How To Deal With A Rejected Scholarship Application

When we hear about people being awarded scholarships, we can't help but doubt ourselves. What have I been doing wrong? Am I not good enough?

This is not rocket science: rejection is a normal (and healthy) part of life, experienced even by the best and the smartest. Behind that one awarded scholarship is a rejection or two. After all, who would post and rejoice about a failed application?

We've all been there, and there's no shame in that. I have applied and been rejected multiple times: med school, my dream internship position, that Ph.D. scholarship. You're not less of a person for being rejected. 

Here are some tips that could help you move on and forward with life after that rejection email.

Forgive yourself.

Bear in mind that the success of your application does not solely depend on you and your merit. There are confounding factors that are out of your control, such as policy priorities and the caliber of your competitors at the time you applied. There's a time and season for everything, so stop sweating it and focus on the fact that your experience can be played to your advantage later on.


Reassess your options.

Every unsuccessful attempt is a chance to check in and reflect on the direction you're headed. Think about the fit between the course you applied for, your personal goals, and your strengths: Are you being true to yourself? Is it a match that would benefit both you and the programme? Sometimes, things don't work out because they're not right for each other. This is the time to scope your options and see whether you're barking up the wrong tree.


Continue to look for opportunities.

As I had previously pointed out, not everything about your application is about you. There's only so much you can do - like be proactive, find a good fit, play to your strengths, prepare an outstanding motivation letter, and get references from trusted people who can vouch for you - the rest is up to the universe. Don't let that one failed attempt stop you from looking for opportunities.

I treat scholarship hunting as a learning experience. After all, it's not so different from other grown-up stuff like finding a job. So really, you're not losing anything from continuing to look for scholarship opportunities and programmes that will fit your unique profile and skillset.


Improve your application.

As you continue to scope the possibilities ahead of you, go back to your application documents. Would you have done it differently?

  • Pull up that motivation letter and see if you can improve it. You can check our guide to writing an effective scholarship motivation letter for tips.
  • Ask people who have been awarded scholarships how it went for them. Schedule informational sessions with scholars who are willing to guide you through the process.
  • Talk to a trusted mentor about how you could improve your application. 
  • Read blogs and forums on the internet and seek out practical advice and tips for academic writing.
  • Reflect on how you can make changes in your life today as you prepare for the next round of applications. Should you read up more on the subject? Take up volunteer work? Assist in projects? Assume leadership roles?
  • Can you be more specific in your CV as you highlight your strengths and achievements?


Try again.

Think about it: You're not starting from scratch. You now have content and know-how to build on for your next application. So try again. As they say, there's really no harm in trying.

If coaching is your thing, Creative Living Abroad also offers mentoring sessions to those who want to get valuable insight on how the process works. It's not necessary but is surely helpful.

Remember that your scholarship application, whatever the result may be, does not define you. So cry, rant, go shopping, eat out with friends, or drink wine. Then look up the next round of applications and get to work. You'll thank your future self for it.




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