Through the relentless process of applying to a university program overseas, you will need to communicate with the admissions officer a few times. These handful of interactions often form the basis of for your first impression with the rest of the admissions committee. So make sure you make them count.
Many articulate and confident students too find it daunting to communicate with the admissions officer, often resulting in short and, let’s admit it, quite odd exchanges of emails or conversations. And of course there are those students who even hesitate to establish any sort of contact with them. On the other hand, some students understand that they need to lead with strong, positive interactions and end up leaving the admissions officer with a strong impression.
So how do you win the game of first impressions?
Start by looking at your application holistically (after all, the admission committees do it). Tipping the scale in your favor starts with presenting yourself as a strong candidate for your dream program. Keep these key things in mind when you’re talking to someone from the admissions committee and you’ll find you’re packing for your bench test trip sooner than you thought.
1. Start with the right email id
Make sure you’re using a professional email id. To ensure you don’t come across as immature, avoid using email ids that contain anything apart from your name. For instance, an applicant with an email id firstname.lastname@example.org is more likely to be taken seriously than one with email@example.com.
2. Get the email subject right
When deciding what to write in the subject of your email, think of how you want your email to be categorized. The admissions officers have lots of emails to go through and based on just the subject line, you can help them narrow down how to respond to your email, or even forward it to the right department, on time.
The subject should definitely mention your status, as a student in the university: Current or Prospective. It should mention the year you are expected to start the program: Fall 2018, Summer 2018 etc. And in 5 words or less, it should explain the gist of your problem/query. The words “prospective student” immediately make your email standout because admissions officers know that prospective students usually have queries which are application and course related and are always time bound. Here are some example subject lines you could use:
- Summer 2018 Prospective Student: Application Update
- Fall 2019 Prospective Student: Request for information about Funding.
If your query is extremely time sensitive, your subject line can stress on the urgency of the email as follows: URGENT: Prospective Student – Request for information regarding I20 (But use this one sparingly, only in times of real need. You don’t want to be marked as spam.)
A well composed subject line can make sure your email is not ignored or lost in a sea of student emails.
3. Keep your communication simple
- Admissions officers receive lots of emails every single day. Save them the trouble of having to sift through huge paragraphs. Get to the point immediately!
- Asking multiple questions is better than droning on about a long, never-ending query. Presenting them in a numbered or listed format makes it easier for them to read and also makes you look more organized.
- The faux pas that is the most irksome – don’t waste their time with obvious questions that are already addressed on the university website.
4. Always reference yourself properly
- Whenever you’re starting a new interaction, be sure to briefly introduce yourself to help them remember you.
- If you are communicating before you apply to a program, make sure you include your name, college, city, and country. This will help them identify you easily when you decide to apply. Also mention the name of the program you’re interested in.
- If you are already going through the application process, then be sure to mention your application number, university ID (if any), or any other detail that might help them locate your application easily. You can add your personal details as a signature or in the body of the email.
5. Maintain professionalism
When you communicate with the admissions officer, make sure you always keep your tone professional and avoid using colloquial words or abbreviations like TIA and BTW.
- Using texting parlance like “u” and “gr8” is an application suicide!
- Address the admissions officer as “Dear/Respected ____”. If you are emailing a professor, do not forget to address them with the “Dr.”
- For telephonic conversations, a simple “Good morning/afternoon” will suffice. (Keep in mind the time of the day in the city where the college is located.)
- Avoid the use of the word “Madam” or “Sir” (unless the person you’re mailing has been knighted!). While this may be a norm in India, most foreign schools do not recognize this salutation and find it odd.
- If you are mailing an administrative staff, it is completely OK to address them by their first name. If you are uncomfortable doing that, address them as “Miss/Mr/Mrs XYZ”.
- A short thank you at the end of each email goes a long way.
- End with “Best Regards” or “Sincerely” followed by your name.
6. Respect their time
Admissions officers are usually busy individuals who do much more that sit around replying to emails. They may take a while responding to your mail. Have patience and don’t keep pestering them. If the information you need is urgent, you should call them during office hours instead. After you receive a reply from them, respond as soon as possible. Even if your query has been answered, respond to them by thanking them.
All that being said, do not forget the basics. Punctuate your sentences, look for grammatical errors, capitalize correctly, and do a spell check before hitting send (we recommend using the grammarly plugin).
Remember, make your interactions as memorable to the officers as possible!