How to deal with Academic Rejection

This year on July 6th I left my flat at 7 o’clock in the morning to get to a building in Vienna, which still to this point gives me all the chills. Four years ago, I took my 8- hours University entrance exam called Med-AT at the Exhibition building in Vienna, sitting in a cold, metallic enormous room next to nearly 5000 other students, fighting for one of the 740 seats at Medical School. This year, I got to be on the other side of all, working as a tutor to guide the applicants through their exams. Seeing their scared and tired faces, full of anxiety and nervousness, I clearly could remember how I felt back in 2014.


This month is results day month – meaning lots and lots of high school students getting some kind of academic feedback whenever they’ll get to Uni or not or how they performed in their A levels or any entrance test, but also on huge exams at Uni. It can be a very, very emotional trip, specially at this young age where things like that seem to define our lives. So today I thought I would share a few things which you can do if things didn’t worked out as planned.

Accepting the situation

This is a very basic one but in my opinion, a profound step to pull yourself together again. It’s okay to be disappointed and sad and it’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling. Maybe the “I wish I’ve done” thoughts are trickling into your brain, going down that serendipity pathway. Maybe you secretly get angry about a classmate doing much better then you, comparing yourself to everyone you can think about. Maybe you doubt your own abilities, skills, strengths. This thoughts can hit you like a thunderstorm and they can hurt. It’s okay to feel this emotions and it’s completely normal. But make sure to take care of yourself and get to the path of finding out what really went wrong for you.

Speaking to loved and trusted people

Share your thoughts and fears with the people you love. They can help you change your perspective on things and help you out of your bubble for sure. It can be anyone, from family members, to friends and even teachers, just speak out. This people care for you and during a time where you may doubt yourself, there can be nothing more comforting then a strong supporting system behind your back. They remember you that things like marks don’t define you as a person when you have forgotten that and reassure you.

Figure out what went wrong for you

I failed my first attempt at getting into Medical school because I simply didn’t study enough for it. Besides that, I didn’t really know back then how to actually study. So I had to dig deeper into the ground and figure out the things I struggled with the most. If you have taken an entrance exam, analyse your results, look for your strengths and weaknesses and read up on other peoples experiences. If you’ve been rejected by an Uni, look at your application. Did you miss any requirements? Can you work on your application in order to go for a second try when time comes?

Searching for Alternatives

I’m one of this people who always has a couple of plan B’s and C’s in her pocket. Since I didn’t start University right after graduating from High school, I did a lot of planning for potential gap years. Searching for alternatives helps to get out of that powerless devastating bubble you’re probably currently in and gives you the possibility to become your master of your own fate again. Speaking of Uni: Do you have any other options, are there any other Unis you could apply to? Do you full fill their requirements? Are you actually interested in the other options? Do you really want to go for your chosen subject and if so, would you be willing to reapply the following year? Is a gap year a possibility for you? And if not, what are your other interests? Can you still apply for them?

Get ahead of any deadlines

I think there is nothing more annoying then to miss an academic offer because you missed a deadline. Did you fail through a test? – When is the next one available? When are the next University entrance or application deadlines? Did you get waitlisted? If so, what does that mean for you, when do you get to know if you get an offer or not? Just get ahead of important deadlines and note them to be on the safe side.

Take time out

You’ve probably been through a very intense, emotional quite stressful period of your life time and while maintaining a healthy productivity is important, I feel like it’s equally important to take some time out of academia for a couple of days. What happened, happened and you cannot really change that at the given time. It’s important to take care of yourself, surround yourself with the people who are most important in your life and refill your energy.

Let me end this post on this note: No matter what happened during this past couple of weeks, you can be sure of one thing – you can allow yourself to be proud of yourself. You’ll make it through. My 2013 rejected self was devastated, sad, and broken, but here I’m a few years later, starting the 5th year of medical school in October. If you really want something, work as hard as you can for it and you’ll surely get it.


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