I got PhD admission offers from 2 Universities (say A and B) and yesterday decided to accept one of them (University A). Today I decided to let University B know that I would not be able to join them. After they acknowledged my refusal to join, they asked for the name of University A since they keep track of the same for statistical purposes.

Is there any harm in letting them know? Or is it better to keep it private?


I guess I was fretting over nothing. I sent B a brief reply saying that I was going to accept the offer from A (I've already signed documents with A so I'm reasonably confident they won't leave me in the lurch). B replied wishing me the best of luck at A.

Thanks for the comments! I wasn't sure this was a common thing to ask for universities.

  • 47
    Sooner or later you kind of need to reveal to the world where you're doing a PhD, no?
    – Sverre
    Mar 28, 2017 at 15:56
  • 3
    Sabotage is unlikely but it's not impossible. Just tell them you'd formally notify them when the actual procedure at school A has been finalized. Once the contract is signed, then feel free to tell B. Mar 28, 2017 at 15:56
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    I cannot think of any reason not to tell them. It may be infinitesimally beneficial to let them know, such as by building trust with a potential future collaborator/peer reviewer/etcetera. or simply putting it in the head of the people you would have worked "ah X is working on Y". I was also asked the same and I let the would-be supervisor know, he responded kindly saying the place I was going is good. Mar 28, 2017 at 16:04
  • 1
    You should tell them, but since there is no deadline, do it when you feel comfortable.
    – sean
    Mar 28, 2017 at 17:07
  • 7
    There's probably no harm, but I also can't think of any benefit. Treat it like you would any other unpaid survey
    – Valorum
    Mar 28, 2017 at 18:55

5 Answers 5


I can't think of any harm in telling them, and in the medium term, this isn't a secret, because it will certainly be clear by the fall where you've gone since your name will probably be put on the department website. If you're uncomfortable, it's certainly fine to wait a bit until you've finalized things at the school you accepted; you don't even need to tell them you're doing that---just wait a bit before replying to the request.

It may help to know that it's standard for schools to want to know where students who reject them are going, so there's nothing unusual or suspicion raising about the question. It's useful information because it helps them assess their program and admissions practices.

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    It isn't just used for internal purposes. External funding agencies, for example NIH, use this sort of information when determining recipients of institutional training grants. It is one of the factors used to determine the attractiveness to students of different programs. It's a better measure than just basing those decisions on selectivity (i.e., program only admits 5% of applicants). If people choose against your program only to go somewhere highly respected, that counts in your favor.
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 28, 2017 at 20:31

There is no harm in letting them know. Universities and departments like to know their competition - if Univ B find out that many of their students are choosing Univ A over them, they can think of ways to better compete with them next year.


I work in a university's market research department. We send out surveys to people who decline an offer, with the aim of understanding:

  • Who the university's closest competitors are
  • Why applicants declined an offer
  • How we can improve

The surveys are anonymised and there are no negative consequences from filling in the survey. Results are presented in the aggregate, i.e. charts of all anonymised respondents are presented in a document to senior managers.

Disclosing this information is optional, has no negative consequences and is a benefit to the university you declined.

  • 8
    To me, this answer would be a great section to add to the top of any such survey (and you may already do this). Mar 29, 2017 at 16:08

No, they can figure it out themselves -- and probably do. Their Institutional Research office will periodically submit your Name and Birthday to the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC). Actually, they will probably batch-upload the names and birthdates of all new students and potential applicants to the NSC once a quarter.

The NSC will return a file listing your enrollment dates and degrees earned from any college in the US. This is a common practice at most colleges.


If you were rejected by those universities trying to get in, would they tell you whom they admitted ahead of you?

Of course they would, right down to the last rejected would-be undergrad.

So you should extend them the same courtesy.

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