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Declining before a Final Decision


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I want to decline an offer but I am trying to avoid them asking where will I attend because I don’t have a final decision.  I could guess where I am going but I don’t want to say I don’t know and I have it down to four other schools.   It’s definitely a hard pass on this program and I want whoever is next on the list to get an offer  so they can possibly attend the visit weekend next month.  Should I just say I am no longer interested? 

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Yep it is good for the program to know if you are no longer considering attending there. That way they can offer your funding to someone else and possibly take people off of the waiting list. I haven't made a final decision either but when I decided I was no longer interested in my email I basically said " Thank you so much for the opportunity to attend ____. I would like to withdraw my offer as I will be accepting another institutions offer." I didn't specify where (as I don't know) and they also didn't ask.

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As others said, definitely let them know now. Saying that you would like to withdraw your application is a good phrase/approach because it is neutral and action specific, i.e. you are doing X. Sometimes when I have to say something difficult, focusing on concrete actions helps with the phrasing. Saying you're no longer interested is a pretty common expression too and you won't be the first nor last to say that to the school. Sometimes, when I over-analyze my own words, I think "no longer interested" might sound like they did something wrong, so then I would feel like I need to emphasize that it's because of other reasons and that makes it all extra awkward. But I only sometimes feel that way. Anyways, there's lots of good ways to say it.

You don't have to say where you are going. They probably won't ask since they probably figure that if you knew you would have told them. However, if they do ask, don't take it negatively, in fact, I think it's a positive thing that they are still interested in you. They might phrase it as something like, "when you decide where you will attend, please let us know" or it might come as a question in an exit survey you get after officially declining the offer. 

But if they do ask right away, you have a choice. You could just ignore the email. Or, you could just ignore the email until you have decided and then let them know. Or you could say that you have not yet decided and that you will let them know when you do. Or, you could tell them the schools you're considering. It depends on the rapport between you and the person asking. I would probably try to avoid comparing them and not really go much beyond naming the other schools you are considering. Of course, you don't have to give them this information at all, but it's generally a good thing to have your future colleagues know more about you and where you are attending etc.

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