Columns, Opinions

Schmidt ’21: I Just Got Rejected From an Internship. Now What?

Staff Columnist
Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The internship and summer opportunity application seasons are now in full swing. Students are either hearing back from employers that they applied to in the fall or still working diligently on finding the perfect way to spend the summer.

Undoubtedly, a lot of Brunonians turn to the CareerLAB during this time of year for support in all steps of the job and internship application processes. The center provides extensive support through one-on-one meetings with Career Counselors and access to databases for internships, post-graduation jobs, fellowships and more.

While the CareerLAB’s breadth and depth of assistance are impressive, the center does not provide as much useful information in navigating the worst-case-scenario of any professional search – getting rejected from a dream job. Making this kind of advice accessible to a broad audience online would go a long way in normalizing rejection in a success-centered environment like Brown. It would reassure students who are early in their careers and help advise them on the next steps after rejection.

This does not by any means suggest that the CareerLAB’s collection of resources is lacking. It boasts how-to guides on navigating the career fairs on campus and selling oneself by crafting the perfect resume. Every potential question about these topics can almost certainly be answered by a quick visit to the center’s web page to view their cover letter templates, tips on how to write professional emails and more. It has every resource imaginable – assuming Brown students will be successful at their internship search and application process. On the CareerLAB website under “Databases and Resources,” the advice stops at negotiating offers and funding internships through LINK awards. Meanwhile, there is nothing on what to do after rejection from a dream position.

While a rejection letter from a perfect summer opportunity is not the end, most often people handle it as such. This single event can lead to a cascade of self-doubt and a cease in the search for positions. Assuming Brown students have no questions about what to do after receiving a rejection letter perpetuates the idea that they should be successful in all of their endeavors and that rejection is abnormal.

When I was a first-year, getting my first rejection letter was a crushing experience. Because I was in an environment like Brown where it seemed like my peers were thriving, I felt like rejection was a colossal failure. The more no’s that came in, the more discouraged I became, and I wondered if continuing to apply was even worth it. Speaking with some fellow Brown students, I know I was not alone in feeling this way. Guidance on how to persist in a job search in the face of countless no’s would not only normalize rejection for students like me in a competitive environment, but also reassure students that tend to internalize imposter syndrome from getting brushed off by employers. It might be especially helpful for Brown students that are applying for prestigious programs and competitive positions, or for first-years who might be getting their first taste of rejection on a professional level.

Perhaps it is possible to schedule an appointment with a Career Counselor to discuss rejection, but having an online tip sheet for rejection do’s and don’ts would make this information more accessible. Localizing this advice on the CareerLAB’s website would be useful for some students that may have trouble admitting to rejection or may feel embarrassed by it even though it is, in fact, both commonplace at Brown and beneficial for personal growth.

The truth is, we cannot always get what we want. At some point in our careers, regardless of our extensive experience or accomplishments, we will not get the job we were most looking forward to. For a Brown student who hears about all of the offers their friends have, this rejection can be confusing and a significant damper on morale. The CareerLAB has the opportunity to step in and become a beacon of hope and direction in seemingly dark times, but it can only do so by focusing on providing support online and in-person in all steps of the job and internship application process. For example, in some cases, it is okay to respond to a job rejection by asking a recruiter for feedback. This kind of knowledge can be invaluable for Brown students of all levels looking to strengthen themselves as professional candidates at any stage of their career preparation.

Yes, the CareerLAB is thorough, but advising on the rejection process can be the extra step that takes their already-extensive services above and beyond.

Rachael Schmidt ’21 can be reached at Please send responses to this opinion to and op-eds to

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