Career Advice

I Accepted an Internship, But Got a Better Offer…

Finding an internship can be a competitive process. You may have to apply to dozens of positions before landing a job. Naturally, when you finally receive an internship offer, accepting immediately seems like the logical choice.

But what if, after accepting that first offer, you receive an offer from another company that seems better – higher pay, more prestigious, or just an overall better fit? Now you’re wondering “I accepted an internship, but got a better offer. Can I back out of an accepted internship offer?” Here’s what you need to consider when weighing your options.

Key Takeaways:

  • Don’t accept offers hastily – carefully evaluate all options first before committing.
  • If a better opportunity arises, assess if it’s worth potentially burning bridges before backing out.
  • Review any signed contracts/agreements and understand your legal obligations before declining.
  • Notify the employer promptly and politely if declining; explain reasons tactfully.
  • Offer to aid their transition after declining, such as helping find a replacement.
  • Follow up with formal thanks and appreciation for the initial offer, even after declining.

The Dilemma of Getting a Better Internship Offer

You’ve Already Accepted One Offer

First and foremost, recognize that accepting an internship offer is a big commitment. The company has extended the offer based on their need for your skills and abilities. They likely went through a lengthy hiring process to select you as the top candidate. Reneging on your acceptance could leave them in a difficult position.

On the other hand, it’s worth noting that in an at-will employment, companies can terminate employment whenever they want, so you also have the freedom to change your mind if a better opportunity arises.

Read More: How Many Internships Should I Do? Everything You Need to Know

The New Offer Seems More Appealing

At the same time, you want to make the best decision for advancing your career. If this new internship offer aligns better with your goals or provides opportunities the other role doesn’t, it makes sense to consider it seriously. You may think the experience, connections, or name brand of this other company will benefit your career trajectory more in the long run.

Can I Back Out Of An Accepted Internship Offer?

While you can technically decline an internship offer you already accepted, it is not recommended. Reneging on your acceptance reflects poorly on your professionalism and reliability. Employers value commitment and integrity.

However, there may be rare circumstances where backing out is unavoidable, like if accepting causes financial burden or conflicts with personal obligations. Even then, be upfront and transparent with the employer about your reasons for declining.

Factors to Consider Before Backing Out

While writing this article, I came across lively discussions on platforms like Reddit and Quora, where many users advocated reneging on an accepted internship offer if a better opportunity arose.

However, this advice should be carefully evaluated rather than taken at face value. While tempting to back out of one offer for another, there are several important factors to thoughtfully consider beforehand:

Review Your School’s Policies and Codes of Conduct

Before reneging an accepted internship, check if your school prohibits it. Many have conduct codes or career office policies against reneging, since it can damage relationships with employer partners who recruit students. They want to maintain a reputation for providing reliable talent.

Some schools may explicitly prohibit reneging and reserve the right to impose sanctions like disqualification from future on-campus recruiting.

Your career office can provide guidance on handling this properly in line with school standards.

Reread the Contract You Signed with the First Company

Before making any decisions, re-examine any contracts or agreements you signed with the first company. Understand any legal or binding obligations you may have already committed to and see what steps would need to be taken to nullify those.

Even without a contract, reneging on an accepted offer could be seen as unethical. Make sure you feel fully justified in your decision first.

Will It Burn Bridges at the First Company?

Think carefully about the reputation of the first company and your connections there. Declining after accepting may permanently damage your relationship with that employer. Could it impact your ability to work there in the future or to get references? Make sure you’re ok closing that door.

If someone in your network made a personal referral on your behalf to the company you plan on declining, have a discussion with that contact first to get their advice, as these circumstances can become rather awkward.

How Will It Affect Your Reputation?

Also consider the potential reputational damage if word spreads that you declined an offer you already accepted. This could be a mark against you with other employers in the future. Make sure to handle the process professionally.

Related Article: How To Ask For More Work As An Intern Email Sample

How Do You Renege On An Accepted Internship Offer Professionally?

If after weighing all factors, you decide to reject the accepted offer, do so with utmost courtesy:

Notify Them Quickly and Politely

Contact the employer right away, ideally by phone. Thank them again for the offer and apologetically explain that an unexpected opportunity has arisen that you need to pursue.

Explain Your Thought Process

Briefly outline your reasons, focusing on the positive aspects of the new role rather than negatives of their position. Reiterate your appreciation.

Offer to Help with the Transition

Ask if there’s anything you can do to help them find someone else to fill the role. Offer to have your replacement contact you with questions.

Send a Thank You Note Afterwards

Follow up your conversation with a formal email thanking them again for the consideration and reiterating your regrets and appreciation. Leave things cordially.

Related Article: How To Quit An Internship Early On Good Terms

Making the Best Decision for Your Career

Think Carefully Before Deciding

Don’t accept or decline any offer in haste. Spend time honestly evaluating all aspects of each opportunity. Make a informed, thoughtful decision.

Consider All the Pros and Cons

Weigh factors like job duties, skill development, company culture, networking prospects, and how it aligns with your goals. Get input from mentors. Develop a full pro/con list for each.

Do Both Internships if Possible

See if there is any way to potentially do both internships, either consecutively or even concurrently if schedules permit. This allows you to gain experience at both companies without having to decline any offers.

Follow Up Appropriately After Declining

If you must decline an accepted offer, do so in the most professional manner possible. This will minimize any negative repercussions down the road.

“I Accepted An Internship But Got A Better Offer” Email Sample

Here is a sample email to renege on an accepted internship offer you can use:

Subject: Withdrawing Internship Acceptance

Dear [name],

I am writing to inform you that unfortunately I must withdraw my acceptance of the summer internship position at [company]. After reassessing my options, I have decided to pursue an opportunity more aligned with my academic and career goals.

Please know I am incredibly appreciative that you selected me for this role. However, after careful consideration, I realized this other internship is the best fit for me at this juncture. I sincerely apologize for the late notice and any disruption this causes your team. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to aid the transition. I hope we will connect in the future when I may again be a candidate for [company].

Thank you again for the opportunity. Iwish you the best of luck in finding another strong intern.


[Your name]


With careful consideration and professional courtesy, declining an accepted internship for a better offer can sometimes be justified. Make sure to go about it in a way that respects the employers’ time and preserves your integrity.

Related Article: 27 Thoughtful Thank You Gifts Ideas For Your Internship Supervisor  

Frequently Asked Questions

How soon should I notify a company if declining an accepted offer?

Notify them as soon as possible, ideally within 24-48 hours of deciding. This gives them more time to find a replacement. Leaving them hanging any longer is unprofessional.

Is it ok to decline an offer if I haven’t signed a formal contract?

Legally you can decline any internship offer, signed contract or not. But ethically, going back on your word after formally accepting is questionable without good justification.

Can declining an offer hurt my chances of working at that company again in the future?

It’s possible. Some employers may hesitate to hire someone who previously reneged. But handle the situation professionally, and most will understand you’re doing what’s best for your career.

What’s the best way to let an employer know I’m declining their offer?

Notify them first by phone if possible, followed by a formal email thanking them again for the opportunity. Do not notify them only by email – that comes across as impersonal.

Is it ok to lie about my reasons for declining an offer?

No. While you need not provide overly negative details, be honest about why you’ve decided to go in a different direction. Transparency will be appreciated.

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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