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Articles / Applying to College / How to Say "No" to Colleges that Said "Yes"

May 10, 2008

How to Say "No" to Colleges that Said "Yes"

Question: My son was accepted by three colleges, and he has chosen the one he wants to attend. Are there samples somewhere of what to write the two schools he has decided not to attend? We would like to be as polite as possible and express thanks for the opportunities.

It's a breath of fresh air--and good karma indeed--that your son will take the time to personally write to the two colleges he won't attend. Although I firmly believe that almost anything we'd ever want is already out there somewhere in Cyberspace, I'm not sure where you'd find the samples you seek. So, instead, I'll write them for you.


There are actually two versions of this letter that your son can compose. The first one is very short and sweet:

Dear [NAME OF COLLEGE] Admission Office: [Or, if your son has had contact with a specific admission official, you can write directly to him or her]:

Thank you for your offer of admission. I have decided that I will not be enrolling at [NAME OF COLLEGE], but I am grateful for the consideration you gave my application and for the opportunity to join your Class of 2018. It was a very difficult choice to make, and I'm thrilled that I had excellent options such as this one.

Again, many thanks

[Your son's name, school name, and school city/town]

Alternatively, if you don't have to do too much nagging to get your son to write something longer, then admission officials would really value a more detailed letter that might include all or some of this information:

-the college he plans to attend

-the reason(s) he chose the other school

-personal thanks to any staff member who assisted him along the way

-any part of their recruitment effort that was especially worthwhile

That sample would look something like this:

Dear [NAME OF COLLEGE] Admission Office: [Or, if your son has had contact with a specific admission official, you can write directly to him or her]:

Thank you for your offer of admission. Although it was a very difficult decision, I have decided to enroll instead at [NAME OF SCHOOL YOUR SON WILL ATTEND]. One key reason for my choice was the 3-2 Engineering Program with Dartmouth College. Although your school has an excellent physics major, the possibility of spending two years at Dartmouth won me over in the end. Another important factor was the proximity to home. I will now be able to see some of my brother's football games.

I am grateful for the consideration you gave my application and for the opportunity to join your Class of 2018. I would also like to give special thanks to Mr. Ralph Ianelli, the representative from your office who visited my high school and who took so much time to answer my questions. I also enjoyed your "Groundhog Day" on-campus program when I got to spend time with actual students, and I ate a terrific cheeseburger (actually, several). It was an excellent and informative experience.

Again, many thanks.

[Your son's name, school name, and school city/town]

Your son can send his regrets via email. Because many colleges no longer maintain paper application folders, an emailed note -- rather than a snail-mail note -- will probably land in your son's electronic file for at least a couple years. And you never know if he'll decide to transfer down the road, so it can't hurt to leave a favorable impression as he says farewell.

Hope that helps. Best wishes to you and your son as he embarks on his college career,

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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