How to Tactfully Turn Down an Offer of Admission

What's the protocol and etiquette for turning down an offer from a school?

First check the language of that school's offer letter. Follow whatever instructions they give you. Do they want you to email them? Fill out a form and snail-mail it? Send your decision by Pony Express? Whatever they say, that's what you'll do. If they haven't specified a method, it's fine to email them at their admissions office email address. Here's a polite way to phrase your communication:

Dear Sir or Madam [if you have the person's name from the offer letter, that's even nicer to use; make sure to use the proper spelling and title]:

Thank you so much for your kind offer to join the class of 20XX. I must respectfully decline because I will be accepting an offer elsewhere [or: at School Z].

Wishing you all the best,

Awesome Applicant

It's totally up to you if you want to tell them where you'll be accepting; they will be curious and might even follow up to ask.

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), or come introduce yourself and join the conversation on Facebook.