I Didn’t Get In! Dealing with Grad School Rejection

Take a vacation? Learn to cook? See the world? Really, if I were you, I would try my best to put a positive spin on what many might deem as “dream-crushing.” Why? Because graduate schools will still be there next year and the year after that. Not even the Mayans could stop them from admitting new students. If you’re truly interested in how to get into grad school, then you’ll only be more prepared come next admissions cycle.

grad school rejection - image by Magoosh


What to do when all your grad school applications are rejected?

Here on the GRE blog, our specialty is coaching the GRE. Life counseling may fall slightly out of our purview, but we’ve all tried and failed at things we had greatly aspired to succeed in. The truth is, you pick yourself up and keep going. There are plenty of motivational posters (of the variety your middle school had), to remind you to work hard, not give up, keep your chin up, etc. Get past the cheese and pick one to make your motivator. Think of it this way: you have insight into what kind of candidate doesn’t get accepted, and you’ve now got a 8-10 months to make yourself the kind of candidate that does get accepted!

Improve your GRE score with Magoosh.

Not that it’s always so cut and dry, but you should do what you can. Spend the next 8 months fostering relationships with professors, working on independent research, and of course, our favorite, studying for the GRE. 🙂 Peruse the GRE forums and see the profiles of folks who got in and those who didn’t. That will also give you a better picture of where you stand in the crowd.

There’s a negative connotation to reapplying to schools that I believe is misleading. The belief is that admissions don’t want to see the same candidate year after year. I agree with that. I disagree that you have to be the same candidate. Wait! I’m not saying change your identity. Admissions isn’t the mob. I’m saying do everything you can to enhance your application. I mean you do want to get into a life-changing program, don’t you? Swallow the tough pill that you simply weren’t the candidate the program was looking for. Then do something about it.


Was I rejected because of my GRE score?

As for my expertise… You might also be asking yourself the related question: how much of a factor was my GRE score?

Believe it or not, a perfect score will not get you into your dream school; though an abysmal score can hurt your chances of getting into a school that should be within your reach (considering your GPA, experience, letters of rec., etc.).
So if you received an okay score, let’s say 152 on both sections, it may not be the GRE that is holding you back. There could very well be other omissions—or sub-par standings—in your record that could have influenced the admission board’s decision.

On the other hand, if you scored in the low 140’s, then your GRE score could very well have been factor. If you think you are in this group, do not lose heart. You can improve your score (I routinely see students in the Magoosh testimonial section increase their scores by 16 points). And by extension, you can improve your chances in getting accepted the second time around.

But I don’t just want to give you a pep talk and a pat on the back. Increasing even by 10-points will mean you not only have to work harder, but you have to work smarter. Below is a post that will help guide you in the right direction.

Should I retake the GRE?

Give us your rejection sob stories below!

P.S. Ready to improve your GRE score? Get started today.

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19 Responses to I Didn’t Get In! Dealing with Grad School Rejection

  1. Ansej July 27, 2020 at 8:36 am #


    So I took the GRE last year and scored pretty bad. My score was 298 (149 in both verbal and quant). I applied for Ph.D. in 10 universities in US lat year but unfortunately got rejected by all of them. My profile is not very bad. My GPA is 4, I have sufficient research experience and my TOEFL score is 93. I also have a publication in an international journal and have presented papers at various platforms. I have both attended and conducted workshops and I can speak 4 different languages.

    I was wondering if I got rejected due to my poor GRE score. Should I retake the exam? If I plan to retake, I have roughly 2 months in hand for the exam preparations. Would that be enough to score better than my previous? Will a better score help me get into a grad school next year?

  2. Valentine November 28, 2017 at 11:48 pm #

    I’m currently applying to several PhD programs to pursue my PhD in social work.. Ok, let’s be honest, 13…. Lord if that doesn’t come off as neurotic 😑😑

    I’ve only been out of my grad program for three years, have solid clinical experience, though no publications unfortunately.

    What I’m trying to figure out is if I should retake the GRE or if it’ll end up hurting me.

