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I'm sure it's common for students to reject 1-2 recommendations for admission to a graduate school, because they often apply to several places and sometimes they get accepted in more than one place. But what impression does this give to the graduate school when the student doesn't accept the offer for admission (not sure if this is the correct term)? Specifically universities in Europe where a lot of them don't have application fees. If you apply again in the future, are they likely to not accept you based on this information they have about you from the past? Is that information used at all?

In my case it's admission to a Master's program.

Additional question: if I got accepted to my first choice, would it be better if I told the other universities to cancel my applications?

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    "If you apply again in the future". You turned them down and you went somewhere else for graduate studies. Why on earth would you apply again? – Alexandros Apr 17 '15 at 8:57
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    @Alexandros presumably the OP doesn't want to burn bridges prior to an eventual PhD application. – StrongBad Apr 17 '15 at 9:03
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    ^ well, yeah it's something like that. – Valentin Apr 17 '15 at 9:15
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    Graduate scools don't have feelings. – JeffE Apr 18 '15 at 13:45
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    Well, I meant professors and people who evaluate applications as a whole. Most likely you said that as a joke, however. – Valentin Apr 18 '15 at 20:12
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In general, there is not much memory for individual students who act responsibly. Turning down an offer in a reasonable time period is acting responsibly. Initially accepting an offer and not turning it down until the last minute after external and internal funding applications have been made, is less responsible.

I would let departments know as soon as you know you are no longer interested. That means if you have gotten into your first choice school with a nice/fully funded offer, you should turn everyone else down. If you have gotten into your first choice school with a crappy funding offer, you need to decide for the remaining schools what you would do if they gave you a great funding offer. Any school that cannot make an offer that you would accept, you should let know.

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I do not have specific information about non-US schools. However, in the US, the best students generally have choices and are likely to say "No" to a few or perhaps several schools. It would be silly to discriminate against those students in the future.

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What country in Europe?

Speaking for the case in Germany, Master courses are usually "centralized" in the sense that you apply to the university nad not to a single professor. When applying for PhD's you usually apply directly to a professor.

Unless this is about a research master where you are applying directly to someone, I can not see how they would care at all.

It is pretty common to apply to several masters after your bachelors and go for the "best" one.

I would however point that it can be easier to get in contact with your desired future PhD advisor if you are in his university and carry out research projects at his chair, take his classes, etc.

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  • They're in Finland. And yeah, one does not apply to a professor or something like that in the Finnish universities I checked. – Valentin Apr 17 '15 at 9:44
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It is expected that applicants would most likely have applied for numerious other places so odds are many will turn down the offer. It is very unlikely that HR will remember the individual and hold any kind of grudge against them but if you are really worried, there are data protection laws which ensures that data has to be deleted after a certain period of time has passed (except in exceptional circumstances or where it would still be relevant). Personally, I'd just advise you not to worry about this.

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    In what country does Human Resources have anything to do with graduate admissions? – Nate Eldredge Apr 17 '15 at 16:43

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