One of the unfortunate truths that come with the process of applying for scholarships is that rejection, sadly, is inevitable. Nobody is perfect. Heck, nobody is even close to perfect.
The same way we get rejected from colleges, internships, jobs, and countless other things, scholarships are no different. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that getting rejected from a scholarship doesn’t sting, because I’ve been there too and I know how much it does.
When I get rejected from ANYTHING, there are three key steps that I follow to help me learn from the experience, regain composure and perspective, and get back out there to hit the ground running.
And in the post, I am going to share them with you, so that you can successfully deal with rejection and come back 10x stronger.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
One thing I learned somewhere between applying for scholarships as a high school senior and applying for jobs while in college was that reflecting on your experiences is a crucial step toward helping you to make improvements.
After interviewing for a scholarship, internship, or job and subsequently getting rejected (which happened more times than I can even count), it would have been easy to just sulk around and continue to send out applications as-is. However, failing to identify where you’re going wrong will only set you up for more failure.
So, rather than going down this route, I made a point to be honest with myself about the experience and how I thought I could do better next time.
If you’re having trouble picturing this in practice, here’s an example...
During my senior year in college, I interviewed for a rotational program at a digital marketing agency that seemed really cool. I passed the initial application and one-way interview phase, and the next step was a phone call with the hiring manager.
Rather than preparing for the interview like I usually do (writing out detailed notes about the company, things I found interesting, questions), I waited until the last minute to prepare, and when I got on the call, I could barely find my words.
I answered the questions that I was asked but felt like I was talking all over the place, and when it came time for me to ask questions (which, take note, you always should!) I only asked one measly question that came with a pretty basic answer.
Not very impressive of me!
As you might be able to predict, I did not get called back for another round after that interview. Although I was upset, I made time to sit down and write my list.
What did I do well?
What could have gone better?
How can I improve for next time?
These were just a few of the questions that I would write down and answer for myself. By doing this exercise, I eventually was able to identify pain points in my process and make a conscious effort to improve them.
If I was to ever go on a job interview now, you bet your bottom dollar that I would only come prepared with the best, most thoughtful questions!
So, when you get rejected from a scholarship, whether you’ve had an interview or not, try to take a step back and objectively evaluate the contents of your application.
Maybe your essay had some unnecessary typos, or you didn’t even realize that the application asked you a question that you didn’t properly address. Or, maybe you had to submit a resume, and your resume wasn’t up-to-date or tailored to be a bit more specific in highlighting your relevant achievements (PS - if you need help with this, check out my eBook!)
Especially for the scholarships that are extremely selective, these are the types of things that you need to be on the lookout for in your post-rejection evaluation. Make note of the areas where you may have slacked so you don’t make the same mistakes again!
Say you walk out of an interview feeling like it went great, and a few days later, you get the notification that you got rejected. This confuses you because you felt like everything went swimmingly!
However, maybe a post-interview chat with the scholarship committee or hiring manager revealed that you talked a bit too much about yourself, repeated the same achievement over and over, or just appeared to be scattered.
For this reason, the second thing that I do after facing rejection is I'll reach out to someone on the other side to inquire about getting feedback. Getting this type of feedback is key because it is often a more objective recount of the experience than how we tend to remember it.
If you’re not sure how to go about asking for feedback after a rejection, here is a short and sweet way that you can phrase it via email:
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to interview for the X Scholarship. While I am saddened that I will not be advancing to the next round of this application cycle, I would greatly appreciate any personal feedback that you could provide, so I can learn from this experience and be ready to reapply next year!
Unfortunately, not all organizations and companies give feedback after interviews, which can be incredibly frustrating, especially when you feel like you can’t pinpoint any concrete mistakes that you might have made.
Which brings me to step number 3…
Maybe you interviewed perfectly or truly felt that you submitted an A+ application. However, doing these things doesn’t guarantee that you will move on to the next round or be the winner, especially when you’re talking about an opportunity that gets hundreds of qualified applicants (or more).
So, in addition to following steps one and two, step three is an important reminder that sometimes, for whatever reason, things just won’t work out in your favor. As hard as it may be, try not to take it personally; rejection truly does happen to everyone.
Experiencing rejection doesn’t mean that you’re not capable of succeeding, or that you should quit forever. In fact, you should do quite the opposite: try to learn from the experience as best you can, and continue to set goals for yourself so you stay motivated and have the confidence to keep doing you.