How To Turn Down an Internship

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Well, look at you.

I’m impressed! Jealous, yes, but really, really impressed! You—you fabulous collegiette have somehow managed to do the absolute impossible and snag not just one coveted, highly sought-after and generally dream-fulfilling internship, but two! Maybe you’ve snagged even more than two, but let’s not get into that. To be honest, I don’t think I could handle it. I’d turn neon green with envy first. And anyone who knows me knows I look terrible in lime.

internships career

But in all seriousness, congratulations.

After all the trying, tedious hours of research, applications, interviews and restless anticipation to rival the outcome of the Season 13 Dancing with the Stars finale itself, you have done it! You’ve succeeded in nabbing the internship—make that internships—you so desired! But now you have to choose which one to accept—and you have no idea what to do.

Fear not! A truly great intern knows that the key to success is being prepared for anything—and fortunately for you, Her Campus is here to be your guide.

Read on to learn the three key points a tactful collegiette must keep in mind when faced with the impressive but vexing reality of turning down an internship.

1. Be Professional

You’ve entered a professional world and with great opportunity, comes great responsibility. If you want to be taken as a professional, you must be professional. You know all the obvious professionalism tips like, “don’t make that photo of you double-fisting pints your profile pic” and “don’t list your 9th grade e-mail address—cute_babygrl_xox17—as the official contact account on your résumé” but you’re waaaay beyond these tips.

Career Expert and CEO of Intern Queen Inc, Lauren Berger advises, “When declining an internship... always call so the employer can hear the sincerity in your voice. Always note in the conversation that you understand their time is valuable.”

Unless the entirety of your correspondence with an employer has been via e-mail, an online decline may be mistaken in tone or perceived as flippant. A phone call is considerably more genuine. Just remember to write down what you want to say in advance, so you don’t digress!

Employers know that you are a student and have likely applied to multiple internships. However, they will also assume that in applying for multiple internships, you’ve prepared yourself for the possibility of multiple offers, and won’t just leave their offer hanging with no response should you choose to take your skills elsewhere.

2. Be Concise

Picture this scenario: after carefully and scrupulously ruling out every other boy in your Introductory Italian class, you have finally settled upon the single most glorious of them all to bestow your semester-long crush. The way he rolls those “r”s, the ease with which he pronounces “fettucini primavera,” the rise and fall of that accent! You want him. Then one day he walks up to you after class, pulls you aside and!... proceeds to detail all of the myriad reasons you can’t be together from “I just don’t see myself being with you long-term” to “I kind of have a preference for blondes...”

Okay, shake it off. That would never actually happen. But in a way, when you over-explain your reasoning for declining an internship to the person offering it, you’re essentially doing this very thing! Remember to be concise and keep part of your reasoning to yourself. It’s not conducive to you or the employer you’re turning down to say, “I like your company, but the one that I want to accept is more international.” It will only come across as an insult.

Don’t be curt, but do be concise. Alex Braun of explains you should cut to the chase, first, then give a few sentences of explanation—not the epically-long tale of how you reached that decision.

Consider opening with something like:
“First and foremost, I want to thank you for the incredible opportunity to intern with your company. Unfortunately, after much consideration, I must respectfully decline the offer.”

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About The Author

Kristen Pye just completed year two at McGill University in Montréal, pursuing a degree in Art History and Cultural Studies, which she will continue for the upcoming academic year abroad at Trinity College in Dublin. As well as writing for Her Campus, she is a fashion and culture editor and writer for Leacock's Online Magazine. When not writing, Kristen can be found rereading The Great Gatsby, vintage shopping, vinyl shopping, playing tennis, and spending far too much time deciding what to wear in the morning. Follow her at or @kristenpye!