What To Do If You Didn't Get Into Graduate School

By Alyssa Laffitte on December 4, 2017

So you’ve completed all your graduate school applications. Your letters of recommendation have been submitted. You have taken the GRE. You have submitted your transcripts. And all you’ve gotten in return is rejection letters. What do you do now? Was all that time you invested in your applications wasted?

If this is your situation, I am very sorry, as I know it can be extremely tough to have your heart set on graduate school only to be rejected. It’s tempting to just shut down and be depressed if you get this kind of news. It’s okay to be upset for a little while, but you need to focus on finding a new plan for the future. There’s no use in dwelling on what has passed. Instead, let’s look at some other options you can consider as you move forward.

Image via Isorepublic.com

Don’t fret!

As I said before, it’s very easy to freak out and shut down after receiving all those rejections. It’s discouraging when your plans don’t work out. It’s okay to be sad for a few days, but after that, start working on your next move and creating a new plan. Once you have recovered from the bad news, think about what your options are as you move forward into the next phase of your life. Here are some options to consider if you didn’t get into graduate school.


Volunteering is a great way to spend your time. Not only do graduate school admissions officers and employers love someone who is involved in the community, but it’s also an amazing, eye-opening experience. Also, a bonus to volunteering for a cause that you care a lot about is that you will meet people who care about the same cause you do. Look up causes that you are passionate about and see if they are in need of volunteers in your area. If you decide to volunteer, you will be spending your time in a productive way, helping people in need and meeting people with similar interests. It’s a win-win situation!

Find a job

If you are concerned about your student debt from your undergraduate studies, you should consider getting a job so you can start repaying those loans, or if you want to start saving up for the future. If you were applying to graduate school because you wanted to pursue a research career, it would be a good idea to apply for research-related positions. This additional work and research experience would look great if you decide to re-apply for graduate school next year. Send out your resume and fill out job applications to see who will hire you. Applying for a job is a great way to spend this time.


Another great way to spend your time is by traveling. This is the perfect opportunity for you to go out and see the world, especially if you are not applying to a job or to any other programs. You might not have another time in your life when you have little responsibility, so take advantage. If you have any friends who are in the same situation, invite them to come along with you, and you can have a great adventure exploring the world together! Take the opportunity to do new things and to have fun.

Apply again next year

There is nothing stopping you from re-applying for graduate school! If you decide to re-apply, try to evaluate what went wrong with your applications this time and avoid those mistakes. Did you apply to too many top 20 schools and not enough safety schools? Was your personal statement weak? Were your letters of recommendation not as strong as they could have been? Talk to your professors and advisor for help in figuring this out and helping you strengthen your application for the next application cycle.

Apply to other programs

A Master’s or PhD are not your only options for future programs. You can apply to post-baccalaureate or other master’s programs, too! These programs are meant to help you gain experience in your field, and would be great even if a PhD is not your ultimate goal. Do your research to see what kinds of programs like these are offered in your field and if you are eligible for them. Don’t discount these opportunities just because they were not in your original plan. You might find a program that’s perfect for your career goals!

It is definitely a tough situation if you don’t get into graduate school, but thankfully, it is not the end of the world. There are other options you can consider if you are in this situation. For example, you can volunteer or travel. You can also apply for jobs or for other programs (like post-baccalaureate programs, rather than PhD programs). These are all great options for you if you did not get into graduate school.

22, ISFJ. Biology student. College lifestyle blogger. Avid reader and writer. Dog lover. Nerd. Boyband enthusiast. Superhero in training. Here to help you become the best you can be!

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