Reasons Why Some Don't Get into Graduate School

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You've spent years preparing to apply to graduate school: taking the right courses, studying for good grades, and seeking appropriate experiences. You've taken the time to prepare a solid application: GRE scores, admissions essays, recommendation letters, and transcripts. Yet sometimes it doesn't work out. You don't get in. The most qualified of students can do everything "right" and still sometimes not get admitted to graduate school. Unfortunately, the quality of your graduate school application isn't the only thing that determines whether you get into graduate school. There are other factors that have nothing to do with you that influence your acceptance. Just as in dating, sometimes "It's not you, it's me." Really. Sometimes a rejection letter is more about the graduate programs capacity and needs than about the quality of your application.


  • A loss of funding at the institutional, school, or department level can reduce the number of applicants they can support and accept.
  • Fewer funds for Teaching and research assistantships can mean accepting fewer students
  • Many students are admitted to work with particular faculty and are supported by faculty members' grants. A change in grant funding means that some qualified students will not be admitted.
  • You don't have control over any of these factors, but the availability of funding has a huge impact on the likelihood that you will be admitted to a graduate program.

Faculty Availability

  • Whether faculty are available and able to take on students influences the number of students who are accepted in any given year.
  • Faculty are sometimes away on sabbaticals or leaves. Any students who would be accepted to work with them are often out of luck.
  • Sometimes faculty are overloaded and do not have space in their lab for another student. Good applicants are turned away.

Space and Resources

  • Some graduate programs require that students have access to laboratory space and specialized equipment. These resources can accommodate only so many students.
  • Other programs include internships and other applied experiences. If there are not enough slots, then well-prepared students do not get admitted to the graduate program.

If you are rejected from your preferred graduate program, recognize that the reasons may not lie with you. Often there are factors are beyond your control that influence whether you are accepted to graduate school. That said, keep in mind that rejection is often due to applicant error or, more commonly, the poor fit between the applicant's stated interests and the program. Pay attention to your admissions essay to ensure that your interests fit those of the faculty and program.

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Your Citation
Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "Reasons Why Some Don't Get into Graduate School." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. (2020, August 28). Reasons Why Some Don't Get into Graduate School. Retrieved from Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "Reasons Why Some Don't Get into Graduate School." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 27, 2023).