Thursday, April 5, 2012

For those who will be rejected

We'll soon be sending letters informing non-U.S. applicants to SAIS Bologna whether they've been accepted, put on the wait list or rejected.

This post is for those who will be rejected.

"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it," said the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso.

After the initial shock of rejection, here are several possible reactions:

- They've made a mistake.
- I'm totally useless.
- OK, how can I learn from this?

Here's what one applicant recently wrote to us even before learning the Admissions Committee's decision:

"I look forward to receiving the admission's decision and have been working on correcting my mistakes and improving on what I have learned during the application process. It has been a very enriching experience!"

Some applicants will have breezed through the application process, and SAIS will open its doors wide to accept them. But will they have learned something?

My hope is that those who are rejected will take a deep breath and consider why they may have fallen short. There's nothing personal in an Admissions Committee's rejection -- it all comes down to fit.

Here are some questions: How could I have improved my application? Was my English proficiency score too low? How about my undergraduate transcript? Did my statement convey a real appetite for an international curriculum and career? Did my referees understand why I want to go to SAIS?

It's entirely possible that failure in this instance will propel a candidate to success. Some applicants who are rejected reapply and are admitted. Others shift their sights to something more appropriate.

Some readers may remember a post we published last year on failure. We noted these colossal "failures":

- Abraham Lincoln lost in his first try for the Illinois legislature, lost in his first attempt to be nominated for Congress, lost in the senatorial elections of 1854 and 1858.
- Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four years old and did not read until he was seven.
- Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime.

I'm a big believer in providing feedback to candidates who fall short. It's part of the process of learning. If you receive a rejection letter, feel free to contact me after April 16. We can set up a time to chat so I can provide feedback.

The vanquished can teach us as much as the winners. Victory and defeat can both nurture wisdom.

This unknown author knew as much: "Take risks:  if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise."

Nelson Graves


Anonymous said...

This is why I want to go to SAIS. I feel like your entire admissions process has been about the individual applicant - you offer interviews as well as feedback. It seems some grad school admissions committees have forgotten the stress and anxiety involved in the applications process. Thank you, Nelson, this blog has been reassuring, informative and entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Amendment: Not the only reason!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Nelson.

While I have already received some amazing offers from other schools, I have been waiting with my final choice until the decision comes from SAIS. I hope it has been worth it ;)

Will we get the e-mails today or rather tomorrow?

Nelson Graves said...

Thank you both for your comments. You don't know how much they mean to Amina and me. As for the emailed letters, we plan to send them out tomorrow -- if all goes according to plan.

Anonymous said...

Nelson, Amina, you have both been tremendous throughout this entire process. I can only hope that the rest of the Bologna Center staff are as capable and committed as the two of you. Many thanks !

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with what has been said above!
It is amazing to see how much effort you put in reviewing the individual applications. Thank you!
Whether I get accepted or rejected - I learnt a lot during the application process and I am looking forward to hearing your feedback! Best wishes!

Anonymous said...

This is a great post.
Thank you

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard yet? I'm both excited and scared! Whatever the decision, it shall be well...
Thank you Amina and Nelson for keeping us informed (and sane) throughout the process!

Anonymous said...

I'm anxiously waiting myself and hope i'll still get notified today, whatever it's going to be in the, the whole experience and people I met made it worth it. Thank you Nelson and Amina.

Anonymous said...

Same here... Anxiously for the decision. Is it going to be today? Thank you very much for all your help and patience, Nelson and Amina!!!

Anonymous said...

Same here... Anxiously waiting for the decision. Is it going to be today in the end? Thank you very much for all your help and patience, Nelson and Amina!!!

Anonymous said...

SCREAM!!! I'M IN!!! Thank you! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Congrats! That means they really are sending out decisions today, let's hope i'll join you soon.

Anonymous said...

Amina and Nelson, like everybody else, I am very grateful for your support and efficiency throughout this process.

I still have not yet heard anything. Will we all receive responses today?

Many thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi Nelson and Amina, will everyone be notified via email today?

Nelson Graves said...

Thank you all for your comments -- and your patience. We have notified all candidates today via email. If for some reason you have not received an email from us, please send a note to