How to respectfully decline an MBA admission offer

As a dedicated MBA applicant it is quite normal to apply to several schools at once. The risk of being rejected and remaining empty handed is just too high to only send your application to one school.

Consequently it is possible that you find yourself with more than one admission offer on the table. And even if you’d like to attend all the schools at the same time – you have to pick one and let the others know of your decision.

And this part is important. You came a long way: took the GMAT, crafted application essays, facilitated the work on recommendation letters, brushed up your CV, reached out to your target school’s admission team, possibly visited campus and finally interviewed with a school’s representative. Don’t think you’re done now. Academia is a small world and not finishing this endeavor respectfully can hurt you later on. You are likely to come in contact with faculty or students from the respective school in the future. Don’t destroy your reputation and good impression that you worked so hard to make on the school’s staff.

Business schools know that students apply to different programs and hence count with a few offer rejections. Declining an offer is your good right (you are the customer!) and you should not have any hard feelings about it. You invested a lot of effort into presenting your best side while the schools maintained the high position throughout. Now it’s your turn. The staff is paid to evaluate candidates and create leads – so don’t get the impression that they did you a favor in reviewing your file. However, there is no discussion about the tone to use in your rejection email.

It’s up to you how much detail you put into your message. You can formally decline in a two sentence mail or briefly explain your reasoning. Of course the admission team will be curious which program you are going to attend; decide for yourself if you want to share that information.

Here are two example rejection letters:

Detailed Rejection Letter

Dear Sir or Madam,

Thank you for offering me admission to the <SCHOOL NAME AND PROGRAM TYPE> MBA Program. I greatly appreciate the time and effort that you devoted to reading and evaluating my file.

However, I regret to inform you that I will be attending a different program in the <e.g. fall 2016>. As a result, I must decline your offer of acceptance and withdraw from my seat in your incoming class. Please contact me if you need further information to complete my withdrawal.

The decision between schools was close and not easy to make, and I am sure that also your excellent institution would have supplied me with a world class education and opportunities. The emphasis on <e.g. great people, collaboration and individual support> really made an impact on me. Thank you for your time spent, consideration and your excellent care throughout the application process. It was truly a great experience and I hope to get in touch with <SCHOOL NAME> and it’s students even though.



Brief Rejection Letter

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing in response to your letter of acceptance to the <PROGRAM TYPE at SCHOOL NAME>. I appreciate the opportunity to enroll at your excellent institution, but I regret to inform you that I will not be accepting your offer of admission. Thank you for your time and consideration.



You are free to mix those two and pick the parts that best fit your needs. Make sure to adjust your style according to how intense your overall contact to your admission officer was.

The ambiguity is over: IESE ‘2018

iese_1The choice has been made! I will attend the IESE Class of 2018 and spend the next two
years on the Sarrià-Sant Gervasi Campus in Barcelona.

I am super excited to start this chapter of my life. It will surely be a transforming experience.

Since the school decision is history, I can finally concentrate on the administrative things that are coming up:

  • Research and apply for scholarships
  • Find housing in Barcelona
  • Get a moto
  • Arrange tuition payments and check for possible tax deductions

We’ll see what else I’ll have to add to this list – I’m sure there’s more to come.

IESE South Campus


A few days ago I received my IESE admission e-mail and am now in the fortunate position to choose between the two schools I applied to: IESE and ESADE.

I am reading anything I can find on those two schools and am trying to make an educated decision. However, I find that both schools have their individual pros and cons and have to figure out how to weigh those.

Today I spoke to an ESADE Alumn who came from Consulting and was confronted with the same choice. He was happy with ESADE and mainly used the collaborative and teamwork character, that the school represents, to build his argument for the school.

Basically it boils down to the following differences:


IESE: Traditional and conservative

ESADE: Collaborative and pluralistic


IESE: Central in Barcelona, short ride by moto from anywhere in the city

ESADE: Distant in St. Cugat – 1 hr by train and min. 30 min by moto


IESE: Recently dropped in the FT 2016 ranking, but consistently ranked in the world top 10 over the last years

ESADE: Always below IESE but still safe to consider Tier 1, well known as a Business School because of its various MSc programs

Professional Focus

IESE: Strong in Finance and Consulting

ESADE: Equal spread of different profiles, strong in tech and innovation. Most graduates go into industry.

Number of students

IESE: 297 students and your team remains the same for the whole program

ESADE: 180 students and teams are changed after each term (3 teams total)

And another interesting fact:

2015 Acceptance rates

IESE 25% out of 1951 applicants

ESADE 61% out of 555 applicants is my main pre-MBA preparation course. It uses a new educational technology that aims to make learning dramatically faster and more effective with highly interactive lessons conceived for the smartphone era.

The so called “ MBA” covers a full curriculum ranging from MBA Fundamentals to a selection of individual topics. core curriculum.png

The courses are short and easy to digest, and I really like the interactive learning method.

Here a screenshot from my current Dashboard: dashboard.png

I will aim to complete all courses before my actual MBA starts to have the basic concepts down.

My MBA preparation

My MBA starts in September 2016 and I have roughly seven months to get up to speed and be ready to get the most out of it.  While I am still working on a cruise ship until June, I set out some goals to complete aside:

Learn Spanish Basics

  • Complete all Duolingo courses (Status: 19/61)
    • Consider / research app for vocab training

Learn Business Basics

  • Complete all relevant courses (1/39)
    • Once completed consider other pre-MBA programs

Interview Preparation / Application Preparation

  • Develop stories for behavioral interview questions
  • Review Interview preparation checklist
  • Re-assess and update CV
  • Update LinkedIn profile
  • Shoot new application photograph
  • Commence case interview preparation

Industry Research

  • Research consulting
  • Research finance

Voluntary Work

  • Research voluntary work positions


I tried out Pymetrics, here is my career report:

Pymetrics Career Report

I am happy with the results, as I am aiming to switch to Consulting. However, I will also research the Finance Sector as well, as I scored quite high in Hedge Fund and Private Equity.

Operations is actually also interesting, I will have to evaluate that further on when the MBA actually started.