Category Archives: Applying

Week 2: On Rejection and How to Deal

Let me begin with a moment of transparency: I have been rejected more times than I care to count in the last three months. A professor I wanted to work with on Comps rejected my request. In a moment of intense vulnerability, I submitted two stories to literary magazines for the first time in my life and was rejected by both. I submitted an abstract to a conference at Princeton on the Black Impossible, thinking there could be no better place for my scholarly work on Black superheroes, only to be rejected weeks later. To rub salt in the wound, I also dealt with a personal rejection, which resulted in the dissolution of a long standing friendship.

And that is just in the last three months. If I go back further, the list of rejections might seem endless, peppered with deserted abstracts, denials from grad schools, and papers with biting feedback that, despite the grade, made you feel as if you had failed. I think of my rejections in grad school, my most spectacular failure was submitting three different blog posts to Black Perspectives, only to have all three promptly rejected within five minutes.

This list not an invitation to commiserate with me on my failures. It is not an invitation to pity me. It is an attempt to be transparent about a fact of graduate school: you will apply for things that you will sometimes not receive. You will be disappointed sometimes. And I am here to tell you that it is okay.

Fortunately, the list of triumphs outnumbers the failures for me. For every misstep, I found two more to guide me in the right direction. I have to believe that life is about balance, that even if I am having a season of rejection, it means that a season of “yes” is coming my way soon.

So, if rejection is inevitable at some junctures in your life, how best can we deal? One way is to be open about what you are going through. It may feel that the best way to handle it is to hide the rejection letter in a box under your bed and bottle up the feelings. Short term, that’s reasonable, but ultimately not sustainable. I’m not advising you run through the streets screaming that you’ve been rejected; however, it might be a good idea to let a few, trusted people in to share in your frustrations. Sharing your feelings will make you feel a little better and, if you have the kind of friends that I do, they are going to let you cry it out, but then hype you up and insist that you try again. Sometimes, just hearing someone say that they believe in you can go a long way. Seek out those who will support and encourage you, but also make a point to return the favor when they need the same from you.

If opening up to people is not your style, I still recommend you find someway to rid yourself of the negative feelings that come with rejection so they do not fester. Try having a long conversation with your pet, journaling it out, or writing a strongly worded letter and then tear it up.

Make sure you allow yourself some time to feel the sadness, to mope and to declare you will never write/apply/submit/create again. Watch a sad movie, eat a pint of ice cream, cry if you need to, but then when you are done and you are ready, tell yourself that you are going to be resilient and that you are going to try again. Ask yourself, what can I learn from this experience? Be vigilant in this process. For example, one of the literary magazines I submitted to offered me some positive and helpful feedback on my story. I took heart in the fact that there were aspects of the story that they liked, but that they also took the time to identity the features which weakened it. I can take that information and go back to the story and rework it. Even if I never submit it anywhere else, at least I know I will have made it a stronger story than it was before I first submitted it.

While I have placed a lot of emphasis on getting validation outside of yourself (leaning on friends and positive feedback), I implore you to also seek internal validation. Affirm yourself. For me, affirming myself was taking an evening off from everything, grabbing a journal and a pen, and writing a long letter to God and then a long list of things that I liked about myself. I wrote that I loved my hair, that I was an excellent writer, that I was smart, that was compassionate and a go-getter. At the end of the list, I reminded myself that even if these literary magazines or conference committees did not want some aspect of me, it did not make me any less of the amazing things that I listed. When I am feeling down, I come back to that list and even add to it, because it is such a beautiful thing to be able to lift yourself up.

Finally, the last thing that seems to help me is to have a mantra, a phrase, or a few, that you can come back to that consistently give you energy. For me, those phrases are: “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing,” (Audre Lorde); “Someone, somewhere is waiting to read my words;” and “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14). Put your mantras somewhere you can always see them– on your mirror, next to your bed, on your desk, or in my case, on my body. (I have “I am deliberate and afraid of nothing” tattooed on my wrists.) Allow yourself to be moved by those words.

There is no magic potion for recovering from rejection. Dealing with rejection is an act of courage and requires extreme vulnerability, courage because you choose to be resilient and vulnerability because you made the radical decision to share a sometimes very private part of yourself with those who have the ability to judge you. It takes time and a willingness to be as kind to yourself as you would be to someone else in your position. Allow yourself to feel everything that comes with a rejection, but then be resilient enough to learn from it.

And most importantly: always, always try again.

Black Girl Does Grad School… Eventually

By Branika Scott

Sometimes you know exactly what you want to do in life, you just don’t know when you want to do it. Sometimes you realize you have to take time, not only for logistics, but simply for yourself. As you can see by the title, this is for the black girls who will go to grad school…eventually.

Since I was a child, I’ve loved school. Yeah, not liked… loved it. I loved everything about school and everything that had to do with learning. I was that one kid asking all the questions in class. The girl who dressed up as Condoleezza Rice for the elementary school Halloween parade. When I wasn’t in school, I was at home playing school, taking on the role as teacher to my little siblings. So naturally, from a young age, higher education has always been in my “big picture”.

We all know everything doesn’t always go as planned…

I was filled with hope at the beginning of my last year at the University of Virginia. I’d just had the best summer of my life, and life, in general, was perfect. This was my last year and I was going to make it count with all of the memories that I could. I also started planning for grad school. Although the profession I want doesn’t necessarily require a graduate degree, I always feel one should never stop learning. Also, due to UVA’s unique Drama program, I felt there was way more I could learn within the realm of acting. Grad school applications, along with audition planning was soon in my horizon…or so I thought.

