking one long deep breath, you slice open the envelope – not noticing that it is quite thin for an acceptance letter to the postgraduate school of your dreams.

“Dear Katherine. Thank you for applying to our department for your Master’s degree. This year we had many great candidates and we will not be offering you a spot in our program….”

Before you get to the part where they politely encourage you to apply next year, you stop reading. ENOUGH! You’re mentally devastated and emotionally numb.

Thoughts rush to your mind: “I did everything I was supposed to do. How could David be accepted to graduate school with his resume and I don’t get a chance? There’s nothing else I want to do. This is all I hoped and planned for. What the **** am I going to do next year?”

Disappointment. Fear. Anger. Loss. Envy. Doubt. All of these emotions are normal and real. And, many times the reasons for not being selected will never be known to the applicant, which can make the descent into the unknown future even more upsetting.

Every year around this time, thousands of hopeful students will receive letters of rejection from graduate and professional programs. These students worked extremely hard to be strong candidates and are totally justified in thinking they will be accepted. They’re top students in their programs, took all mandatory standardized tests, participated in clubs and community work, interned in the summers, had great letters of reference, and matriculated with honours throughout their undergraduate degrees.

The rejection letter hurts like a slap on the face. The sting lingers…

Life happened. Now what?

Learning to “be” in this new professional space

Within the last month, I’ve collected several quotes from “giants” in their fields for guidance in this transitional time. If one quote resonates with you, write it out and post it where you can read it every day. This proverbial touchstone will serve to strengthen your own knowledge in the years to come.

Steve Jobs

Co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios

During a 2005 Commencement address at Stanford University, Steve Jobs guided the audience of recent graduates to believe in their inner-wisdom along their life path: “…you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

John DeMartini

Personal Development Leader and Founder of DeMartini Institute, also featured in world-renowned documentary The Secret

At a recent workshop titled Overcoming Obstacles, Conquering Challenges, John DeMartini described how challenges guide us to be our most authentic, inspired selves. He suggested the following shift in thinking: “Obstacles are ‘on the way’ not ‘in the way!” and one must ask, “How is whatever I’m experiencing – supportive or challenging – helping me to fulfil my greatest challenge on earth?”

Viola Davis

Actress, Oscar-nominee for lead role in 2010 movie The Help

While being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, Viola Davis described the challenges she faced in her life – from a childhood of abject poverty to racism, agism, sexism and personal self-doubt. She found her standpoint of wholeness, beyond the duality of “have” or “have not”, and modeled for viewers a way to take ownership of one’s life. She said: “It’s not about whether the glass is half full or the glass is half empty, it’s about owning the glass.”

Dancing on the shoulders of giants

For some people, this rejection will push them to dig deeper, seek out advice, and thrive in the face of challenge. Others may enter a phase of re-evaluating their self-worth, assessing their transferable skills, and questioning the reality of their dreams coming true. Maybe you’ll be the one who dances between both mindsets as you transition into a new year of professional understanding and growth.

The reality is that only you have the choice and the responsibility to carve this concrete wall into a door of opportunity.

Knowing what this rejection letter feels like from my personal experience, I wish I could give you the answers to your doubts. Or, in your state of unknowing, that you could seek out direction from a friend, family member, or mentor.

Unfortunately – and fortunately – your life is your own and the sole person who can guide your way is you. YOU must listen to your inner knowing to connect the dots along your path. YOU can choose how you view the obstacles along the way. YOU get to decide how you want to perceive the wholeness of your life.

And always remember one thing: No matter the tune of your music, make sure to keep dancing…

About the author

Meg Popovic is a group facilitator, published author, university professor, and life coach. She holds Master’s and PhD degrees from the University of Western Ontario within the Faculty of Health Sciences and has served as a faculty member at King's University College, the University of Western Ontario, and Humber College. Her award-winning interdisciplinary teaching and research focuses on the areas of somatic studies, sport culture, yoga, and health and wellness.In her capacity as a professional facilitator, Meg has collaborated with a variety of clients, such as Coaches Training Institute, Moksha Yoga, Inc., Me to We/Free the Children, Toastmasters International, the New Leaf Yoga Foundation, the G(irls)20 Summit, The World Youth Congress, and the International Olympic Academy. She's egg-static to be a contributor to the team at TalentEgg. Based currently in Toronto, Canada, Meg can be contacted for communication and future collaboration via email at