I applied to several post-grad programs at Australian Universities. I got an offer from one (University A) very quickly, conditional on completion of my undergraduate degree. It had a lapse date of January 1. During the Christmas break I emailed University A letting them know that I had completed my undergraduate degree but would not be able to get a transcript to them before January 1. I said "Is there anything I can send in the meantime [while waiting for official transcript] that would be sufficient to prove I have met the conditions of the offer and can accept it?" Since then I got another offer from a different university (University B) that suits me better and I plan to accept this offer.

Today (January 6) I finally got a reply from University A saying "I can confirm you have successfully accepted your offer...". I realize I may have implied that I was going to accept the offer in my email, but the situation changed and I no longer want to accept the offer from University A, since University B is a much better option for me for various reasons.

How can I professionally and politely decline the offer to University A?

2 Answers 2


Dear [name],

Thank you for your reply to my email of December [xx]. Please note that in that email I asked what documentation I need to send in the event that I decide to accept the offer to join your graduate program, but did not yet indicate a definite wish to accept the offer. In the meantime, I have considered the matter some more and decided to pursue other opportunities elsewhere. Thank you again for the generous offer, for which I am grateful.


[your name]

  • 3
    I think an apology is needed since the situation is partially Gerry's fault. Jan 6, 2017 at 14:14
  • 2
    @ПетяНарышкин I'm not sure I agree. Assuming what he quoted is in line with what he said; he never actually accepted. The email was about the steps required to accept the offer. Actually accepting the offer should still be a conversation between both parties after all the documentation is in order.
    – JMac
    Jan 6, 2017 at 14:19
  • 1
    @ПетяНарышкин That's up to him whether he wants to apologize, but I wouldn't - the admissions office should not assume that someone accepts an offer until they explicitly state so. This is also a question of Australian politeness norms, something I know little about, so I trust OP will apply his own common sense.
    – Dan Romik
    Jan 6, 2017 at 14:20
  • I am actually Canadian, and have never been to Australia, which is part of the reason I am asking this question.
    – Gerry
    Jan 6, 2017 at 18:09
  • 1
    You can apologize without "needing" to apologize. Something like "I apologize if my wording caused any confusion" works well for instance. If it did, then you're at least acknowledging the possibility (which goes a long way to diffusing anger). If they just read poorly, then they will realize that when they check your wording. And it's not like you are admitting some grave error.
    – tkr
    Jan 8, 2017 at 18:36

As always, honesty is the better solution here. Just write to them a polite e-mail explaining that you did not explicitly want to accept the offer. Then you can say that for personal reasons, you have accepted an offer from another university.

A polite e-mail explaining your situation is always a quick and professional way to settle such situations. In most cases, the person reading your e-mail will most likely be in an administrative position and will not really care about the reasons why you wish to decline the offer. Do not worry too much about declining, it occurs all the time.

  • why would you say that you made a different choice for "personal" reason? I am assuming that if Gerry chooses University B is because he thinks that would help him meet his professional (not persona) goal. And there is nothing wrong in showing you know what you want in life!
    – famargar
    Jan 6, 2017 at 14:04
  • 1
    The author mentioned that University B was a better choice of various reasons. These reasons could be professional (better university), but also personal (University is closer to home, etc.). Saying that this is for personal reasons is a very generic formulation and, consequently, has little risk to offend anyone. Furthermore, we do not know the real reasons given what Gerry mentioned.
    – BlaB
    Jan 6, 2017 at 14:28
  • Iindeed - I am being optimistic and hope Gerry will choose for professional reasons only. The reason being that if you want a career in academia, you will have to sacrifice a lot of your personal life anyway. Keeping in mind that you will succeed only if you won't think at the end that was a sacrifice at all. For the same reason, saying to an employer - academic or not - that you make your choices for personal reasons, IMHO makes you look as a person with limited drive.
    – famargar
    Jan 6, 2017 at 14:38
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    @famargar "personal" is just a polite way of saying that the reasons are none of University A's business. In this context it means nothing more or less than "reasons I do not care to, nor have any need to, elaborate."
    – Dan Romik
    Jan 6, 2017 at 15:57
  • The reasons are not professional only. There are two main reasons - 1. University B is a very prestigious university (professional reason), 2. University B is in a much better location as I have family in the same city that have offered me a place to stay.
    – Gerry
    Jan 6, 2017 at 18:10

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