Within my first week of school, I found out I had a heart condition that was not curable. That same week I also ruptured my Achilles’ tendon. These two events completely changed both my life and my path. I was now on bedrest for about three months and medicated heavily for almost two of them. Because of the effects of the medication, I was not reading or writing very much, which meant I wasn’t filling out applications and applying for fee waivers. It also meant I wasn’t looking at dates, locations, and times of auditionsto book. Because I could not walk, this also meant I could not act at full capacity, I could not rehearse, so I would not be able to apply to grad school due to the audition process held inJanuary/ February. I had to put my life on hold, as well as my dreams of grad school.

I’m not going to lie, at first I was devastated. I couldn’t understand why God had allowed this to happen to me in my very last year of undergrad. I cried a lot in the beginning. I felt like I had been robbed of my last semester, as well as all the memories I didn’t get to make. Most of all, I felt hopeless because I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life after graduation.

Since I didn’t apply to grad school, I didn’t have a Plan B. But I guess I learned that that’s the point. God has a plan for everything, and His timing is unpredictable to man. This setback made me realize that maybe God was telling me to take a break; maybe God was telling me I needed to take time for myself. I mean, when you think about it, I have been in school for 17 straight years. So I decided this gap year would be my blessing. I decided to stop feeling bad and sorry for how things turned out; I decided to stop feeling scared, and I have decided to follow my dreams.

In my gap year, I’m moving to Los Angeles. I’m going to audition, work, spend some time trying to put myself out there in this acting industry, and see where life takes me. Who knows, maybe I’ll get booked right away on a hit show, maybe I’ll end up moving back to the east coast within a few months, but regardless of where life takes me, I still dream and plan for grad school. No matter what, I still want that Masters Degree with my name on it. And one day, I’ll have it.

So to all my black girls who will eventually go to grad school, don’t feel bad for taking a break first. Don’t be scared of the direction God takes you in life. Everyone’s journey is unique and theirs for the making. You’ll get there when you’re ready, so be free and take your time.


Branika Scott is a recent graduate of the University of Virginia with her BFA in Drama. She is in the process of moving to Los Angeles, where she will pursue her career in acting. Glitter is her spirit animal and gold is her metal of choice.

Black Girl Doesn’t Do Grad School

Hi. I’m Taylor Lamb. I’m a (very) recent graduate of the University of Virginia with a B.A. in English and a minor in Drama. And I am not going to grad school.

[Pauses for you to take a moment to scroll and check if you’re on the right blog] Yes, I know. This isn’t exactly the content you signed up for.

But I think I have a cool perspective to share anyway.

I love school. A lot. I always have. School is what I’m good at. It’s what I’m best at, in all honesty. As much as I may have complained about my assignments, the late nights, and the early mornings… I actually thrived most when I was a student. A lot of my self esteem was linked to me making good grades (which is probably unhealthy) and doing well in school was how I felt like I was doing well in life. With all of this in mind, pursuing a masters’ degree seemed like the most natural next step as I was finishing my Bachelor’s Degree.

But the problem was- I had no need for it.

Realistically, I didn’t even need a Bachelor’s degree. I want to act. I also want to write too, hence the english degree, but acting is really my main goal. I hope to break into the entertainment industry, and having a Bachelor’s is absolutely not necessary. Some could even consider it as a detriment. The past 4 years I spent in undergrad, I could’ve been auditioning, or taking acting classes, or saving money so that I could afford to move to a city that gives me a better chance at achieving my goals. But I love school. And I wasn’t ready to be done with it. And I had always dreamed of going to college. So, I matriculated for 4 years. And now I’m done. And scared.

I was thisclose to going to grad school just to go. My University just recently launched an accelerated master’s program for English. Just one extra year (of incredibly hard work, mind you) and I’d have a master’s in English. And, I deeply considered it. I could continue to thrive in school for a year, and I could also delay having to make Big Decisions for a year. It seemed pretty great.

But, the kicker- they didn’t offer financial aid. I’m fortunate enough to have graduated with a very small amount of debt due to a full tuition scholarship. That is why I attended UVA in the first place. It was pretty integral to my college experience.

So, would I put myself in debt just to delay my life for a year, for a degree that I ultimately didn’t need? Would I take out loans just so I could revel in the joy of being a student for one more year? I definitely considered it. Everyone else is in debt, why can’t I be? Was I really ready to leave the comfort of academia? Wasn’t it worth it?

Ultimately, I had to decide… no. It wasn’t worth it. Not for me, anyway.

I’m terrified. It’s been less than two weeks as I type this, so it hasn’t kicked in that I’m done with school, quite yet. But, I know that it’s coming. The realization that I won’t be getting graded anymore. That any “assignments” I receive will be for work and not just for learning. That I don’t have some big defined goal of attaining a degree that everything I do is ultimately working towards.

And I’m gonna miss it. I know I will. I love learning and now I have to be self-motivated in a pursuit of knowledge, which isn’t one of my strong suits. But, I ultimately had to make the decision that was best for me, my future, and my bank account.

I’ll continue to live vicariously by voraciously reading every post on Black Girl Does Grad School. I’ll be jealous that I’m not writing any more papers, and won’t eventually get to use #blackandhooded on my instagram pics.

Thanks to y’all who are fighting the good fight of post-graduate education, for giving me something to look in on and be in awe of.

Signed,

A Black Girl Who Isn’t Going to Grad School

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(…for now)


Taylor Lamb is an alumna of the University of Virginia where she studied English with a minor in Drama. She is a writer, actress, and passionate about art for social change. If you want to get her revved up, ask her about Beyoncé or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Read her writings here https://www.clippings.me/taylorlamb or check her out on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/user/TaylorLeighLamb