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After literally weeks of trying to concoct the perfect email to decline am offer to a school I REALLY liked, I finally hit send (and died a little inside). I was hoping for a response that didn't require follow-up, but her exact words were,

"Hi LAS22--well I'm disappointed, obviously, but best wishes in your future studies! :)  Are you going to another PhD program?"

Ugh. Now I have to respond and I've been panicking over it for a week now...

How do I respond?? Do I tell her what school I'm going to? Do I tell her why? Do I reiterate how difficult of a decision this was?

I'm the worst at emails. Please send help. ?

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You should tell them. There is no harm in telling them. They can easily look you up anyways as this fall, you will be listed in your new school's directory. And if they are interested in you as a student, telling them where you will be would help them keep an eye out for your work. So just write something like:

Hi X,

Yes, I will be attending the Y program at Z University this fall! I hope to see you again at conferences in the future!

LAS22

(or something to that effect).

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I agree with @TakeruK. No harm in telling them, no need to reiterate what a difficult decision it was. Departments like to keep tabs on what programs they lose competitive students to and they sometimes amend recruitment efforts accordingly. You'd be doing them a solid by providing them with this info. Keep it short and sweet, thank them again for the opportunity, and fret no more!

Edited by surefire

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2 hours ago, LAS22 said:

How do I respond?? Do I tell her what school I'm going to? Do I tell her why? Do I reiterate how difficult of a decision this was?

You tell her where you're going, it's not a secret. You don't explain why you chose that school and you don't reiterate how difficult the decision was. This is a friendly response by a curious professor. @TakeruK's formulation is a good example of how to handle this question.

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also let me offer up the idea that reiterating how hard of a decision it was can start to sound condescending

more data for admissions committees -> less uncertainty in future admissions processes -> better outcomes for all

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