Fear of Applying or Fear of Rejection: Finding The Courage to Apply to New Opportunities: Part 1

03 Jan 2024

By Morgan Hopp

Applications for on-campus opportunities, national opportunities, tuition scholarships, travel stipends, research, the list of applications goes on and on. As a medical student, the opportunities sound wonderful and important for matching into the right residency program, but there is limited time to take advantage of all the opportunities, even if you are selected for them. After a few rejections, it becomes overwhelming just to figure out if you are a reasonable candidate and should put the effort in to apply. It is overwhelming to ask your mentor to submit another letter for an opportunity you are applying for…especially when the last few were straight rejections. Then, you might hit a spiral – one I wish I was not as familiar with – if none of these applications turn into opportunities. Without any of these amazing opportunities, will I have a chance in the match, let alone match in a program that is “the right fit”?

This process is not new to me, I did it in college about medical school, and in high school about college. To my chagrin, I suspect the same will happen at each stage of my career. In the last year or so the spiral has lessened, the fear of rejection has decreased, and as a result, so has the fear of applying. I did not have an epiphany,(my mom is probably right, but do not tell her I said that), nor did I earn the perfect opportunity to melt away my fears. Instead, I found people who, despite their similarities in interest and career trajectory, helped me celebrate the opportunity to apply rather than view me as a competitor in the application selection. I trust their insights because they know what I’m doing, why the opportunities are important, and where I’m hoping my career will go. As a result of this comradery and support, the fear of applying has reduced. Instead, I look at applications and rejections as two different processes. Applying: I will learn about myself in some way and as a result, and grow professionally in some capacity. Writing all the application essays, identifying “my most….” anecdotes, describing my tentative plans for “in your future career” and all the other prompts applicants must address gives me time to reflect on my experiences, aptitudes, and goals. We all have heard the statistics that men often apply to jobs they are underqualified for while women apply to jobs they are overqualified for. Now in my application process, I usually rely on these friends to help me brainstorm or refine my ideas, and they remind me of my competitiveness as an applicant for the opportunity. As a result of the genuine support, I am applying for more competitive opportunities, and I am no longer intimidated by the likelihood of acceptance (still have not earned one but I continue to try). I no longer fear applying. I know the application process is an opportunity worth taking on. 

I still struggle to tell my mentors about rejections. Every time I do tell them, I conquer a little fear in myself, but more importantly, she has started sending me additional opportunities. I think the process has made her understand my interests and end goals better, and gives her a more specific way to mentor me. My growth, which was catalyzed by applying, strengthens my bond with my mentor. 

It took way too much time to come to this mindset, but I am grateful for the friends who have allowed me to finally conclude (what my mom probably already told me years ago): try your best, you will grow in the process, and keep applying because you do not decide the perfect opportunity or best fit – you make it when the opportunity presents itself. I am so grateful to AWS for facilitating an environment to find these amazing people. But do not think this mindset shift has reduced all my application fears…just some of them. I encourage everyone, if you have not found the friend(s) and mentor(s) needed to shift your mindset, then at least be that friend or mentor for someone else. I think being that friend has been more empowering than finally having that friend. Check out part 2 next week to read about how Denise Nemeth came to terms with rejection and has become “that friend,” whose genuine support of others through the application process helps shift mindsets (mine included!). Happy applying! 

Morgan J. Hopp is a third-year medical student at Creighton University School of Medicine in Phoenix, Arizona and has earned bachelor’s in biochemistry and master’s in biochemistry, molecular and structural biology from the University of California, Los Angeles. During her time at UCLA, Hopp worked as a research chemist looking into the utilization of boron clusters in medicinal chemistry and Pd-catalyst systems. In her three years at Creighton School of Medicine, Hopp has participated in multiple research projects in surgery, with a focus in trauma surgery. Her current field of most interest is geriatric trauma surgery. She contributes to the body of work needed for geriatric surgery verification at Valleywise Health Hospital. Beyond research, Hopp is an active member of the Association of Women Surgeons serving on multiple committees, and an active student member of the Arizona Medical Association and American Medical Association. Recently, in partnership with the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers, Hopp developed a pilot high school research skills workshop series. She continues to value and actively facilitate mentorship, both as a mentor and a mentee. Hopp constantly looks for collaborations aimed at advancing her research and outreach programs. Outside of medicine, Hopp crochets, is in book clubs and loves being an aunt and big cousin.

One Reply to “Fear of Applying or Fear of Rejection: Finding The Courage to Apply to New Opportunities: Part 1”

  1. This is such an amazing blog entry! I enjoyed reading it and am so grateful for Morgan’s perspective and above all, her friendship. Morgan, the surgical field is lucky to have you pursuing this field! You are going to be an amazing surgeon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *