Today's college applicant is much more likely to email, not call, an admissions officer with a question or request. So it’s important to remember that the person on the receiving end of that email is going to make assumptions and judgments about you based on what you write and how you write it. Before you send that message off to your top-choice university, read our tips for making sure your email gets the attention it needs (and you get the answers you’re looking for).
Questions to Consider Before Emailing an Admissions Officer
Before you begin composing your email, ask yourself these 5 questions:
Do you actually have permission to email this person?A college rep who hands you his card at a college fair and says, "Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions" has given you permission. But just because you found the email address for the Dean of Admissions online doesn't mean she's invited you to email her. Don't be a spammer.
Are you angry? Are you sending this email to someone who's made you angry?Once you hit send, there’s no turning back. And while you might feel better after putting your emotions on the page, actually sharing them might make your situation worse. Consider stepping away from the email for 24 hours and returning to it once you’ve cooled down a bit.
Can the answer to your questions be found on the university website?Read through the “Admissions” section of the college’s website and make sure the information you need isn’t listed there (most of the time, it will be!). If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, the student—not the parent—should feel free to reach out to the admissions office.
Is your email clear? Is it polite? Does it make you want to reply?Read through your email and try to imagine receiving this message yourself. If the answer to any of those questions is "No," wait to send it until you re-write your way to a "Yes."
Do you actually have a question you need an answer to?Don’t email an admissions officer just to check a box. This kind of communication isn’t going to increase your odds of being admitted. Send an email only if you have a question that can’t be answered by other methods.
Related: The Truth About Demonstrated Interest
Dos of Emailing an Admissions Officer
- Do make sure your email address is just a name, not something embarrassing like firstname.lastname@example.org. Get a new email address just for college application communication if you have to.
- Do make the subject line something descriptive. "Question" isn't descriptive. "Question from a fall 2011 applicant" is.
- Do address the person by name at the beginning. Imagine if someone walked up to you and just started asking you a question without even saying hi first. Wouldn't it be rude (and a little weird)?
- Do identify yourself in the first paragraph, particularly if the person doesn't know you or may not remember you.
- Do write like you talk—as long as you're respectful. "The purpose of my email is to request your assistance with my college applications" is too formal. "I'm writing to ask you if you might be able to help me with my college applications" gets the job done.
- Do ask questions that a person who has never met you could feasibly answer. Admissions officers know a lot about their colleges, but they likely know nothing about you. That’s why “Would it be better for me to major in biology or physics?” will probably be just about impossible for an admissions officer to answer responsibly. But, “If I would like to double major in biology and physics, would it be appropriate to indicate that on my application?” is a question that’s right in their wheelhouse.
- Do use a normal font. Think black type and standard size. No bright colors, cursive, blinking lights or animated creatures of any kind.
- Do say “please” if you’re asking for something.
- Do say "thank you" at the end.
- Do proofread it carefully (but an errant comma isn’t going to hold you back either! Remember, people are human).
- Do type your full name at the end of the message. If you need a reply back, leave a phone number, too, so the person has the option of calling.
Don’ts of Emailing an Admissions Officer
- Don't write something so long that they have to scroll through it. Keep your email to one screen.
- Don't forget to proofread. Use proper punctuation, capitalization, and grammar. This is not a text message. Nobody ever looked stupid for sending a properly capitalized and punctuated email, but they have looked that way for ignoring standard grammar rules.
- Don't ever type in all caps. When you write "PLEASE RESPOND TO ME ASAP" it reads like you're yelling at the person.
- Don't include a quote in your auto-signature. You don't need to remind an admissions officer that "the only way to have a friend is to be one." And nobody in the history of email has ever read one of those quotes and said, "Wow, that really made me stop and think."
- Don’t mark your email "urgent." It might be urgent to you, but it's not necessarily urgent to the person you're sending it to.
- Don’t ask a long list of 10, 12, or 20 questions. Our Talent Department has received emails like this from people who are considering applying for a job at Collegewise, and it feels like we’re being asked to complete a homework assignment. If you have a question—or two, or maybe even three—ask them. But don’t turn your email into a written interrogation.
Sample Email to a College Admissions Office (Free Download)
We hope this post has taught you how to effectively email an admissions officer, but if you need additional guidance, you’re in luck. Below you’ll find an email template that can help you get started, and you can download it as a PDF here.
My name is [NAME], and I go to [HIGH SCHOOL] in [CITY, STATE]. We met at the College Fair last month. I’m interested in applying to [UNIVERSITY] and wanted to ask you a couple of questions.
[Include your questions here, and be sure to provide context and follow the guidelines in our blog post.]
Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to hearing back from you at your earliest convenience.
[YOUR FULL NAME]
Note: This post was adapted from various posts written by Collegewise's Founder, Kevin McMullin, on his blog, Wise Like Us.
About Us: With more than twenty years of experience, Collegewise counselors and tutors are at the forefront of the ever-evolving admissions landscape. Our work has always centered on you: the student. And just like we’ve always done, we look for ways for you to be your best self - whether it’s in the classroom, in your applications, or in the right-fit college environment. Our range of tools includes counseling, test prep, academic tutoring, and essay management, all with the support of our proprietary platform, leading to 4x higher than average admissions rates.