    Yesterday I took the exam and scored a 156 V and 145 Q. Arguably, I’ve never been strong in math but 156 doesn’t seem too bad? I’m not really sure though. I read an article on the Magoosh site about average GRE score per major and it was 149 V and 145 for social workers (which makes me feel way better about my quant score). I’m wondering if those scores are just average score overall over if it’s average score that’s actually admitted? Should I try taking it again? I’m also currently studying for my licensing exam (mid Dec) so I’m pretty stretched as to how much I can actually devote to each test (disclaimer, before taking the GRE exam I studied for three months for a couple hours a day). To be eligible for several schools with deadlines in mid Jan I’d have to take it the end of Dec, which would give me another month.

    If I initially send in this score with my applications and then send it an updated score before the deadline will the SW department see my old score or only the graduate admissions dept? I’m applying to schools all over the spectrum, from the best programs to ones that I feel I could bring a lot to. Each one was given a lot of thought, despite the abundance of them.

    That being said, I also have strong references, a meaningful SOP, and what I believe is a solid research paper.

    Personally I’m under the impression it doesn’t hurt to take it again, but only if it improves my chances of getting in. Everyone I’ve mentioned it to thinks I’m being obsessive though so I guess I want to hear from folks actually in similar situations 🙃

    Thanks for the input!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 30, 2017 at 3:56 pm #

      Hi Valentine,

      Let’s talk about whether or not you should retake! 🙂

      Have you found additional data about acceptable score outside of what Magoosh has? We have some aggregate information, but the most accurate and up-to-date information is going to come directly from the universities themselves, so I would see what you can find from them. Social work is a field that puts less emphasis on the GRE score (as in, getting a baseline score is more often enough) but this is a decision that changes depending on which school you’re hoping to go to.

      Should you try taking it again?

      (1) Do you have the mental capacity to focus on improving the score given your other commitments?
      (2) Do you have the money to spend on a retake? (Imagine you don’t improve your score. Would you still feel that it was worth it to spend the money?)
      (3) Do you truly feel that you can improve upon your score?

      I want to note that you want to have your test date more than 6 weeks ahead of your deadlines to guarantee that your scores reach schools by your deadline, too. So your timeframe is shorter than it sounds like you thought. But if you want to retake anyway, you can contact the schools to see how they might handle a later score. Sometimes this is fine and other times it is not. The receiving department will see both scores, but how they handle that between general admissions and the individual department depends on the school.

      I agree that it won’t hurt to take it again, but you need to consider whether your test score (improved or otherwise) would even arrive in time as well as whether you can truly devote yourself to the endeavor. It sounds like the rest of your profile is strong, so it isn’t like the GRE score is going to make or break your application. I personally always shoot for improvement, but in your exact situation, I think the timing is too tight unless the schools will accept scores after the formal admissions deadline. Good luck! 🙂

  3. SunnySideUp November 6, 2017 at 6:45 pm #


    I’m applying to PhD programs in interdisciplinary and literary studies. I did horrible on the GRE, and I’m not at all ashamed of it. In fact, I have a pretty heavy stance against it. I’m not a standardize person and my scholarship is innovative and forward thinking. I don’t see many students pursuing this study. I personally have the philosophy that my work, grades, SOP, CV and samples (which are all excellent– I have an MA, published, attend conferences, etc) should speak for itself and that a standardized test is not at all sufficient way to judge my abilities. I only took it because many programs require it, even though they state that it has very little significance. That said, I know that the committee might feel differently and could scoff at my reasoning. However, such way of thinking is the reason why I refuse to take it again (since it hasn’t expired), whether accepted or not. I’m asking for your advice on if I should indicate such in my personal statement? I’ve heard that if there was a low grade somewhere on the transcripts, that applicants should account for it in the SOP, but what about GRE?? Of course, assuming that I wouldn’t be as blunt and unyielding as here. More like softly alluding to my reasoning behind it.

