After you receive the rejection email from a grad school program you applied to, the questions always come. What could I have done differently? Was I removed from the Maybe pile quickly, or was my file extensively debated? Was it stupid applying to this program in the first place?
I know that last year each rejection left me angry, upset, confused. This year I don’t feel any of that. There’s a measure of sadness in this re-application cycle, but also the sensation that the rejections happened for a purpose. What could I have done to “guarantee” the success of all my PhD applications? As an international applicant to the USA – nothing. I would have had to go back in time and get myself onto the top undergraduate Chemistry program in the country. I would have had to go back in time to clear many extra months for test prep. I would have had to go back in time to court and woo a different set of referees.
I can’t go back in time. In the 12 months I had to re-apply I could only move the clock forwards.
I did all that I could.
Reflecting more deeply, I look at the best things that have happened to me: Edinburgh, Philadelphia, London. These things would never have happened to me if I hadn’t got things wrong or failed at something prior.
My interview at the University of Oxford was unsuccessful…so I did Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. Oxford doesn’t have a “year in industry” option in their science courses.
I applied for year in industry placements from November to February. The global economy tanked and the countless applications emailed out went unanswered. I was interviewed for two British-based placements and had no success. I was only one application from giving up finding a placement…and that for was the US-based placement outside of Philadelphia.
The intention was hopping from Basel to the USA in summer 2012…instead I headed to London. To date it was my favourite research project that I worked upon whilst there. My whole perception of the UK was shifted by getting to know London properly.
Perhaps a rejection is just a way of clearing the path for the better things that are coming along for you.