Your child may be wondering, “Do you have to decline admission to colleges?”
It may not be something that they feel comfortable doing, but yes, it is customary (and thoughtful!) to let a college know that they do not plan to attend that particular school. Your child should communicate with every college and university they don’t plan to attend.
In this article, we’ll discuss what it means to decline college admissions, why you should do so and how to decline a college acceptance. We’ll even include a couple of examples of how to communicate so your child doesn’t have to think twice about how to do it.
- What Does it Mean to Decline College Admissions?
- Do You Need to Decline College Admissions?
- Reasons to Decline Admissions to Colleges
- Reason 1: It helps the college understand their incoming class.
- Reason 2: Colleges stop sending unwanted information.
- Reason 3: Colleges stop personally contacting your child.
- Reason 4: You can move forward.
- How to Decline College Acceptance
- Step 1: Check the acceptance letter for exact steps.
- Step 2: Locate the contact information for the admissions office.
- Step 3: Talk to your child about politeness and courtesy.
- Step 4: Have your child send an email or letter.
- Step 5: Decline admission by May 1.
- Example of How to Decline College Acceptance
- Will Colleges Continue to Get in Touch?
- Declining College Offers is Polite
What Does it Mean to Decline College Admissions?
Figuring out how to decide what college to go to is not easy. It’s a huge deal. That’s why it’s easy to focus on which college you say “yes” to rather than the other colleges on the “thanks, but no thanks” list.
When you decline college admissions, it means that your child tells colleges and universities that they plan not to attend their institution. It can involve an email to an admissions counselor or a phone call to the admissions office. In some way, your child should communicate to the college or university that they plan to go elsewhere.
When you decline admission, colleges may ask you for some information for their own research purposes, including the college you plan to attend and why you plan to attend that other institution.
Do You Need to Decline College Admissions?
Do you need to decline college admissions? Yes, your child should make sure colleges understand that they will not attend their institution. It helps both the colleges and your child (and you!) get reoriented on the next step in the process.
It’s important to note that it’s not an absolute requirement to let colleges know that your child won’t attend for the semester for which they are applying. However, declining admissions officially reflects well on your character. It gives your child an opportunity to thank the college despite the fact that they will not attend.
For example, the college can focus on individuals who do want to attend their institution and you and your child can focus on your next step. Think of declining college admission as clearing space in your calendar, cleaning out a stuffed closet or a cluttered desk.
Ultimately, it’s really rude to not decline admission and allow the college to keep contacting your student when your child knows they aren’t planning to attend. It can save lots of time and energy on everyone’s part — it can help everyone save on emails, mailings, phone calls, personalized messages, trips, etc.
Read more: Wondering how long admissions officers read applications? Find out.
Reasons to Decline Admissions to Colleges
Let’s expand on the previous paragraph a bit and look at several reasons to decline admissions to colleges, including from the college’s perspective as well as yours.
Reason 1: It helps the college understand their incoming class.
Colleges want to get a sense of how their classes are shaping up. The earlier your child can provide that information, the better. If your daughter knows for sure that she won’t attend University X in November, encourage your child to communicate with the college.
They need to shape the incoming class as much as they possibly can, and if you decline admissions, you might even open up a spot in the class for the next person. Why not pay it forward by making the next person in line extremely happy?
Reason 2: Colleges stop sending unwanted information.
This may be one of the best reasons to tell colleges that your child doesn’t want to attend! You stop getting mail, emails and more. Your child can even communicate the information prior to beginning the application process with a school.
For example, let’s say College A begins sending information, unprompted, to your child. If your child has no interest in College A, she can send a quick message letting the college know that there’s no chance of her attending that school.
Reason 3: Colleges stop personally contacting your child.
Some colleges have robust texting and phone call communication processes, particularly small colleges and universities that must distinguish themselves among large amounts of competition.
