When there is a reason to write to a prospective college admissions office, you will want to make sure your writing does three things:
- Clearly states what prompted the email,
- Represents you with the image you are striving for at that school, and
- Helps you stand out as a memorable and qualified applicant.
Above all, and as with any aspect of the college admissions process, the priority for emailing an admissions officer should always be respectfulness and professionalism.
So, how do you accomplish all that?
Composing an email to a stranger- especially one you want to impress- can feel like trying to walk up an unfamiliar flight of stairs in the dark. It’s a known physical experience, but it feels scary, as though any small, wrong move could lead to a painful faceplant.
This article will turn the light on for you and hold your hand so you don’t slip- because emailing is an important tool to be able to use as part of your college admissions process.
While there are many helpful and worthwhile ways to interact with any admissions office, email is one of the best.
It’s great because it allows people to respond when they have time, it allows you to reach out no matter how far away you are (or what time zone you live in), and it gives you the opportunity to plan and polish what you’re going to say (rather than being under pressure to respond immediately and think on your feet).
Please don’t feel bad if this is not in your comfort zone.
Gone are the days when people corresponded through handwritten letters, so writing to people is no longer necessarily a culturally developed art form.
But even if we were wizards who communicated via owls, you’d still need to be able to design the message yourself.
So we’re going to show you how.
Keep reading to discover:
- When to send an email to create the biggest impact in your college admissions process
- Who to send your email to in the college admissions office
- How to compose the best possible email
- Overall tips to remember
- A couple of example emails of what to send to a college admissions officer
You’ve taken a fantastic first step in being here and proactively learning all you can about the ins and outs of the admissions process. Now, let’s figure out this aspect of it, together.
When To Send An Email To A College Admissions Office
There are three excellent reasons for reaching out in an email:
- Requesting more information about the college
- Introducing yourself to the admissions committee
- Following-up to say thank you after having met with them in person or through a digital interaction
Always start with your own research about the school so you’re not asking any questions that have easy-to-find answers.
Don’t let your first impression be them wondering if you’re lazy or incompetent by inquiring about info that is on the college’s homepage or easily googled. You don’t want them to feel like you’re wasting their time.
You also don’t want them to question if you’re just pretending to be interested.
Ask good, genuine questions and engage in a sincere way.
When there is a program or professor you’d like to get more info from or connect with, reaching out to the college’s admissions office is a great way to make it happen.
If you’d like to attend a class or particular event, the admissions office is an excellent resource.
Whether you already have a personal connection to the school or not, it’s always a good idea to officially and pointedly approach the admissions office.
Let them know who you are, or remind them of who you are, and that you are honestly interested in this school.
Ever heard of demonstrated interest?
It is a practice that many schools have adopted, where they keep track of how much interest potential students demonstrate (and in what ways) that they want to attend said college.
This phenomenon of ranking demonstrated interest has become increasingly important in the last decade, so it is important to be aware of it and use it to your advantage.
Thank you and follow-up questions
An email is an underutilized tool for solidifying a good second impression.
According to Rachel Toor, a former admissions officer at Duke, “80 percent of students who apply could do the work if they were admitted,” so the choice of who to admit often comes down to officers and faculty arguing the case for their favorite candidates to the rest of the admissions committee.
Use opportunities like emailing to create a fan who will fight for your entrance when the time comes.
Not many people take the time or put forth the effort to say thank you- so being one of the few that does can go a long way.
This contact method could be effectively used after a college fair, a virtual or in-person tour, an information session, or an interview.
The college admissions officer’s job is lots of work and they get nervous too. Let them know what you enjoyed, what was useful to you, or what you were left wondering.
Your follow-up questions can be a polite indication of important information they may have left off their presentation so they can add it in the next time.
Also, it’s perfectly natural to think of questions or comments after-the-fact, so don’t hesitate to continue the conversation with them via email if it warrants further discussion.
How To Figure Out Who To Send Your Email To
If you haven’t already gotten an email from the college’s admissions office or joined their social media (both of which you should do - it’s an easy way to demonstrate your interest in the school and it’ll ensure you have all the info they’re sharing), it’s still fairly simple to find their email address with a little help from Google.
Each college has a dedicated regional admissions officer assigned to your area.
Depending on the school, there might be one officer for your whole state, one to cover your county, or one that specifically covers your high school.
Under “contact” or “connect” on a school’s website there is often a “meet your counselor” feature that lets you search out your territory to see who is assigned to you. Sometimes it will even provide you with biographical info, but at the very least you will get contact information.
How To Compose An Email To A College Admissions Officer
First of all, let’s go ahead and acknowledge that it is natural to be nervous.
But don’t let it get you to the point of being too intimidated to reach out.
