The Graduate Transition: How to Deal with Rejection

Coping with rejection, or the fear of rejection post-uni has largely to do with mindset. If you’re already struggling with anxiety, stress, worry, or low-mood, your response to rejection is going to be much stronger and take a greater mental toll. That’s why it’s important to have a well-equipped arsenal of tools, resources, and strategies on the back-burner that you can turn to. It’s so important to be educated about your options. Being well-informed about how to cope with stress or emotion is the key to getting through it. Rejection - whether it be an employment rejection letter, grad school rejection, or rejection after an interview - is particularly hard to deal with when you’re already stressed.

Facing that transitional period of life post-uni can be scary; it’s basically venturing into the unknown. It’s hard when you’re suddenly without that daily routine you’ve become accustomed to over the years; uni is almost like a safety net. It’s familiar; you’ve been in the education system for how long now? The prospect of life after education can be daunting, especially when you can’t seem to crack the next stage.


University Counselling/Online Services

If you’re in the feverish process of applying for options as a recent or soon-to-be graduate, keep counseling in mind. Make use of your student ID while you can; don’t be afraid to turn to your university’s free counseling services. Counseling can offer integral support while you navigate unknown territory and the realm of rejection.

The University of Auckland offers a UniWellbeing eTherapy Programme for enrolled students. The online course is designed for those experiencing mild to severe stress, anxiety, worry, low mood or depression. Struggling to cope with rejection or feeling anxious, depressed, or worried over post-grad life is far more common than you think.

The UniWellbeing programme runs for five weeks. A new course begins every three, meaning there are no huge delays in signing up. As it’s an online course, it can be completed from the comfort of your own home. It’s a great option for people who are struggling to come to terms with their anxiety and don’t like the face-to-face element of traditional counseling. Students are contacted weekly by one of the counseling team and complete questionnaires. The course teaches you techniques to help manage your worry and often requires 20 minutes a day of practice.

If you’re interested in the course, send an email to


Careers Advice/Counselling

A slew of rejection doesn’t just generate anxiety or stress. Some students find themselves questioning their degree or chosen career path, and become overwhelmed with what to do next. There is no right way to plan your career; some people go straight into work, some take a break for on OE, some do grad school. It can be confusing; that’s why universities have career advisors who can help you plan your next steps. You don’t have to figure everything out alone. Book in with an advisor (it’s free while you’re still a student) and talk things through. They can offer invaluable advice and resources to help you navigate those next steps and rejection curveballs. Most universities also offer specific support services for postgraduates. They can help with CVs and applications, interview techniques, finding work experience and graduate recruitment. Find them here:


Third-party Support Services

The University of Otago, for example, has a great range of online resources for those who are really struggling with the stress, anxiety, or worry of post-grad job rejection, grad-school rejection, etc. Check out their comprehensive list of online tools and strategies here and here.

One program Otago recommends for struggling students is The Tuesday Programme. The Tuesday Programme is a free, short online course designed to increase skills and resources for those struggling to thrive through life’s challenges. If you’re having a hard time coping with post-grad job rejection, this seven-week course could be a great option. Topics include:

  1. Discovering and using your Strengths
  2. Developing a Growth Mindset
  3. Clarifying your Purpose and Values by thinking about what's meaningful for you
  4. Thinking about and being Grateful more often
  5. Communicating more effectively in your relationships
  6. Utilizing Relaxation Techniques
  7. Being more Mindful
Each Tuesday you can log on and receive a short teaching video covering each weekly topic, and a document summarising the video content with further tips and instructions.

If you’re interested in The Tuesday Programme, check them out here.


Sustainable Health

With uni coming to a close, a recent employment rejection letter on your mind, the fear of grad school rejection weighing on you, or even rejection after an interview - coupled with being in the limbo of the unknown - can make this time really difficult. It can knock your self-esteem, make you reevaluate your career and study choices, and cause a severe hit to your mental health. That’s why you should always prioritize your mental, physical, social and spiritual health to sustain your well-being throughout these periods.

Meditation and breathing apps such as Headspace are great when you’re feeling overwhelmed. There’s plenty of cheap, healthy options out there (sugar and processed foods can make your mood even more unbalanced). Breathing, healthy eating, exercise, and proper hydration are essential to coping with stress and emotional upheaval. Don’t let the stress of life after uni take over. Make time for friends (yes, with a cheeky bevy or two), your relationship, exercise, and relaxation. You will get through this.

Overall, if you have yet to organize your next steps after graduation, don’t fret - many students are in the same boat, and it’s entirely normal. Don’t place an enormous amount of pressure on yourself to have everything sorted - life usually has a way of working itself out.


By Lana Andelane