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How to politely decline an offer?!


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I know its a little early yet, and I personally still want to go to all of the places I have been offered (!). But when I'm awake in the middle of the night stressing about graduate school, one of the things I'm now stressing about is this: when I do come to turn down 3 of the 4 schools that have offered me a place, how do I do it so that the faculty there won't take it as a rejection of their kind offers to me!? I have been in contact with faculty at all of the schools and chatted with many on the phone; in my small field I know I will probably meet them all again at conferences or maybe even be interviewed by them for a job in a few years time (ok, I know thats down the track but I'm thinking ahead!) How do I write a polite email/letter saying thank you, would have loved to join you but I am going to X school instead?

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"I regret that I cannot attend _____ University and have instead chosen to attend ____ University. I wish I could take [x] from your school and merge it with [y] from _____ University, but reality de

I tend to model my refusal letters on this paradigm: http://www.chaosmatrix.org/library/humor/reject.html

I've started sending "No thank you" letters and it's just... breaking my heart. I only applied to schools that I'd be absolutely ecstatic to attend. My preferences for one school over others are s

I think most of us have a similar problem. My plan is send a polite e-mail, saying that I am choosing to attend _____________ University because (insert polite reason - better funding, closer fit to interests, etc.) and regreat that I won't be able to attend ____________ University. Don't be too specific and say that you are really excited about working with Professor X or that the graduate students at their institution seemed much more interesting. Thank them for their time and the care they have taken in getting to know you. Professors know that you can ultimately only go to one place and should be fairly understanding.

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"I regret that I cannot attend _____ University and have instead chosen to attend ____ University. I wish I could take [x] from your school and merge it with [y] from _____ University, but reality denies me this ideal world. Ultimately, [z] has proven to be the deciding factor that has pushed my hand in this challenging decision. Thank you again for all of your assistance and guidance through this process.

While I cannot accept your offer, I suggest you speak to Cornell07. I can attest without reservation that he is a worthy, distinguished, and highly qualified candidate, who would be a perfect match with you and your department. In light of his impressive tangbile and intangible qualifications as a scholar and assured future as a luminary in his field, I am honored that you ultimately extended your offer to me. Even though you may have originally passed over his application, I am sure that he would gladly look past this unfortunate oversight.

Kindest Regards,

redwine"

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I would definitely mention the fact that you're grateful for the kindness and consideration that they've extended you during the decision process and that you hope to see them at conferences and such. That keeps it on a really nice personal level (especially if, 5-7 years from now, they're evaluating your job application...) :mrgreen:

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've started sending "No thank you" letters and it's just... breaking my heart.

I only applied to schools that I'd be absolutely ecstatic to attend. My preferences for one school over others are so minute, so it's hard to say "good-bye" before I've even said "hello" to places I'm sure I'd have been very happy.

I'm sure they totally don't care, but they at least act disappointed in their responses to my letters, and that makes it even harder.

Anyone else having any sort of existential crisis over this trying conclusion to a year-long struggle?

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While I cannot accept your offer, I suggest you speak to Cornell07. I can attest without reservation that he is a worthy, distinguished, and highly qualified candidate, who would be a perfect match with you and your department. In light of his impressive tangbile and intangible qualifications as a scholar and assured future as a luminary in his field, I am honored that you ultimately extended your offer to me. Even though you may have originally passed over his application, I am sure that he would gladly look past this unfortunate oversight.

haha...i like that. seriously, everyone put that in their letters.

here's to all you lucky bastards that actually have the luxury of declining offers!

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  • 3 weeks later...

So I got the admissions letter, and now I want to decline. But I can't figure out how. They didn't include any method of rejecting them in the letter -- it was just a "Congratulations! You start in September!" and I can't find any way to decline on the admissions website Am I missing something obvious here?

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Wisconsin didn't include a way to decline them in their initial mailing either. That came later when they sent information about their recruitment weekend. Wait two or three days and then if nothing comes, try e-mailing the Director of Graduate Studies or the Department Secretary.

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Sometimes the information about how to decline comes in a follow-up email/letter. I think it's important to decline politely, but also be open if there is an objective reason for declining (e.g., I chose a program that funded me or my projected advisor is leaving or similar "clear cut" reasons). This can be important feedback for a program to know, for example, that they ought to shape up their funding or that you were sold on them except that an important person is leaving. In these examples, you're not telling them something they don't know but, especially in the case of funding, you may be giving them vital data on which to base future decisions or make arguments to the university about new policies.

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Unfortunately I'm in a MA situation so I'm trying to make sure that my letters imply along the lines of "Hey, thanks for accepting me this year but i've decided that I'm going to go with School X for the time being."

Like... let me re-apply to your PhD program without remembering why i even rejected you... :)

But as a prof said, declining an offer shouldn't be like telling a prom date that you can't pick him/her! Schools understand that their program might not fit your needs at the moment.

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Pegona, I wrote all of my "thanks but no thanks" letters last night, and I totally didn't expect this part to be so stressful! In addition to the scary sense of making a definite choice about your life for the next few years, there's the element of saying no to specific people. It's a little bit easier with the schools that I wasn't able to visit, but when I'm writing letters to profs who I sat across from and discussed things with, it's way tougher. Especially when it comes down to the ones with whom I've had a lot of email communication before and after the visit.

I mean, I know rationally that it's not like *any* of the profs or the programs are going to cry tooo hard over missing out on faaaaaabulous me. :lol: And I get to feel good about the fact that hopefully my decision will open up the way for someone else who is a fabulous candidate and better fit than I am.

But, from a weird emotional perspective, what it feels like doing is writing breakup letter after breakup letter. "It's not you -- it's me! You have a lot to offer to other girls...I mean, grad students. And I would really, really like to stay friends with you, since we have so many of the same research interests...I mean, friends. Let's just see where the future takes us, OK?"

