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Declining Offers


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I feel like there has been brief conversation about this in the middle of other threads, but I was curious as to what you guys thought proper etiquette for declining an offer of admission. Do you e-mail the DGS? I'll be declining UC Boulder's MA offer, but my e-mail correspondence with the DGS has been so kind and helpful that I almost feel guilty. I know that's silly, but does anyone feel similarly?

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I felt/feel exactly the same way. I also felt guilty because they paid a huge chunk of airfare (like >$1000). To two schools I wrote to the DGS and told them that after much deliberation I had decided to attend another school, then said something nice about their school that I liked and said something about hoping to meet again in the future.

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My letter to a university I really liked, for what it's worth:

 

Dear Professors X, X, and X,

I have just sent a letter to the department notifying them that I will be unable to attend X in the fall, but wanted to let you all know personally. It has been a very tough decision-making process, but I am currently deciding between two schools (X and X) that have both offered me five-year funding packages with first year fellowships. I have decided, too, that it will be best for me to attend a university that offers X language and literature courses. 

I really enjoyed meeting everyone last month, and I appreciate all the time and energy you have put into communicating with me. Thank you so much for your kind words and hospitality. I regret that we will not be able to work more closely together but hope to see you at conferences, etc. in the future. 

All the best (and thanks again),
 

And to the DGS:

 

Dear Ms. X,

I regret to inform you that I have decided to attend a PhD program at a different university. It has been a tough decision-making process, but I am currently deciding between two schools that have both offered me five-year funding packages. It was a pleasure meeting everyone last month and I very much appreciate your hospitality. 

Thank you for your consideration, and I wish you the best of luck with your incoming class!

Sincerely,

Edited by smellybug
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I think smellybug's advice template is a great start with whatever additions you need to make to let them know whatever personal experience was meaningful for you. It was rhetorically responsible and professional.

 

I would let them know as quickly as possible as it will maintain what professional contacts you have made throughout the application process.

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Some of the schools require that you fill out some official rejection, either online or on paper (which you then mail, obviously).  What I did was write personal emails to each of the people I had spoken to either on the phone or at the open house, thanking them for welcoming me and for the opportunity but stating that I have chosen to go elsewhere for personal as well as professional reasons.  In the case that I had had extended and/or detailed conversations with the person to whom I was writing, I usually referred to that in some way or another.  Then I notified the DGS (who was usually someone I'd spoken to but not a POI) and any students from the uni who had gone out of their way to welcome me and help me make my decision.  Then I filled out the official form.

 

I would take the time to notify the most important people you spoke to (or the ones you spoke to the most) individually.  In the grand scheme of things, you won't spend a hell of a lot of time writing an extra email, but the fact that you spent the time to do it can't possibly hurt you.  And it's not like there's no chance you'll ever interact with them again, so going out of your way (even if it's just to write an extra email) to be polite and gracious isn't going to hurt.  At least that's how I'm thinking about things.

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This all seems like truly sensible and professional advice, but is perhaps overly cautious.  I'm still deciding, but the professors I've spoken with have uniformly said that it's more important that you think deeply and consider all your options than rush to let places know.  I'm sure the DGS might get a little butthurt when you decline, but everyone else is going to understand (and in fact expect) that you need to go to the best school for you.

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