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    How to Decline a College Acceptance Offer

    By Lisa Freedland

    Lisa Freedland is a Scholarships360 writer with personal experience in psychological research and content writing. She has written content for an online fact-checking organization and has conducted research at the University of Southern California as well as the University of California, Irvine. Lisa graduated from the University of Southern California in Fall 2021 with a degree in Psychology.

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    and Cece Gilmore

    Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: June 17th, 2024
    How to Decline a College Acceptance Offer

    Getting into multiple colleges is great! However, narrowing down your decisions and choosing your future college can sometimes be difficult. Once you do that, though, the hard part is over! Now all you have to do is inform the rest of the colleges that you won’t be attending. So, how exactly do you decline a college acceptance offer? Keep on reading to learn how to decline a college acceptance offer, with tips and an example “I decline” email included!

    Also see: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool

    Confirm that you’ll be attending your chosen school

    Before informing any colleges that you won’t be attending, make sure to first confirm that you’ll be attending your chosen school.  You’ll want to know that you’ll be able to attend the college without any  issues before you turn down other offers.

    In order to “confirm” your attendance at a specific university, inform them that you accept their offer to attend. This process varies by school and is stated in the acceptance letter. Once you’ve done that, make sure to submit your deposit before the deadline. And that’s it! You’re now a future college student. As long as you don’t let your grades drop too much your senior year, you’re off to college.

    Quick Tip

    Declining your college acceptance allows colleges to open your spot up to a student on the waitlist.

    Email the colleges that you chose not to attend

    Typically, students will inform colleges of their decision not to accept by way of email. When it comes to writing these, we have a few tips:

    • Be courteous and grateful (they accepted you, after all!)
    • Let them know as soon as you make your decision not to attend
    • Be polite (don’t burn any bridges – you may want to attend the school at some point later on)

    Now, we know what you may be thinking: “Do I really have to tell colleges that I’m not going?”. While you don’t necessarily have to, it’s good practice (and it helps other students too!). Letting the school know earlier on may mean that other students can get off the waitlist and into the school.

    Advice from an admissions professional

    Thank the admissions officer or person that you have been working with and getting to know. Let them know that you appreciate their time and energy in you, but that ultimate you have found a different institution that better aligns with you and your next educational path.

    Christina Labella | Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Manhattanville University

    In addition to writing colleges a “rejection” email of sorts, you should also make sure you officially reject their offers. This means making sure that you’ve followed their instructions on how to reject an offer, whether this means just sending an email or filling out a form online. If you’re not sure where to check such guidelines, they are likely available on the university website or can be accessed by emailing the university’s admissions faculty.

    @scholarships360 Check out our sample ""rejection"" email here 👇 #scholarships360 #scholarships #college #collegedecision #collegeadvice #howto ♬ original sound – scholarships360

    Now’s your chance to write one of those college rejection letters (but you’re the sender this time)! So, how exactly should you do it? Just like how colleges inform rejected students of their application status in a respectful and encouraging manner, you should do the same. Remember to be courteous, thank them for their acceptance offer, and kindly explain that you have chosen to attend another university. You may or may not choose to share the name of the school you chose–that’s up to you. Here’s an example:

    “Dear Ms./Mr. _______,

    I am writing today to thank you for the generous acceptance and scholarship offers from *name of college* for the class of *year you will graduate college*. After long and serious consideration of my offers, I have decided to attend *name of chosen college* instead. I wanted to let you know as soon as I made my decision, and greatly appreciate your time and consideration.

    Thank you for your assistance in my college search.


    *Your Name*

    And that’s it! Pretty simple, right? Once you’re done, send your emails off, and you should be good to go.

    What if a college calls you?

    Although it’s unlikely, colleges sometimes choose to call students who declined their acceptance offer, asking what prompted them to make that decision. Although you’re not obligated to give out this information, it typically helps such universities improve and refine their recruitment process. If you do choose to tell them why, you can generally give a more general response, simply mentioning reasons like financial aid or location. Or, if you visited campus and had an unpleasant experience there, you could let them know that as well.

    Related: Top 10 books to read before college

    Get ready for college!

    Now you know how to decline a college acceptance! After confirming that you’ll attend your chosen university and declining the rest of your admission offers, you’re done (for the most part) and ready to attend college! However, there are a few other steps you should take before you arrive on campus. Here they are:

    • Turn in deposits
    • Apply for financial aid (if you haven’t yet)
    • Submit a housing application/Find housing
    • Schedule an orientation date
    • Schedule a meeting with an advisor to discuss classes and credits
    • Register for classes on time!

    Last, but not least, remember to enjoy college! We hope you have a great time, learn a lot, and make amazing friends.

    Also read: First year of college: How to prepare

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Make sure you are 100% confident and committed to a different school before declining any college acceptance offers. Inform yourself about how to choose a college before making the final decision!
    • Although it is not required, it is good practice to email colleges you are no longer interested in attending in order to open up spots for students on the waitlist 
    • Be courteous, grateful and respectful in your emails declining their acceptance offer as you do not want to burn any bridges 
    • Ensure you also officially reject the schools offers by following their instructions on how to reject an offer 

    See also: Everything you need to know about early decision vs early action

    Frequently asked questions about how to decline a college acceptance offer

    Can you reject a college after accepting?

    Certainly! From the day you accept your acceptance offer to the day of your graduation, you can choose to no longer attend the university you’re currently at. This is even true for those who accept an early decision acceptance offer, which are usually binding. However, if you choose to reject a college after accepting an early decision offer, you should typically have a valid reason for doing so (e.g., financial strain, family emergency, etc.). No matter what type of offer you accept, though, keep in mind that you will likely not receive a refund on your tuition deposit if you do so.

    Is accepting an offer of admission binding?

    For the most part, accepting an offer of admission is not binding. Early-decision acceptance offers, however, are typically binding. What exactly does this mean, though? It means that if one applies to a school through early decision, one must attend that university that they were accepted to. This is why it is common practice for students to only be able to apply to one university through early decision.

    How do I reject a college acceptance because they didn't give me enough aid?

    If a college didn’t give you enough financial aid, but they are still your first choice, you should try sending them a financial aid appeal letter before rejecting your offer. If you are successful, the college may adjust their offer and make enrollment a financial option for you and your family.

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