Coaches and other individuals who have been recruiting your child for a specific program will also stop contacting them. Kindly communicating a child’s disinterest in the program can help coaches and other recruiters focus on the new class of incoming students.
Reason 4: You can move forward.
Both you and your child can move forward with the admission process. That may mean focusing on visiting other colleges, applying at other schools, writing supplemental essays and applying to scholarships at the schools in which your child is interested.
How to Decline College Acceptance
Do you know how to reject a college acceptance, exactly? It’s totally understandable if you don’t have a roadmap for how to help your child let a college know that they don’t want to attend.
So, how exactly should your child do so? First of all, I encourage your child to reach out — not you, as the parent. It’s a good lesson in growing up and taking on more responsibility in making life decisions.
Let’s take a look at the next steps.
Step 1: Check the acceptance letter for exact steps.
Many schools include the exact steps your child needs to take to decline acceptance. Dig out the acceptance email or letter to find out whether those steps are listed. This process may end up as filling out a super easy form to decline the offer of admission. If that’s the case, great!
However, this approach is a very transactional experience and fully ignores any relationships built throughout the process. Individuals who work with your child throughout the process may feel slighted if all they get is a form in the mail that states that your child will not attend the school.
Step 2: Locate the contact information for the admissions office.
Every college or university admissions office has a section on their website that outlines the contact information for your child’s particular area. After all, you want to make sure your child’s email or letter gets to the right person!
For example, the University of Tennessee has a section of its website dedicated to finding your child’s admissions counselor based on your area of the country. Similarly, Purdue has a similar portion of its website dedicated to helping your high schooler find their admissions counselor.
If your child worked one-on-one with someone in an admissions department at a particular college, locate that person’s contact information. Ultimately, having your child contact the admissions department is the best place to start.
Step 3: Talk to your child about politeness and courtesy.
Learning how to decline a college acceptance may not feel intuitive to your child at all. However, it’s important to talk about clarity, conciseness and being kind. Your child should offer thanks for the offer, but clearly note that you plan to decline the college’s offer.
Warn your child to steer clear of rudeness, snideness or condescension in their communication, even if your child had a negative experience with the college that changed their mind about the institution. Declining a college acceptance politely keeps the door wide open for later — remind your child that they may not like the college they end up choosing and may want to transfer later on.
Step 4: Have your child send an email or letter.
Your child has a few different avenues to pursue an admissions decline. Encourage your high schooler to send a formal letter or email, and if they have a personal connection with someone at the college, they may want to make a phone call instead for a personal touch.
If your child has been working with a particular coach or another individual at a college over the course of a few months, the coach likely deserves the courtesy of personalized communication with your child.
Step 5: Decline admission by May 1.
May 1 is National Decision Day, which is the cutoff date for making a college decision. Does this mean you have to wait till May 1 to notify a school you won’t attend?
Absolutely not. The sooner you know, the better. However, don’t rush the decision. You want to make absolutely sure that you weigh all the pros and cons. You will have to submit an enrollment deposit once you make a final decision about which college to attend.
Example of How to Decline College Acceptance
Let’s take a quick look at an example of how to reject a college acceptance through an email or snail mail.
Your child’s name
Your child’s address
City, State ZIP
November 18, 2022
City, State ZIP
To whom it may concern (or name of admissions professional):
Thank you so much for the offer of admission at University Y. However, I plan to accept an offer from a different institution.
Thank you for the ongoing communication, personal notes and phone calls that assisted me in making my final decision.
All the best,
Your child’s name
Your child can eliminate the address information to turn it into an email. As you can see, it doesn’t have to be long — it can be short and sweet and to the point.
Will Colleges Continue to Get in Touch?
Colleges and universities should stop contacting your child after an email or letter gets sent once you know they are no longer interested.
Declining College Offers is Polite
If your child asks, “Do I have to decline college offers?” say yes. Have your child send a letter to the college or admissions department thanking them for their offer and declining. Encourage your senior to send a personalized letter if they have a personal connection with someone on campus.