• The Mentorship Spot

How to Handle a Rejection from Your Top Choice University

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

Written By Amanda Chang


“Although I need a reminder sometimes, I strongly believe everything happens for a reason.”

Amanda is a fifth-year student at York University in the Life Sciences program. She is doing a major in biology and a minor in psychology. She enjoys volunteering at her local hospital and at Let’s Talk Science @ York. Her hobbies include photography, reading, and binge-watching on kdramas.


Whether you’re in grade 12 and applied for university or you’re a university student and applied for post-grad or other programs, this one’s for you. If you’ve received rejections, don’t take them to heart and think you’re a failure. Every year the pool of applicants is always different and schools can only take in so many students. If it’s a program you’re really adamant about, then keep trying! You can always apply again and take the time to boost your application. Didn’t get in to start for first year of university? Consider accepting a different offer and switching to the first-choice program in second year. Didn’t get it for post grad? Consider continuing your undergrad and taking other courses to boost your GPA, or find a job or placement to gain experience that will help make you stand out.


Here’s my story:


It was Monday, April 1st late at night when I should be studying for Friday’s exam but instead I was watching ‘college decision reactions’ videos on YouTube. I found many videos in my recommendations after watching a couple reaction videos. It was interesting to see how students were handling both acceptances and rejections from their dream schools and other universities they applied to. I, too, was anticipating on a decision — one from McMaster University for this application cycle.


A little background on the process I went through, I applied for the Physician Assistant (PA) program at McMaster University. This program is offered at three universities across Canada including University of Manitoba and University of Toronto. The universities in Ontario are the only ones with second-entry PA programs (meaning you can apply after doing a minimum of 2 years of undergrad), whereas UManitoba requires a completion of a bachelor’s degree. These programs are crazy competitive and I didn’t know how competitive they were until I did my research and attended the information sessions in person. I decided to give it a try and applied during my fourth year of undergraduate studies.


It was April 2nd when UofT released their interview invites to selected applicants (the interview is the final stage of the application process and it is a huge achievement to just receive one considering the limited spaces). That only meant McMaster would be sending theirs out soon. So I continued binge-watching college admission reaction videos as I waited. Then came Wednesday, April 3rd — one day before my final exam — and McMaster sent out their interview invites. I was devastated when I saw my status for the program changed to ‘denied’. I wasn’t even put on the wait-list. My thoughts spiraled as I began feeling disappointed and upset at myself. I made sure to have a plan for if I didn’t get accepted but the reality of it coming true shocked me. Especially because I won’t even have a chance to do the interview round. So how did I get out of this negative thinking?


“Be kind to yourself and be patient…”

In my opinion, it is so important to vent out your emotions — do not keep it bottled inside. I shared the news with my close friends when I saw the status change. I didn’t hold back my tears, partly because I wanted to have a strong front when telling my parents later on. Remember that you are allowed to feel these emotions and express them. It is also important to be around others — distract yourself and confide in a strong support group if you need to. I am especially grateful for one friend of my mine who called me right after I broke the news and consoled me. She reminded me that it is not the end of the world and that I have a solid backup plan; that there is still time to figure things out because we are still young. And I also had to focus on tomorrow’s final exam if I didn’t want to bomb it (I have a bit of “love-hate relationship” with this course). I took a small break with my friend after writing that exam; It was a great 3 hours of good conversations, awesome food (it heals the soul ), and lovely company. My close university friends were so supportive as well, reminding me of the hard work I did to be able to even reach the spot I stood at in the application process. They were still proud of me regardless. The supportive people in my life have honestly helped me get out of my slump. I was still upset a week later but I was in brighter spirits.


TL;DR: If you got rejections or got rejected from your top choice university, remember that it’s not the end of the world. If you feel hurt, sad, angry, frustrated, etc. remember that you are allowed to feel these emotions. Let them out and come back stronger again. Take a break, surround yourself with supportive people, treat yourself and recharge. Apply again next cycle. Be proud of yourself for how far you’ve reached and for every accomplishment you’ve made thus far, even if they’re small.

Of course everyone handles situations differently and I am by no means saying this is how everyone should cope. Others may prefer journaling their feelings or going on nature walks. It’s a personal experience I’m sharing as I found what I did to be helpful, so maybe these advice will help you too .


Although I need a reminder sometimes, I strongly believe everything happens for a reason. Maybe the timing wasn’t right, or maybe that program/university wasn’t meant to be and it was a blessing in disguise. At the end of the day, if we gave it our best shots then we should be proud of ourselves. Take the time to reflect. If you want to try applying again in the future, figure out your strengths and weaknesses and work on them. It’s easier said than done but take your time. Heck I’m still trying to figure it out and it’s been two months.


My recent favourite quote is one from Morgan Harper Nichols and it is: “May you never discredit how far you have come and all that it took just to be here”. I hope you keep this in your thoughts too as a reminder when going through rough times, as will I try to. Be kind to yourself and be patient.


Thanks for reading this article! If you liked it, consider checking out the other articles on our page and stay tuned for new ones weekly! Did you know we also pair high school students with uni students in their desired program for advice and mentorship? Check out our sign-up page to register as a mentor or mentee today!

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