Jump to content

How to decline an offer that you (unwisely) got the department excited about?


Recommended Posts

I got an offer from a school a few weeks ago, and since I got declined from all other schools I applied for aside from my top choice, I decided to accept. Now I haven't "officially" accepted, but I've gotten unreasonably close. This is because this school was probably my fifth choice, and all the choices above that basically told me I wasn't even close to a good enough candidate, so I assumed my top choice was completely out of the question (since they're the most prestigious school I applied for). I told the department that I was going to accept for sure, and asked if I had to submit my acceptance in writing or if the email was good enough. The professor I emailed said that the email was good enough, but then emailed me about a week later saying that he was mistaken and that I did need to submit my acceptance in writing. I was at a conference without email when I received this, but within the two days between this email being sent and returning from the conference, I ended up getting an invitation to interview from my top choice, with a heavy indication that the chances of me getting an offer after that interview were very high. Needless to say, I was floored, but also very conflicted because the school that I was intending to accept seemed very excited that I was coming there, and the professor that I went back and forth with was so unbelievably nice and attentive. Especially with the April 15th deadline looming, I feel really bad for leading them on and possibly leaving them in a position where they have no one to admit because it's so close to the deadline and everyone else has accepted offers. They said that I was going to be one of only one or two new students admitted into the program this year.

 

Now, I know I haven't been given an offer to my top choice yet, but they seemed to be implying that I should expect one. What do I say the the school that I got so, so close to accepting? Should I let them know that I'm suddenly considering a surprise offer, even though I haven't been accepted to that school yet, so they might have a chance to scramble and find some kind of replacement? If I do that, do I run the risk of them rescinding the offer, then being suddenly screwed if my top choice actually doesn't decide to make me an offer? And how do I phrase this nicely, to avoid hurting feelings and burning bridges? I really feel badly about the whole situation, but I really never expected this offer from my top choice. I thought the game was over.

 

Any insight would be huge!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd first make sure that top choice really is going to make an offer. It's April 15th is Wednesday, call them up on Monday and ask, they really should know by now. If you're not actually getting into that program all of this is a moot point anyway.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your first obligation has to be to you. Sure, you want to be nice and deal with everyone with integrity, and I think you are doing that, but any final decisions have to be based upon what would be best for you and your career. If it is better for you to attend your top choice, then go there - you don't want to spend the next 5 years at a program and the next 30 years of your career with that program on your CV simply because you felt some momentary guilt.

 

With that said, I agree - if they want a decision by April 15 and you don't think your top choice is going to get back to you by then, then you should ask if they can give you an extension to decide because you had an unexpected interview and an offer is pending. I then would contact your top choice and tell them that you're really excited about the prospect of going there, but that you have an offer from another department and you'd really like to hear from them soon.

 

And you're not doing anything wrong. Every program has their own yield management strategies - they might have a waitlist, or they might have admitted a few more students than they intend to take in knowing that X% declines every year, or something else. Let them worry about how they are going to get the number of students they want; you worry about selecting the right program for you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Let them worry about how they are going to get the number of students they want; you worry about selecting the right program for you.

Very much this. It is not your job to recruit for a university, they have staff to do that for them instead. If they can't attract the students they want, that is honestly their problem they need to solve.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh my gosh, thank you guys so much for your responses. You have no idea how much this helped with settling my conscience on what to do. I emailed the first school this morning, with an honest explanation of the situation, and the prof that I had been emailing with maintained his Ghandi-like kind demeanor, and made me feel like I was far from the biggest jerk in the world (which is what I felt like). I feel like an enormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders. And, as a plus, I did (at least I'm pretty sure I did) very well in my interviews! I've got another round tomorrow, but I feel like I'd have to mess up pretty bad to counteract the positivity that I conveyed during these ones.

 

Thank you so much!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.