How to cope with university rejections

As universities begin to send out their acceptance letters, so too come the rejections. This moment marks the completion of the first practical hurdle when it comes to getting into university. You’ve sent in your application, and now you find out if it’s been accepted or not. 

For many, the acceptance letter will be conditional, marking the second hurdle when it comes to exam results in the summer. At each point students will be dealing with success and disappointment. Successful applications are a pretty easy one to deal with – hopefully you’re excited and are looking forward to the next stage. When you don’t get the result that you want, the perceived failure can be upsetting.  

Obviously it’s horrible to be rejected from university, but just because you’ve come up against a bump in the road doesn’t mean it’s a disaster – you may find it takes you on a path that’s much better suited to you. 

Here are some of our tips for coping with university rejections.

Taking care of your emotional wellbeing

There are two sides to handling university rejections. The first is absorbing it and looking after your emotional wellbeing. Allowing yourself to grieve, recognise that feelings of loss are valid and that you’re allowed to take a moment to experience them, is an important part of it. 

Take a moment to reflect

Let yourself be sad for a moment – it’s ok to be disappointed. Then try to change your perspective. Remember, this might be a good thing, in fact, it probably is. Most people learn more through the things that didn’t go their way than the ones that did and you’re at the start of your journey. You still have an amazing set of opportunities ahead of you, many of which you may not have previously considered and might turn out to be a better fit.

Remember, you’re not alone

While it isn’t about comparing yourself to others, it’s important to remember that you’re not the only one who didn’t get accepted to their first choice of university. Lots of students don’t end up where they had originally planned to go, and it’s usually because it wasn’t quite the right path for them in the first place. Sometimes these uni professors actually do know what they’re talking about.

Don’t make sudden decisions

Don’t panic and start making decisions straight away. Put it to one side for the day, go and hang out with friends, read a book, watch a movie – just let the issue rest for a minute. Then come back to it tomorrow with a clear mind and a fresh outlook.

Stay true to your goals

When you start deciding what you might do next, stay true to your values and what makes you happy.  Don’t make reactionary changes to your plan based on the first hurdle. Reflect on why you applied where you did and which subject it was for. What appealed to you? Which bits were you focusing on because you thought you should? Which parts remain most important to your long-term goals?

Make a plan to move forward  

The second part of the process is about moving on from university rejections, taking practical steps to make a new plan and deciding what you want to do now. You might have been accepted to a different university, you may want to consider taking a year out to get different experiences before applying again. There’s a wealth of opportunities and options waiting for you, but you do need to make a plan and move forward.

Accept another university offer

For some, university rejections will come alongside an acceptance from a second or third choice of university. Take the time to review the course, the university and what you think about it. You could even head over for a visit to remind you what it’s like. If you like it, then you have a new path to look forward to.

Apply through clearing

If your university letter is contingent on exam results that you don’t end up achieving in the summer, then lots of students apply through clearing, which is where university applicants are matched to university places that haven’t been filled. It’s available to anyone who has made an application to university through the UCAS undergraduate application process but doesn’t get an offer. While it’s not advisable to accept an offer simply for the sake of it, if you find one that appeals to you, your goals and your values then it can be a wonderful way to explore opportunities you hadn’t considered before.

Take a gap year and reapply

Lots of students plan gap years anyway. That might be to travel, volunteer, work, do work experience or do other courses like a one year Foundation Art degree. If you don’t get accepted to a university that you want to go to, then a gap year can be a good way to take a step back and reflect rather than heading to do a course that you’re not interested in. Then you can use some of that time to review your application and reapply next year. 

If you do go for the gap year option, then it’s a good idea to make sure you put a structure in place so that it doesn’t become a wasted year. Think about how you’re going to use the time, whether it’s to earn money or learn a new skill. It could turn out to be an extremely valuable experience.

Consider alternative routes 

Some people find that not getting into university the first time around allows them to think about what they really want. Many decide that a full-time degree isn’t for them. They might choose to explore different qualifications, go straight into the world of work, apply for trainee or apprenticeships or to earn a degree in a different way. For example, you might study through the Open University or do a degree apprenticeship – a job combined with a university degree, meaning you’ll be working for an employer most of the time and studying at university or college for the rest.

If you didn’t get into your first choice of university and are not sure what to do next, don’t worry. There are options and you will make a success of them. If you would like to speak to our team about university application mentoring, follow the link below to find out more.