What if I Don’t Win?
Finding the Silver Lining in the Cloud of Disappointment
From the get-go, understand that the numeric odds of “winning” are not in your—or anyone’s—favor. Be open to reaping benefits from the process of applying, not just the award at the end of the rainbow. These benefits include:
Discerning your future goals and the necessary steps to reaching them. You’ll be so much farther ahead than your roommate who wakes up one morning in March of senior year scratching his head, wondering what he’ll do after graduation.
Honing your writing (and interviewing) skills. No one likes to write a personal statement; take pride in knowing that you have done it over and over and over in pursuit of telling your story with just the right sentiment. The applications and interviews that will likely follow (graduate or professional school, employment, etc.) will come easier each successive time, and you’ll have a great place from which to start.
Getting to meet other accomplished yet cool applicants here at Notre Dame and, if you’re a finalist, from other schools from around the country. You’re not the only one in this boat, so look at it as a cruise (with lots of homework on the Lido deck).
Getting to know better your professors, advisors, and recommendation writers. Everyone who participates in the application process with you is on your team whose goal is to put forward as strong an application packet as possible. Through discussions about academic and professional trajectories, triumphs, struggles, and past experiences, your “teammates” take stock in your success with the fellowship at hand and beyond. Just as you gain familiarity with faculty project supervisors, collaborators and mentors who share your interests, will you develop (or enhance) a bond with those taking this journey with you.
Remember: don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.
Pursue other post-graduate opportunities and/or avenues of funding. You can often apply for more than one fellowship to get you where you want to go, and things do have a way of working themselves out.