It didn't necessarily help that the first reply I got back started out with "Dear NSGoddessQ: Your message comes as a disappointment..." :cry:

What really helped, though, was writing the "yes! I will come to be with you!" letters to specific profs at the program that I will be attending. I chose to do those afterward, and it definitely helped my general emotional state of being.

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I never expected it to be such a harrowing situation either. The first reply I received said that he understood my decision and that the program I had accepted was a great one. He also wished me luck in my grad studies. I felt like crying when I read it. It would have been easier if he had responded with a few choice words or not at all.

I still haven't written the other programs. I can't bring myself to let go of them as options, even though I've already told Michigan yes. I guess I should do it tonight, especially since I am sitting on a funded program that doesn't give offers to everyone.

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I never expected it to be such a harrowing situation either. The first reply I received said that he understood my decision and that the program I had accepted was a great one. He also wished me luck in my grad studies. I felt like crying when I read it. It would have been easier if he had responded with a few choice words or not at all.

I still haven't written the other programs. I can't bring myself to let go of them as options, even though I've already told Michigan yes. I guess I should do it tonight, especially since I am sitting on a funded program that doesn't give offers to everyone.

If you're having trouble motivating yourself, think of the poor folks who are sitting on waitlists, no offers in hand, who are not sure whether they will even be accepted anywhere.

Your decision seems pretty easy when you consider the situations of those who are less fortunate than yourself.

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I know but I just have this feeling (completely unwarranted, I know) that the moment I turn down the one last school I am keeping my pocket, something will implode at Michigan and I'll be left with no offers at all.

One of the profs at Indiana who I'm really looking forward to working with told me that it was absolutely fine to feel nervous about the decision, even after it's really been made, because "All change implies loss." She's definitely right...but the sooner you dispense with the formalities, the sooner those other things will recede in your mind.

And besides, you already accepted Michigan, right? At this point, if something implodes, you can sue them for breach of contract and have MORE than enough money to finance a year of independent study and then re-application. :wink:

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I finally told the last school I won't be attending there. I got back a quick, two-second later e-mail from the Department Secretary that was rather cold. The message I received from their online site when I typed in my reply was warmer.

*Sigh* To make myself feel better, I read the e-mail from my potential advisor from Michigan when I accepted, which begins with the word "Yee-haw!"

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I finally told the last school I won't be attending there. I got back a quick, two-second later e-mail from the Department Secretary that was rather cold. The message I received from their online site when I typed in my reply was warmer.

*Sigh* To make myself feel better, I read the e-mail from my potential advisor from Michigan when I accepted, which begins with the word "Yee-haw!"

That's what happens when you choose to write your dissertation on the history of NASCAR. lol

Anyway, I'm glad you finally informed your other schools. Having moderated these fora for the last couple of years, I have seen the toll that waitlists (and the people who "collect" acceptance letters, not bothering to inform their departments until the last minute that they've accepted another offer) take on people's lives. There's always a 'next person down the line' who is desperately hoping that someone will inform their department, so they can finally plan the next 5-8 years of their lives.

I honestly don't understand the people who have 3-15 acceptances, and want to hold them all until 11:59pm on April 14th.

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I don't think that it's fair to ask someone with a few acceptances to turn down before they are ready. Academics are normally quite neurotic (I know I am). For me, it was a matter of needing to feel secure before I turned down the other schools who had accepted me. It was also about getting the courage to e-mail people that I have spoke with frequently and grown somewhat attached to with what I assume was at least partially disappointing news. Students who have multiple acceptances should be allowed to respond to the graduate schools when they are ready.

I understand the position of people on waitlists but the students with offers worked hard to get where they are and need to be given distance. I do understand the people with 3 - 15 acceptances waiting until April 14th at 11:59 p.m. I think they are waiting because the sense of loss that NSGoddessQ described earlier. One of the schools I turned down was originally my first choice. It was hard to let that one go. I needed a bit of time. People need to give others space.

I think people also need to remember that it's not the end of the world if they don't get in. What would I have done if I had been uniformly rejected? Went back to my well-paid teaching job and began to think about ways that I could have a fulfilling career in education. It's not the end of the world.

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I've turned down some programs I know I won't be attending, but am sitting on four still. Hopefully I will narrow it down to two in the next couple of days. I'm likely looking at a last-minute decision though, because the professor I desperately want to work with at the school I desperately want to attend is still deciding if he's going to stay or take up an offer he has at another school. ::sigh:: I'm really stressed about it.

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I've turned down some programs I know I won't be attending, but am sitting on four still. Hopefully I will narrow it down to two in the next couple of days. I'm likely looking at a last-minute decision though, because the professor I desperately want to work with at the school I desperately want to attend is still deciding if he's going to stay or take up an offer he has at another school. ::sigh:: I'm really stressed about it.

I think there is a big difference between, one the hand, turning down the schools you know you're not going to attend while keeping others in hand and, on the other hand, holding on to, say, 10 acceptances when you know you're not really considering 5. I think it's fair to ask accepted students to turn down the schools they know they won't be going to and opening up those spots earlier. If you're still debating between several programs, fine, but if you've made a decision or narrowed the pool, it's not asking that much to turn down the ones you absolutely know you wouldn't go to. I think what missycari's situation is quite reasonable; I think what Minnesotan is talking about are the people who know they''re going to School X but don't inform Schools Q, R, S, T, U, V, and W until the morning of April 15. To me, those are qualitatively different situations and actions.

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missycari -

If it makes you feel better, there is at least one student I know of who is in a similar situation. Have you asked if the professor if he is going to make the decision by April 15th. The student whom I am thinking of asked and was told that the decision would not be made by the deadline.

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