    I know your expertise is in preparing individuals to take the GRE, so I apologize if my question is outside your field of knowledge. But thank you, anyway!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 8, 2017 at 3:38 pm #

      Hi SunnySideUp,

      I would present the point in a way that doesn’t scream “I’m better than standardized tests” but I think it would be useful to talk about how you personally struggle with standardized tests and how this reality of your student experience informs the approach you take to academia and life. It is all in the presentation of what you have to say, but I think saying something is important. It would be a mistake to not address a low score, because the default assumption is that you just are low achieving based on that data point. Good luck! 🙂

  4. Gia September 29, 2016 at 4:48 am #

    Hi, I wasn’t prepared because of certain reasons for GRE and got a score of 279(139 verbal and 140 Quant). I am planning to give it again but I am scared that even if I do well the next time they might reject me based on the earlier score as I chose to save this score . Now I am really worried.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 29, 2016 at 7:04 am #

      Hi Gia,

      Happy to help 🙂 First, there’s no need to worry! You do not need to send all of your test scores to the schools you’re applying to. On test day, you can decide not to send your scores at that time OR you can select either of the following options for each of your four FREE score reports:

      1. Most Recent (you’ll only be sending in your score from this test)
      2. All (you’ll be sending your scores from all of the times you took the GRE within the last five years)

      After the actual day of the exam, you can additional score reports for a fee and select from the following options for each report:

      1. Most Recent — Send your scores from your most recent test administration.
      2. All — Send your scores from all test administrations in the last five years.
      3. Any — Send your scores from one OR as many test administrations as you like from the last five years.

      More information on this is available on the ETS GRE Website 🙂

      I hope this helps!

  5. Feeling Discouraged July 25, 2016 at 7:46 am #

    Hi i recently took the GRE and my scores were not very good at all. All i needed was a 280 combined and was shy 12 points of that goal. The problem is my school only requires GRE scores and your undergrad transcripts. so i feel like i would be judge solely on the GRE because they don’t ask for letters of recommendations or essays or anything. Also, my analytical sections have not been scored yet so i don’t know if they use that to give you a boost in points or how that works. I’m just trying to see if anyone can give me ideas because i was so excited about going to grad school and now i’m discouraged. This test should be the judge all criteria. And honestly i can’t keep retaking the GRE , i can’t afford to keep shelling out 200 dollars.

    • Natttt September 26, 2016 at 10:34 am #

      What school is this?

  6. JZ September 26, 2015 at 10:01 pm #

    I’m applying to philosophy graduate program (PhD) but I’m really depressed about my GRE score…I took it three times and before the last exam I scored above 160 in practice exam but still got V 155 and Q 160 (essay score is not out yet, but I felt like I did pretty well). It just seems impossible for me to crack the 160 range and I’m running out of time.
    I got my BA from a top 20 school in US in the field with honors and two researches. I also have very good extracurricular experiences. I can get strong letters of recommendation and prepare a good writing sample. I’m wondering what’s my chance of getting in a top 50 program or 50-100 program? If my other elements in the application are good, will this GRE score hurt me and get me rejected? (Also, English is my second language…)

  7. Margaret Foulk September 2, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

    I am in the midst of applying to neuropsychology combined master’s and ph.d programs and this is my second go round at the GRE. I am super nervous! Last time I took it I didn’t do very well. I got V-151 Q-146. (I don’t do standardized tests very well- I find that what I focus on is never on the test and then I get nervous and it just goes downhill from there)I have a 3.69 GPA from undergrad and a ton of undergraduate research and publications, so I’m hoping that helps me get in! How much do programs really rely on our GRE scores?

  8. Maya6625 November 3, 2014 at 10:33 pm #


    I recently took the GRE and I got a really low scores (146 in both sections). I studied extremely hard for almost 7 months and more than 6 hours per day, but I did not get it.

    I was extremely depressed because I have been working for 5 years to get this chance of getting into grad school in the USA (I am from Mexico).

    My GPA is really good (here in Mexico is 95/100, GPA: 3.8). I have really good research experience, volunteer work, lots of presentations and posters, teacher experience for more than 2 years at undergraduate level, graduated with highest honors, several scholarships, etc, but my GRE scores are hurting and destroying more than 5 years of hard work and hardship.

    I am applying to neuroscience programs, but I do not if I should give up my application!!. 🙁 I was assuming that my hard work would allow me to apply to Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, JHU, UCLA, Pittsburgh, etc!.

