Facing rejection is never easy. After months spent working on an application, it can be very disheartening to receive a notification that begins “Dear Jane Doe, Thank you for your application. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer you a fellowship this year…” In this post you’ll learn some tips on how to deal with rejection in a way that can set you up for future success.
Let Your Recommendation Writers Know
Although it can be difficult to share the disappointing news with others, letting your recommendation writers and mentors know about the results will allow you to gather the support you need to move forward. As your referees, they have written positively about your potential and that of your project, and these same individuals can help you think about what might have led to this result while also encouraging you not to take it personally. Odds are, they have been where you are now. Remembering that rejection is part of the same process that leads to success can help you feel better about the results.
Seek and Review Feedback
Try to find out the specific reasons why your proposal was not funded. Some funders include reviewer comments with the results. Others may ask that you explicitly request that any reviewer comments be forwarded to you; if so, ask for them. These comments can offer valuable insight into why your proposal was not recommended for funding and can help you learn more about how your application was received by the awards committee. While review criteria is often available on a funder’s website, reviewer comments can offer more of the “behind-the-scenes” of how the committee was instructed to evaluate your proposal, giving you that much more insight into how to improve your application.
If the awards committee does not provide feedback, consider asking a mentor who has not previously read your application for her or his insights. While it is often challenging to have your work critiqued, this is a valuable strategy that will strengthen future applications as well as your developing research.
If you are still eligible for the award, make plans to reapply. Often it takes multiple attempts at the same award before being funded. If you are no longer eligible because you are now entering a new stage of your graduate career, the feedback you received and the experience you gained can help you strengthen a future proposal.
At GradFund, we can help you make sense of reviewer feedback and guide you through exploring opportunities for future application cycles. It’s never too early to make an appointment to discuss your plans and learn how to integrate applying for funding into your graduate career. Facing rejection is part of the grant and fellowship application process, but it doesn’t need to stop you in your tracks. We believe in our graduate students, and we encourage you to schedule a meeting with us when you’re ready to try again.