Do You Have to Decline College Acceptances? (Are Rejection Letters a Thing in College?)

An incoming college freshman studying the details of his college acceptance on his laptop adorned with various stickers in a dimly lit room with blue curtains.

College is but a few steps away. Undoubtedly, the application and selection process was demanding enough to handle, especially if you applied to multiple colleges. And if you got accepted to your dream school, congratulations! 

But if you received more than one college acceptance letter, you have to decide and choose one. But what of the colleges you decided to let go of? Do you have to decline college acceptances?

After you make one of the most critical decisions in your life, which is choosing a college, you may feel ecstatic in notifying the school that you accept their offer. But after your short celebration, you should first sit down and inform the schools you are declining as well. 

Notifying other colleges that you decline their offer is not compulsory. However, going above and beyond to let them know of your decision is common courtesy. And for sure, the admissions officer will not take it personally and even appreciate the effort. 

Why You Should Contact the College to Say No

Let’s say you never received the rejection letter from your college of choice. Or your backup college never sent out that acceptance letter. What would you feel if they left you hanging and guessing? 

Saying no is just as important as saying yes. Here are some reasons why you should decline college acceptances:

For other wait-listed students

As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Someone might be waiting for a position to open up. And declining your college acceptance gives them a chance to be admitted.

For the school itself

The school you wish to decline may want to know why you rejected their admission and which college you plan to admit. You do not have to tell them the details of your rejection. But most colleges ask these questions upon your refusal to add to their statistics record.

This will help them carry out positive changes to keep their standards at par with other schools. 

Ways to Decline a College Acceptance Letter

A girl wearing jeans and a backpack, walking along the university grounds, on her way to speak to the college admissions officer to decline her acceptance.

Rejecting a college offer may feel very awkward, but don’t overthink it too much. There are a few ways you can gratefully and politely refuse a college offer.

Through School’s Procedures

With the digital age today, some schools allow you to send in your college applications online. And other schools let you view your college application status online as well. So, when a school picks you, you can simply choose whether to accept or refuse your admission.

But unfortunately, other colleges do not provide you with the same procedure or some specific online form.

Tip: You do not have to make a decision right away. Take a moment to yourself, and when you finally come up with a decision, you can then return to the website and give your answer. 

Via a Letter

Penning a refusal letter to a college can be awkward to construct. You may be hesitant about what to say or the details you want to disclose. But writing a letter is a better way to go because you can think and rethink what you want to convey to the college admissions officer.

Tip: Write your letter as if you are still representing your high school. You want to sound polite and grateful. So, including the words “thank you” in your letter will be taken in a positive light. You may even further elaborate or explain why you are not attending their school, but you certainly don’t have to. 


Refusing a college admissions offer in person may be a little harder and more awkward to do if you are not ready for what to say. 

Tip: You want to give a light smile while talking to your admissions officer and thanking them for considering your application. And you may provide them with a bit of an idea why you are declining their offer, be it you are still undecided about other schools, or you have picked another college. Best believe they will still appreciate you going the extra mile to let them know. 

What Should You Put in Your Rejection Letter?

A girl wearing a black shirt, drafting a college rejection letter on her laptop..

Like any letter, addressing your rejection letter to the right person will make a significant difference. You want to pen it to the admissions officer or the person you’ve talked to in the process. You could put their first name if you spoke with them personally. 

At the start of your letter, welcome them with gratitude and thank them for the financial aid and consideration they extended toward your application. The body of your letter need not be lengthy and wordy. 

Just a simple, “After thinking thoroughly and weighing my options, I have decided to attend another college instead. And I wanted to let you know.” 

You do not have to disclose which college you are attending, although you can if you want to. You also do not have to state why you are declining their offer and accepting another college. But you can if you wish. 

Lastly, close the letter by thanking the school for helping you with your college search. It is best to stay courteous throughout the letter without burning bridges to the receiving end.   

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a college reject you after acceptance?

It is rare as most colleges prefer not to go back on their word. But they can, and they will revoke your admission if your application is proven to be fraudulent or if you failed to graduate from high school. Getting suspended or arrested can also be grounds for the revocation of your acceptance. 

Can you back out after accepting college admission?

You can still back out after accepting a college offer. But you may not be able to get your deposit back. Whatever your reason is for backing out, be it a change of mind or change of plans, or some unforeseeable event, discussing it with your admissions officer is the best way to go. 

Can you commit to 2 colleges?

Committing to 2 colleges is considered unethical and may be grounds for the revocation of your admission.

So, Are College Rejection Letters a Thing?

An incoming college freshman with hands on their laptop, writing a college rejection letter.

You may have taken months to research what college you want to attend, whether it is an Ivy League school or not. And you have sent out your applications to woo multiple colleges to consider admitting you. 

But when colleges are trying to win your heart in the end, rejecting some colleges is an inevitable thing to do. I’m saying you don’t have to, but it is best for you to at least give them an answer, whether it is a yes or a no. They’ll appreciate the effort just as much as you are grateful to them for considering your application.

Written by The Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis is a lifestyle blog about the journey of college to adulting. Here you can find the tips for college, self-improvement, adulting, and more.

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