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Say I applied to two graduate programs: A and B, in which A is my preferred program. It turns out that I am admitted by both, so I will accept the offer from A and turn B down. I heard from a friend that in this case, I may "refer" the offer from B to someone I know who is waitlisted by B so that s/he can be admitted to B.

Is this practice common in the US? Additionally, can I refer the offer to someone who has been rejected? Searching online just gives me pages of results about "referral programs", which aren't very relevant.

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    No, this practice is not common. Your request will be ignored. For one, they may have offered to more people than they expect, based on experience with the 'yield' they usually get. And, if someone has been rejected, well, they are rejected. – Jon Custer Feb 18 at 18:42
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Graduate programs don’t operate based on charity or friendship - admittance is based on merit. If you turn down the offer from B, the only rational thing for the administrators of that program to do after you turn them down is move on to the next person on their ranked list of candidates, if they still have room to admit more students, or simply write off your decision as one of the expected number of declinations they were assuming they would receive for this admissions cycle, if they have done the quite normal thing of sending out admission offers for more students than they actually have the capacity to accept.

In other words, all kinds of weird things can happen in some places that are poorly run or where for accidental historical reasons things run differently than in most places. It’s hard to prove a negative. But as a general rule, your friend is wrong and no such referral option exists.

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You can tell your friend that you won't be accepting the offer and maybe they can act on it. You can, in rejecting the offer from B, suggest that they accept your friend. If that is what you mean, it probably has little to no effect. Certainly it would have less effect that a letter from a known professor.

To be honest, I've never heard of such a thing. But, no, offers are not transferrable on the word of an applicant. The admitting organization has its own procedures. They will most likely go to whoever is the next in line on their list. It might be your friend, but the chances of that may be low.

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