How to Decline a College Acceptance Offer

Man looking through papers wondering how to decline a college acceptance offer.
August 28, 2023


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 01/09/23

Do you need help understanding how to decline a college acceptance? Read on to learn how to decline acceptance to a college with good etiquette. 

Applying to college can feel overwhelming; the pressure and competition involved can cause a great deal of stress. There are strict deadlines to follow and academic requirements to meet. On top of that, it’s important to do thorough research to ensure you make the right choices. 

But there are ways to mitigate these feelings and navigate the college application process with ease. An important aspect to understand is the correct way to decline college acceptances. 

Read on to learn the ins and outs of declining college acceptances. Following this guide will  give you the insights needed to decline unwanted offers with professionalism and grace, ensuring you accept the college that’s best suited to you. 

How to Decline a College Acceptance

First of all, congratulations on  receiving a college acceptance! Not everyone has the opportunity to go to college, let alone be accepted to more than one. Your hard work has paid off, and the future is your oyster. You’re on your way to the next big milestone in your life. 

It’s essential that you do your due diligence and accept the college that fits your needs. So, don’t jump at the first offer. Make sure you’re putting thought into the offers you decide to decline and accept. The college you choose must align with your future goals and current situation. 

It’s important to do your research and ask questions. 

Use the resources around you to determine which college is the right choice for you. Research what each college has to offer, and specific details that set them apart. Consider factors such as their locations, programs offered, and overall cost. Weigh the pros and cons of each college you’ve received acceptance to and list your priorities

When reflecting on your options, consider the following questions:

  • Are the costs in line with your budget? Consider each school's tuition, living costs, and available financial aid.
  • How do you imagine your experience at each college would be? It’s impossible to know for sure, but try your best to reflect.
  • What is each college’s culture and environment?
  • What has your experience with each college been so far?
  • Is the program you’ve been accepted to in keeping with your goals and aspirations? 
  • What extracurricular opportunities does each college have?

Don’t decline your college offers prematurely; make sure to confirm your acceptance to your chosen school. Once you’ve narrowed your decision to one college, it’s time to accept and decline other offers

The deadline and process you need to follow to accept your offer are outlined in your acceptance letter or on the college's website. This process varies for each college, so it’s important to read each acceptance letter carefully. If you need help, reach out to an admissions officer

Declining a College Acceptance Offer: Sample Email

As previously mentioned, every school has its own process for accepting an offer - the same applies to declining an offer. Carefully follow each school's instructions for declining an offer to ensure you do it properly. Some colleges require you to inform them of your decision via letter, email or through an online portal. 

Informing colleges of your decisions helps free up a spot for another applicant. Informing colleges of your rejection promptly can move other applicants off the waitlist. It’s also important to send an email to the admissions office to show courtesy.

Below we’ve provided a sample email. It will help you maintain a positive reputation and stay in the school’s good graces. You can base your own email on this template and add or remove information as necessary. 

What’s most important is that you express your gratitude within the email and personalize it based on your particular circumstances. If someone from the college supported you in your application process, for example, take the time to mention them. 

“Dear _______,

Thank you for your offer of acceptance to (name of college) for the class of (the year you will likely graduate). I’m grateful for your consideration and for the generous scholarship you’ve presented me (if applicable). I would like to thank (the name of a specific individual you interviewed with or spoke to, if applicable) for their time and support. 

After careful consideration, I have alternatively decided to attend (name of your chosen college). 

Thank you again for your kind offer. 


(your name)

Why This Email Was Successful

This sample email is an effective way to inform a college of your decision. The student demonstrates gratitude right off the bat by thanking the university for the offer of acceptance, and any scholarships they received. 

They include a personal touch by specifically referencing the individual they corresponded with. Doing so demonstrates that the student values the support that the university provided them. It clearly outlines your decision to attend another college and the careful consideration behind it. The student also ends with a losing thank you and a polite sign-off. 

Overall, the email is clear and concise.

Declining a College Acceptance Offer by Phone

Be prepared to receive a phone call from the colleges you're declining. In an effort to improve their recruitment process, some colleges may call to clarify the reasons behind your rejection. 

Though you’re not obliged to share why you rejected their offer, providing a general explanation behind your decision is good practice. 

Briefly explain why you were more attracted to another school. If applicable, you can mention factors such as the costs, available programs, or extracurricular activities. If you had a negative experience at any step of the recruitment process, now is your time to let them know. 

Always try to make a good impression, even if you’ve already decided to reject a school. Colleges track all communication that they have with you and your caregivers. You never know what the future will bring, so maintain your composure and civility when communicating with colleges. 

FAQs: How to Decline a College Acceptance

Still have questions about how to decline a college acceptance? Take a look at our answers to these frequently asked questions for more information. 

1. What Happens if You Don't Decline Your College Offers?

You’re not obligated to officially decline your college offers. If you don’t accept within the provided time frame, your acceptance will be withdrawn. However, it is good etiquette to decline. It shows courtesy to the college that extended an offer. Choosing to decline can also directly impact prospective students on a waitlist. 

2. Can I Decline a College Acceptance After Accepting It?

Yes. If you accept an offer but change your mind, you can withdraw your offer. Make sure to accept your new offer before the deadline. Keep in mind, if you have already paid your tuition deposit, you may not receive it back. 

3. Can I Accept Multiple College Acceptance Offers?

You can only have one offer on file at a time. So to accept a new offer, you need to cancel your original offer. 

4. How Do You Politely Decline a College Acceptance?

Follow the instructions each college provided to you to decline your offer, which is outlined in your acceptance letter or on the college's website. Some colleges require you to email their admissions office, while others ask you to submit an online form. If you need help - reach out to your admissions officer. 

In addition to following the official process to decline your offer, write a polite, concise email. Make sure it's properly addressed. Add the names of specific college representatives if they lent their support along the way. 

If you receive a phone call from the college you rejected, express your gratitude. Provide a general explanation behind your decision to help improve their recruitment process. 

Final Thoughts

Obtaining a college education can provide you with the skills, experiences, and knowledge needed to succeed in both your personal life and future career. 

Remember to be grateful for the opportunity to go to college and do your best to make the most of it. This includes taking the application process seriously and always remaining courteous, especially when you decide to decline a college's acceptance offer.

You never know what the future will bring. The colleges you reject now may become your graduate school of choice. The connections you make throughout your application process may appear at another point in your academic or professional career. 

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