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How to deal with rejection when applying to uni: students’ tips

If your top-choice university rejects you, it can be a real kick in the teeth. So how do you bounce back? Here are some tips from other students.

Whether you’re still waiting on your university offers to come in, you’ve already learned that your number one university has said no, or you don’t get the grades you need come results day, we've taken some wise words from members of our sister site The Student Room, to hopefully put things in a bit of perspective. 

How to handle rejection from a university: students’ tips

1. It doesn’t mean The End 

While it might feel like your life has hit a titanic roadblock if you don’t get the uni offer or exam results you wanted, it’s so important to remember that this is one small stumble in the grand scheme of things. 

"First things first, sit down and have a cuppa, take a deep breath, and realise that it's not the end of the world," says The Student Room member carrotstar. 

"No matter how long it takes to achieve what you want to achieve, you won't be the only one. So many people go back and study later in life. Even if it's just three or four years behind the majority, you have so much time left," they add. 

Tip! If you don't get the uni offers you wanted, learn how you can get a second chance via Ucas Extra from February, or Ucas Clearing from July.

2. Don’t let one failure define you

"A university choice doesn't determine who you are, and it most certainly does not define who you are," says nguyenj.

There’s a difference between failing to meet a goal you set yourself and failing to meet one set by someone else: this could be an entry requirement set by a university or an exam grade from a teacher.

"Remember, it's not rejection of you as a person, or your work – the admissions tutors can only compare what they see on the day," advises SlowlorisIncognito.

And while academic grades and getting into uni are important, it’s healthy to have a mix of interests, hobbies and ambitions going on in your life that aren’t necessarily related to these academic pursuits.

Sure, there will be occasions when you need to prioritise revision or set aside time to work on your personal statement. But it’s always worth having separate things to turn to when you need a break – they can be excellent for your mental health and wellbeing.

Tip! Feeling low because you didn’t get a uni offer or the grades you were banking on? Throw yourself into an activity that reminds you of your other talents or interests. 

That way you can still enjoy that sweet sense of satisfaction, whether it’s beating your personal best on a park run, building a website, or raising money for a cause you’re passionate about.

Check out our revision advice, including A* student study tips and what to do if you fail your exams.

3. You might end up enjoying a different course more

"I only got rejected from the one university I had actually wanted to go to. So when that update came through, I pretty much fell apart. I took to my bed for about two days and refused to be rational," shares emcero.

"Although very quickly, I accepted that it was a very over-subscribed course, and at the end of the day the people who got offers would have deserved them. I am now so happy at Manchester, and cannot imagine being anywhere else.

"What I'm trying to say is that while it may feel like the end of the world when you first get rejected, everything does have a way of sorting itself out." 

Tip! If you're looking for a Plan B, you can search for university courses the easy way – see how students rated a course, graduate stats and more.

Alternatively, learn about degree apprenticeships: a fee-free alternative with applications running all year round.

4. Taking a bit of time out could be really beneficial

If you do decide to take some time out and try again next year, you could use the time to strengthen your application and sharpen your focus on the path you're set on. 

"I applied for child nursing last year, got to the interview stage on my top choices, and was rejected by all," says katypurples1012 "I had my heart set on becoming a nurse and was so scared as to what to do next to get where I want to be.

"Now I can see how I was so unprepared, and I now have a part-time job and two volunteer roles. I am hoping to start in my local childen's unit as well as a children's hospice and I can't wait! I am in such a better position to apply and I can see how I was fairly naive before.

"What I am saying is, yes you may end up having you dreams temporarily crushed, but you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, stay motivated, and have hope for the future - I think my year out will really do me a lot of good."

Tip! If you decide to take a gap year and reapply to a university a year later, try to get some feedback to your application so you can build on your skills and knowledge in that time. This can make all the difference in your second stab at a personal statement, while an admissions tutor might remember you for this when your name pops up again.

The same goes when applying for a job. If you’re unsuccessful, ask for any feedback or notes they’ve made about you so you’re not repeating mistakes in future applications

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