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In the midst of March madness…basketball and this end of winter beginning of spring roller coaster weather nonsensicalness…students all over the world are also dealing with so-called rejection letters from colleges and universities. Fear not, brave fellows. There is plenty of advice on how to deal and, who knows, maybe even do better.

Sometimes, college admissions rejections (Would someone find another word for this, please?) lead to even better for you opportunities or career paths.

For example, I applied to several of the top public policy PhD programs. Since I was about to complete a masters degree in public health, I decided to broaden my training by only applying to programs that have more than a health policy focus, i.e., where policy can also be about education, transportation, diplomacy, etc.

While I was accepted into a few great programs, I was not accepted into more of them, which motivated me to rethink my approach. By the time when I was invited to explore a relatively new health policy PhD program at Harvard University, I had changed my mind about the type of program that could work for me. I applied and was accepted into that program and had a wonderful experience!

As the saying goes… one door closing may create space for another great door to open (or something like that).

If you can and very politely, contact the admissions office, program director, student services staff, etc. and ask for some guidance about your application.

This input may help you improve your chances with future applications. If you can, wait until late this semester, early in the summer or other slow times for the admissions process. Admissions experts are likely to have more time then and be more willing to help.

Some universities or programs have very specific instructions about who you can contact about admissions and when. Please follow their instructions. Also, the smaller the program or more advance the degree, the more likely you are to have a chance to speak to someone about your specific situation after the admissions decision is final.

As another saying goes…you won’t get in, if you don’t ask (or something like that).

Don’t forget that you can succeed via several different paths. 

You really don’t have to go to a specific college or program to be successful. So, if you are accepted into at least one program or university, you have an opportunity to develop knowledge, skills and relationships that can help you meet your life goals. Congratulations!

And, if you are not accepted into any college or program this time around, take a few days to mope, then 1) set new education or career goals; 2) find out what it takes to reach them; and 3) go for it!

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What next step advice do you have for students who are disappointed by college or program admission rejections?

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