On the fear of rejection

About three years ago I was about to graduate from the University of Reading and I was looking to do a PhD because I love doing research. My institution at the time had accepted me as a PhD student but there was no money to go with it so I couldn’t afford to attend Reading University even though I had a great project that would have been for the social good. Instead I started to look at other Universities in the area figuring that at least one would be interested and maybe I could get funding for my degree. When I started looking about the University of Oxford was within the geographic area that I was able to travel to for my studies and at first I gave it a pass because why would Oxford want me? I looked at the programs and found them to be fascinating but very intimidating, so I looked at other universities around me until I figured “wait, why I am saying no for them?”

Sure it was going to cost me £50 to apply but I was at a position in my life that I was able to apply at one of the top universities in the world and if I didn’t at least try then I would regret it. I knew I wasn’t going to get in but I wanted to say I had at least tried. So I put together the application form, got my letters of reference and submitted my application and waited for my rejection letter.

Eventually a letter arrived from Oxford and I opened it expecting to read “Dear Mr Aid, We regret to inform you that we aren’t interested” but instead it said that they wanted to interview me. This floored me more than the rejection would have. So I sent back a letter saying that “yes I will come” and went to my interview. I sucked badly at the interview, I was nervous and I messed up on very simple questions because I couldn’t think straight. Not only that but I was being interviewed by a Professor of Biochemistry that was also a biophysicist and the head of one of the national science societies and I was intimidated.

So I went home knowing that I was waiting for the “thank you but no” letter that was sure to come. Instead my letter said “thank you for coming, we would like to invite you to a second interview”. I, of course, accepted the invitation and then I was interviewed by the head of the department and a subject specialist. This time I was more prepared and didn’t make so many simple mistakes but I left thinking that I was going to be rejected but I knew that this time I had given the interview my best and that couldn’t be taken from me.

Again I was waiting for my rejection letter, but it didn’t come. I was offered a place on the program and I was offered a student stipend. If I had let my fear stop me from applying in the first place I wouldn’t be doing my PhD now. So don’t let fear stop you from doing something, make them say no, because you never know when they will say “yes”.

“Yes” is a beautiful thing and you will never hear it unless you take a risk.

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