I've applied to three US universities (A, B, C) for PhD programs. Universities A and B offered me interviews on two separate weekends, which I accepted. I then made travel arrangements with Universities A and B for interviews.

I was then offered an interview with University C on the same date as my University A interview. I asked C for an alternate date, which happened to be the same weekend as my interview with B. I informed C of this and gave them a list of dates that I was free to interview but was told that those were the only two dates possible at University C.

I asked A and B about changing my interview date but was told that I could not since travel arrangements had already been made (through the university/a university-sponsored travel agency).

Universities A and B are both higher on my list than University C, so I've decided to decline University C's interview.

How can I do this politely? I don't want to burn any bridges with University C.

Related question: What should be done about conflicting invitations for graduate school interviews?

  • 10
    Is everyone kidding? Ask them (university C) for a phone/Skype/Google Hangouts interview. You don't have to decline. University C will understand. Try do something without having to travel there for the interview. Surely people in China and India don't fly in to universities for all their interviews. Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 21:06
  • 2
    I don't get the point. How is asking this question even necessary?
    – o0'.
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 16:34
  • 2
    An university is not your aunt Marge who's miffed because you didn't turn up for her 70th birthday.
    – Karl
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 20:19

4 Answers 4


You have asked for an alternative interview date, gave them a list of options where you're available, and made efforts to reschedule conflicting appointments. I don't think there's anything more that could be expected of you, so it should not be perceived as impolite if you just inform University C that unfortunately you can't come to any of the two offered interview dates due to conflicting appointments. If you want, you can explicitly mention interviews at other universities - that will make it clear that you're genuinely interested in doing a PhD, and it will be understandable to most academics that everybody has a ranking of opportunities in such situations.

You could offer to retract your application, or state that you expect that they won't consider your application any further, but I don't think any of these would be required.

  • 5
    Instead of retracting the application, I would see if they are willing to do a remote interview instead. That worked for me and I ended up attending that school. Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 18:30
  • In some cases, the interview is for the school to get additional information about candidates that are near the decision boundary (and market themselves to the students). An application can sometimes proceed without that additional information and depending on e.g. the rest of the application and that year's admission pool/funding/etc., could still succeed. That won't happen if the application's retracted/withdrawn. +1 to your final point.
    – WBT
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 19:04

They seem to have all the facts already. Just tell them that you had already made travel arrangements to visit A and B on the dates that C wanted you to come out, and that you have to regretfully decline to come to C. They're not going to be mad at you.

  • 13
    This is a good answer, honesty is the best policy, and the fact that you have done your best to make alternate arrangements will reflect well on you, should you need to go back to C at some point. Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 14:12

I don't see any reason they would be upset by you telling the truth. In fact, trying to get too deep in explaining "why I am choosing to go to A and B instead of you" could potentially be more "offensive", if that's what you're worried about. Concerning politeness, I would call if possible; quickly, too. There's no reason to leave them waiting to hear back from you if the answer is 'no'!

Be short, sweet, and to the point.

"I am sorry to say that I won't be able to attend an interview on either of the dates provided. If a time comes up other than those provided, please let me know. I apologize for any inconvenience."

It's also possible to leave an opening for a possible interview with University C later that way.

  • I agree with jaska & Dave. After all we are professionals, such things should be dealt in professional manner, no hard feelings would be taken if you express the same to them.
    – sri
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 16:56

Personally, I would recommend simplicity and honesty. Tell them what you have told us: I’m sure they will understand your problem. They are people too.


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