What three university rejection letters taught me

It is often through adversity that we learn the best life lessons.

Grace Neo

Published: 3 June 2015, 6:42 PM

It is the time A-level graduates and diploma holders hear from the local universities regarding their applications. Having received three rejection letters from Singapore’s local universities during my application last year, I understand how upsetting being turned down can be. However, this is also a chance to become stronger and more courageous through these adversities.

The following is a list of lessons I have learnt from the experience:

Sometimes results do matter

There is a reason why paper chase is still prominent today Photo credit: NEWS.ASIAONE.COM

Regardless how much schools are attempting to inculcate in students a holistic education, the fact is results do matter, and to a large extent. Although there have been attempts to salvage the overbearing focus of qualifications in Singapore, the constant speeches against unnecessary paper chases and introducing policies such as the Earn and Learn Initiative were all targeted towards diploma holders. But what about A-level students like myself?

While many might make it into local universities, Junior College students who did not do well enough have little choice other than opting for overseas or private universities.

It is okay not to be okay

The truth is we all need comfort at certain points in our lives. Following my rejection from the universities, my disappointment, anger and embarrassment pulled me away from everyone, even my loved ones. Wallowing in my own bubble of pessimism and self-blame, I tried to search for alternative paths.

However, I ended up in an even greater depressing state than before. It was then that I realised what I needed was comfort from others.


It may be tempting to build walls around oneself when faced with hardship, but I would say, break them down and surround yourself with people who genuinely care. The last thing you need is pessimism, something you might unintentionally inject yourself with. A hug from a friend works wonders at times like these, so do not be afraid to open up.

Education should not be taken for granted


As part of Generation Y living in Singapore, I hardly faced any lack of schooling opportunities from primary school to tertiary education, and tended to think of education as a given. Watching fellow friends proceeding to universities without me made me realise how much I had taken the chance to study for granted.

Be brutally honest with yourself

Grief forced me to live in the present. Receiving three rejection letters was indeed devastating, but reminiscing on such failures certainly did not help. Time waits for no man, especially in today’s fast-paced society.


It is time to stop being a lost sheep, and become the shepherd who guides your own life. People around might be overly excited to provide helpful suggestions, but take time to listen to your own voice. When you do, you are on your way to become a courageous individual.

If you find yourself in a similar position as myself, do remember that these times are hard, but they will eventually pass. In the meantime, why not try something different, like taking a gap year?

You may like these