How to Gracefully Accept an Offer (or Negotiate Better Terms)

In response to my blog posting "What Does This Email From the Admissions Office Want Me To Do?", a commenter asked this follow-up question:

How do you suggest acknowledging acceptance emails? Do I reply "Thanks!" or just leave the email alone until I've made a decision?

You might recall that in that earlier posting, I had encouraged applicants not to bombard admissions officers with unnecessary emails; in most cases, "unnecessary" means you're just acknowledging their email and not providing more information, or being asked to provide more information. In that instance, my advice was not to write a "Thanks!" email in reply to "Your file is complete and/or under review" emails from admissions officers.

But what if the email from admissions officers is extra special, as in "You're accepted!"? I can understand why you might want to hit the reply button to say "Thanks!" even before you know what your own final decision will be, because you *are* genuinely grateful. They love you, and that's a great feeling. And if it's your first offer, you're even more excited and relieved. I totally get that. So should you hit send, or stick your emails of enthusiasm (whether lyrical or monosyllabic) in your Drafts folder and leave it there?

As in so many of the blog postings I write, I would let this meta-principle govern your analysis: FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS.

I bet you dollars to donuts that the acceptance email didn't just say, "You're in!" It probably also said something like, "If I can answer any questions, please email me." They're trying to recruit you, so of course they want to hear from you if there's anything that allows them to sell you on the school and make it more likely that you'll accept.

So here's my question back to you: Do you have genuine follow-up questions? They might take the form of:

  • I'm really interested in your environmental/criminal/UCC (hah!) law offerings. Could you put me in touch with current students or alumni who share that interest?
  • I'm confused by your instructions about applying for financial aid. Could you please clear the following up for me?
  • I have some questions about your placement in the XYZ market. Can you put me in touch with your career services office and/or alumni in that area?
  • I'm so grateful to be accepted to the class of 20XX. I'm looking forward to visiting the various schools I've been admitted to this spring. In the meantime, I wanted to let you know that I have received a Gigantic Fancypants Scholarship from That Esteemed Law School, and since that makes my decision a bit more complicated, I would be grateful if you would revisit my financing options at Your Esteemed Law School. (That's a diplomatic way to ask them to match the scholarship offer, or at least try to narrow the gap. It's a completely fair question to ask, since there's a lot of money and potential debt at stake, and the cost *should* be factoring into your decision.)

If you don't have any follow-up questions, there's no need to send them a purely FYI "thanks" email; it's fine to wait until admitted students weekend to say thanks, or to wait until the deadline to say yes or no (and if you say no, do accompany that with a "thanks," because the offer is still a reason to be thankful). 

There is an instance when it would be appropriate to send a "thanks" email even if you don't have much else to say at that time: If you had some kind of personal back-and-forth with a particular admissions officer at that school, and you bonded to some degree during the application process, then that person probably went to bat for you when the admissions decision was being made. A "thanks" email in response to an offer becomes a "thank you" on a personal level to a person with whom you have connected in a meaningful way, and that's a nice thing to do.

Whatever you decide, I'm glad you're in this wonderful position.


Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. Read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions, recently updated and available as an e-book. Follow Anna on Twitter (@annaivey).