Not getting into grad school was never something I had planned on. I always figured getting into grad school was just like getting into high school or college. Well…wrong. Really, really wrong.
I applied to seven bioengineering programs at large universities and was rejected from all of them. Now, this was definitely partially my fault because I didn’t take the applications nearly as seriously as I should’ve (plus, applying to engineering programs was a reach, as I was a biology major). I wrote half-assed essays and didn’t apply until the deadline was near. But as I said, I didn’t think grad school was that competitive. Let me tell you…it is. I feel like trying to get into grad school is like fighting in the Colosseum. It’s brutal. At least in the sciences, there are only a handful of spots that 100-200 people are applying for. So, needless to say, I should’ve stepped up my game. Though I didn’t put my all into the applications, getting rejected still hurt. A lot.
A professor I truly admire and look up to a lot (JP) told me that although it would be difficult for me to get into the programs as a biology major, he believed that I had what it took. When he told me that, I actually almost started crying in his office (it still makes me tear up now…). I know a lot of people told me not to worry, that I would get into grad school, but I never believed it myself. I don’t have faith in my abilities. Yes, I worked in a lab for two and a half years but a lot of other people can say the same thing. People who have better GPAs, who were more involved in clubs, who held leadership roles. I’m not the best candidate out there and it sucks to know that. I was always above average in grade school, but going to college made me realize that I’m really just kind of average. I mean, I don’t think I’m dumb and I definitely have more promise than some other people in my class, but when I have to compete for grad school spots with people who are perfect on paper, it doesn’t give me much hope.
That’s really something that bothers me about the whole grad school process anyways. Being perfect on paper does not make someone the best candidate, but I feel like that’s all admissions departments look at, even though they tell you they want a “well-balanced candidate.” They stare at the GPA and test scores and decide from there. I had a terrible GPA my first semester of college and it’s haunted me ever since, but I don’t think it’s fair to judge me on something that happened my very first semester in college. Yes, it ruined my GPA, but I boosted my GPA so much over the years and that should count for something, right? Not usually…
JP also told me that I needed to start believing in myself because if I don’t, grad schools won’t either. That’s easy to say, but believing in myself more won’t just happen by flipping a switch. Having people tell me that I’ll get into grad school does not boost my confidence at all because they don’t really know my grades or test scores or what I wrote in my essays. I appreciate the encouragement, but it just gets me nowhere. I still have issues with self-confidence and it’s really not helping me as I apply for jobs.
Now that I have to apply for a job, I feel like I’m just going to end up going through the same pattern I just went through with grad school: apply, not be good enough and get rejected, and stay unemployed. Getting rejected is like someone telling you you’re not good enough. After waiting months just to hear that from every grad school is not something I ever want to experience again. But here I am, applying to seven jobs (unintentional that it’s the same amount as grad school), feeling like I’m just going to have to wait months for them to tell me “oh sorry, you don’t have a high enough GPA or enough experience.” It’s slowly eating away at me because I don’t want to go through that, but every day that passes just feels like grad school applications all over again. I feel like I’m stuck in a loop.
And speaking of feeling stuck in a loop, not getting into grad school feels like a backwards step for me. After I didn’t get in, I was okay with the fact that I would just live at home for a year while I had a job, and I could save money. Well, from being away at college for four years to coming home for good for awhile, I feel like I took a step backwards. I just feel like I’m in high school all over again, and that is not okay. I’m an independent person, I need my space. I don’t feel like I get that at home. I need to get out, but I can’t do that until I’ve found a job.
Also, having friends that are succeeding is really hard for me to watch. Don’t get me wrong, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE that my friends are succeeding because watching people fulfill their dreams makes me so so so happy. I always feel like a proud mama. But at the same time, it’s like a constant reminder that I didn’t get into grad school and my life isn’t moving forward like I want. I just want to join their club, but I can’t. It’s just another reason I feel like I’m moving backwards. I also know that those friends are a lot less lazy and a lot more motivated than I am and I just wish I could be like that. Thankfully, not getting into grad school has made me a lot more motivated for applying again in the fall.
With all the stuff that sucks about getting rejected, there are good things that came out of it. I believe that everyone needs to experience rejection in their lifetime, and I’ve definitely gotten my first taste of it. It doesn’t make it any less painful, but I at least know the feeling so maybe it won’t hurt as much the next time around (one can always hope…). Like I previously mentioned, I have become more motivated. I’m going to apply to different programs and I’m going to apply early. It never hurts to apply early. Seeing my friends accomplish things also makes me more motivated because I want to be just as happy as they are. I crave that feeling of success so badly right now so I want to do whatever I can to get it (which means writing bangin’ application essays this time around). The need to move motivates me like no other as well, and it’s probably my biggest motivator at this point in time.
So I’m still hurt from being rejected, and I’m scared of going through the same thing with jobs. But I’ve learned from my mistakes and I know how much I don’t want to go through rejection again. The whole believing in myself thing is still a work in progress and may never come fully into fruition, but I’m hoping maybe getting accepted for a job will help that. A pick me up is definitely in order to help my confidence. You live and you learn. Life doesn’t always go according to plan, as I’ve found out. But I’m hoping it’s for the best in the long run.
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default – J.K. Rowling