How To Decline A College Acceptance
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How To Decline A College Acceptance: By Letter, Email, Or Phone

Getting accepted into a college or university is a great achievement, even better when you get accepted into more than one! Once you’ve chosen which college you would like to go to, it’s important to decline the place offered to you by other colleges.

A quick, polite, and clear response is essential. This will also help you maintain a good reputation in case you end up going to that college or university in the future, perhaps to study a master’s or PhD. Maybe you’ll come across one of the faculty members in the future, or work with a member of staff. Declining a college acceptance in the right way is an important and professional step.

Here, we’ll discuss the best ways in which to decline a college acceptance or place on a university program. We’ll also provide some templates to help you compose the perfect letter or email, or formulate an appropriate script if you need to call the college.

Declining A College Acceptance

So you’ve received an acceptance from a college, or been offered a place on a university program – congratulations! Even though you’ve decided to turn the place down, it’s still important to recognize that this is a great achievement.

Perhaps you have decided to go to another college, or been offered a place at your first choice university. Your personal circumstances may have changed, or you may have decided to do something else altogether. Whatever the situation, it is important to decline the acceptance in the right way.

You may have to write a letter or email to decline your place, or some colleges may have an online form to fill in, or a simple checkbox. Make sure you choose the right method of declining the place by reading the acceptance letter thoroughly.

Here is a guide for how to decline a college acceptance or university place:

1. Act quickly

Being prompt and declining your place quickly is super important – don’t keep the college waiting! Once you have decided what to do, it is time to take action. Usually, you are given a deadline by which to reply. It is advisable to smash the deadline and get it done as soon as possible. In this way, by giving up your place you are offering somebody else the opportunity to study. It can be agonizing to be placed on the waiting list of your first-choice college or university, so you’ll be doing somebody a great favor.

2. Keep it short and sweet

Be brief and stick to the point. You do not need to give a lengthy explanation as to why you are declining the place, or why you have chosen another program or another college instead. Include all the essential information – your name, the date, the name of the program leader, committee member, or department who wrote you the acceptance letter, and a few sentences explaining that you are declining the place.

3. Thank them for their time and consideration

A polite and professional letter will almost always contain a note of thanks. It is good practice to thank the admissions team, program leader or college department for the acceptance or the offer of a place on the program. This will also paint you in a good light – a rude letter written to decline an acceptance will make your name stand out for all the wrong reasons! Being courteous and grateful is a good move.

It can be useful to realize that your application has been thoroughly reviewed and considered, and the college has decided to invite you onto their program. Someone has taken the time to do this and it is right to thank them for it. Plus you’ll be keeping your options open in the future should you cross paths with the college again.

4. Submit the declination in the correct format

Make sure you check whether the college requires a written letter, email, or online form. Read the acceptance letter thoroughly and reply in the appropriate style. This will ensure your declination is received and has been registered properly in the system.

Declining A College Acceptance: Templates

So, you’ve established that you need to write a letter or email in order to decline your place on the program. But how should you word it? You need to think about adopting the right tone of professionalism and clarity. Try to find a balance between politeness and succinctness. Here, we have assembled a range of templates that you can use to decline a college acceptance…

Example 1

       Dear Dr. Jones / Admissions Committee

I am writing to address the offer of admission to the Business & Management program at the University of California. Unfortunately I not able to accept the offer of admission at this time but I would like to thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours sincerely / faithfully,

Sally Smith

It is important to address the letter correctly – address it to the person or department that sent you your acceptance letter. Alternatively, the college may have directed you to a person or department that deals with college acceptance or declination notifications.

Start by explaining why you are writing to them, and make sure you mention the program and university the letter is regarding.

“Sincerely” is the correct term to use when you know the name of title of the person you are writing to. “Faithfully” is used when you do not know the exact recipient of the letter, when you are addressing a department or committee.

Example 2

        Dear Ms./Mr. Greene

I am writing to you to thank you for the acceptance offer from Stanford University for the Art & Photography program beginning in the Autumn 2022 term. I regret to inform you that I have decided to attend another program at a different university. I am grateful for your time and consideration.


Jane Radcliffe

The phrases “I regret to inform you” and “I am grateful for” are useful ones. Starting off with thanking them is also a great way to introduce the letter, seeing as you’re declining the place.

Sometimes a simple “Sincerely” without the “yours” will suffice! Use a term you feel more comfortable with.

Example 3

        Dear Roger,

I am writing regarding the offer of admission onto the Equine Studies program at the University of Texas. After seriously considering the offer, I have decided to decline my place. Thank you very much for your assistance in my program search.

Best wishes,

John Watford

If you have had a lot of contact with the admissions officer, program leader, or student support services, and you need to let them know you are declining your place on the program, it is ok to address them on first name terms (as long as this is how they have signed themselves off on previous emails!). Signing off with best wishes is also appropriate is you have had personal contact with the recipient, especially if they have been super helpful!

“After seriously considering the offer” is a useful phrase, and lets them know you have really thought the decision through.

Example 4

F.A.O The Princeton University Admissions Committee

I would like to thank you for the offer of admission onto the Medicine & Social Health program in Spring 2023. After careful consideration I have decided to decline the offer although I am honored to have been accepted.

 Thank you again,

Mike Kaplinsky

(Mike Kaplinsky’s signature)

“F.A.O” (for the attention of) is a useful term if your email or letter needs to be redirected from a general university contact to the correct department.

“I am honored to have been accepted” is another handy phrase showing your appreciation. Adding “thank you again” enhances how grateful you are to have been considered and has a nice, slightly casual tone compared to “sincerely” or “faithfully”.

Inserting or hand-writing your signature is another nice, personal touch. A good tip is to scan your signature and convert it into a JPG which can be easily inserted into an email or typed letter. Alternatively some programs like Adobe PDF allow you to insert a digital signature into documents.

Declining A College Acceptance By Phone

The college or university may call you to follow up on the acceptance or may request that you call in order to accept or decline your place on a program. In this case, it can be handy to have a basic script ready to make sure you say what you need to say. This can also serve to remind you to thank them and keep it polite.

An example script could be:

I wanted to thank you very much for the offer of a place on the Economics Master’s program, I was delighted to hear I had been accepted. But unfortunately, I have decided to decline my place on the program. Thank you for your time!

Or, if they require you to provide a little more information:

I really appreciate the offer of admission onto the Garden Landscaping program but I would like to decline the offer at this time. I have decided to accept a place on the Garden Design program at Georgia West University as I believe it fits my existing skills and knowledge a little better (or you could say it will help you to follow your desired career path more closely in the future).

Sometimes college admissions want to know why you chose another program and are declining the place they offered you. This can help their admissions process and direct any improvements they make to college programs in the future. Don’t be afraid to be honest – perhaps another college offered something they didn’t, or you liked the student accommodation somewhere else a bit better, maybe another college was closer to home (or further away!).

Remember to thank them for their time, be polite and friendly, and don’t apologize! You haven’t wronged them in any way, and colleges are used to getting accepted and declined all the time.

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