    What do you think??. I cannot retake the exam due to the deadline and because I do not have more money!!! 🙁

    Should I cancel my applications????? 🙁

    By the way, I failed the TOEFL IBT twice before my last chance, where I got 103/120, finally I did it…!


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele November 5, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

      Hi Maya,

      Sorry to hear that the test didn’t go so well. I wouldn’t cancel your applications, however. We just don’t know how these schools think, their idiosyncrasies and biases. It only takes one admissions board to think the GRE is overrated to let you have a chance of getting accepted. Anyhow, it sounds like your background is sufficiently diverse and compelling to merit consideration from any of those institutes you named.

      If, for some reason it doesn’t work out, you can retake the test next year, using the interim time to strengthen your vocabulary and to work on increasing both your number sense and your ability to read complex passages. This blog is a great place to surf in your off-time: you can pick up tips and strategies that could greatly help you when, and if, you take the GRE next year.

      Hope that helps, and keep your head up 🙂

  9. Emma August 20, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

    I applied to about 15 highly ranked neuro program and got flat out rejected by all of them. Not even an interview. Schools went from UCSF, Princeton to OSU… I’m currently enrolled to start a Biochem Masters in Europe due to free tuition. Would getting a Master’s significantly increase my chances?

    GRE – 165V, 155Q, 4.5W
    GPA – 3.55, BS in Biochemistry
    Pulications – 2 co-author in decent journals, international meeting presentation.
    Good research, great recs.

    Thanks for your advice!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 22, 2014 at 10:51 am #


      It is really hard to say what could have accounted for that given your solid background. On the GRE front, you might want to boost the quant to the 160+ range. As for the Masters, aren’t the programs you got rejected from Masters programs? If not, then the Masters–and even more published research–would have more of an impact than raising your GRE score (though it might not hurt to take the test again).

      Hope that helps 🙂

  10. Melz March 8, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    I am in the process of applying to graduate school for my Psy.D. I have not yet taken the GRE. I am more nervous than anything. I do have an impressive resume. I have experience in being a teachers assistant, research assistant, volunteer work and clinical experience. I am nervous about taking the GRE and I think about getting rejected based on my GRE scores. Is it possible to fail the GRE but have a good resume/CV, GPA, letters of recommendation, etc and still get into grad school?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele March 10, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

      Hi Melz,

      I think the anxiety over the test is hindering you from actually learning about the test, and learning how to crack it. So let me give you a more reasonable scenario: you get average scores on the GRE. Weighed against the rest of your credentials, the GRE is not going to matter too much. You will get into a Psy. D., program, possibly a very good one.

      But of course, you can get better than average scores by taking the test by the proverbial horns and showing it a thing or two :). In that case, solid GRE scores may help squeeze you into an even better program. The bottom-line: the programs care more about the other stuff than your GRE scores.

      Good luck, and let me know how the studying goes 🙂

  11. GradReject November 26, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    Yeah, I’m pretty down about grad school. I couldn’t afford to apply to a lot of schools (those fees add up) and I have a pretty low GPA of 2.6, but I really want to learn and continue my education. My average on the GRE was 149, so I don’t know if that is awful or what. The only thing I have going for me I believe is that I did a lot of extra stuff in college – I studied abroad and attended clubs, and some of my work was given special notice/awards. Now that I have been turned down, I don’t know how to keep cheerful. I’m gutted and embarrassed. So many people helped me by writing me letters of recommendation, tutoring me for the GRE and more. I am pretty confident that I was rejected for my grades, and that sucks. Maybe I’m not as smart as the rest, but I still want to learn.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele November 26, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

      Hi GradReject,

      Don’t get down just yet! Sure a 2.6 GPA is not the greatest, and will make it difficult to get into some grad schools, but there is hope. Knocking your GRE score up by a few points (149 is right in the middle) could help. But I think really telling an interesting story about yourself, one that relates to your passion for learning (and obliquely the reason for your somewhat low GPA). I’m of course alluding to the essays, which is the one area where you can stand out.

      Hope that helps! And don’t give it up. I know it sounds cliche but there is a place for you in grad school–you just have to find it :).

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