College admissions officers are humans too and it is their job- their goal, in fact- to be there specifically to help you find your best-fit college and get admitted.
So if you’re feeling apprehensive, just think of emailing as doing them a favor.
They have all this information they want to give out, all of this help they want to offer you- but you need to ask for it so they know what to tell you about.
The greeting should be respectful and follow their lead.
Address the person in the same manner that they sign off on their emails.
The correct information is easily found on the admissions website:
- The Contact Name - Triple check, or copy and paste, to be sure spelling is correct. Most people get very offended if their name is spelled wrong- whether it’s a difficult name to spell or not.
- The Titles - Formal is best. Do not use their first name alone unless you truly feel you are on a first-name basis with them. Never use “Mrs.” unless that is how they introduce themselves; best not to assume. Stick to Mr. and Ms., while also being attentive to the fact that they might be a “Dr.”- in which case, address them as such.
- The Pronouns - In most cases, people will indicate their pronouns so be sure to pay attention and keep an eye out for that. If they are not indicated, don’t guess. Use a respectful gender-neutral option or re-write your email to not require pronouns.
This is an important factor in establishing your credibility and professionalism.
Your tone should be:
- Formal, not casual. Don’t abbreviate or speak as if this was to a friend or a kid.
- Friendly, not desperate. Keep your writing focused on the school more than overtly promoting yourself, if possible. Use the word “you” as much as “I” throughout the body of your email; people are more receptive to what you’re saying if it feels like you’re not just focused on yourself.
- Trustworthy, not pretentious. (This is not the place to show off the words you’ve been studying as part of your ACT and SAT testing preparation.)
The formatting and grammar
- Be accurate. Follow the rules of punctuation and capitalization, check your spelling. Give them evidence you’re a good fit in their academic institution.
- Be concise. They’re busy so get right to the point. Don’t use filler words or sentences that waste time and obscure the point of your email.
- Be clear. Use new paragraphs they can read quickly and easily. Re-read what you wrote to make sure that what you’re asking is easily understood.
The Best College Questions
Make your email effective by asking questions that matter, questions that give both you and the admissions office the information needed for determining a good match.
After all, that is the key point of all interactions with the colleges you are researching.
To help you make the most of your email opportunities, we have compiled a list of the best questions to ask college admissions officers.
If you have any questions about the overall process itself, or you are comparing different schools’ answers, feel free to send us emails too. We are here to help you all the way.
We can assist with polishing your list of questions and advise about correspondence.
We’d love to help you sort through the information coming back to you so that you can select the best possible college for you.
The Signature Sign-Off
End your email briefly, politely, and be sure to remind them of who you are.
- Sign off with a simple “Sincerely,” “Respectfully,” or “Best regards,” or similar short term.
- Always use both your first and last name so there is no doubt about who sent the email.
- Include your contact information below your name so they can easily locate it.
Overall Tips For Communicating With Any College Admissions Office
- Be true to yourself. The information they have will be used to determine if you fit there, so be honest and don’t misrepresent who you are and what you’re interested in. It's helpful to both of you.
- Be patient in requesting a response. Keep in mind that they receive hundreds of emails daily. If it's time-sensitive information you need, allow them whatever time you can for their answer before sending a follow-up email and/or phone call to get urgent information. Otherwise, when you have the time to wait, do so - but don’t forget about it. Emails can end up in junk mail so it's okay to resend the email with a brief and polite note stating that you understand how busy they are, and in case they didn’t receive your email you are resending it. Additionally, sending it as a thread connected to the original email helps the recipient determine what questions you are referring to and doesn’t add to their list of new emails to answer.
- Be efficient. Briefly say what you need to say and send it promptly.
- Edit and proof. This is key to looking and sounding professional, as well as showing them that you are a qualified college-bound student.
- Try to avoid template email sending. Having one email that you send to every college will feel sterile to the reader and it can be easy to forget to replace the name of one school with the name of another, which would really undermine the sincerity you want to display.
- Make sure your social media accounts are appropriate-looking. Remember, once they get your email or have your name on a list somewhere, they will be looking you up online. Make sure that what they’ll see is what you want to be showing.
- Respond as quickly as you would want to be responded to. If they reach out to you or respond to you with questions of their own, be sure to respond promptly- preferably that day. Don’t leave them hanging. Even if they don’t ask a question, it is usually appropriate to at least respond with a simple “thank you” so they know you received their email.
Now that we’ve parsed the finer points of email etiquette and things to remember when communicating with any college admissions office, let’s put these principles into action and look at some example emails.
Sample College Admissions Email #1
Dear Ms. Fitzsimmons,
Thank you for taking the time to speak at the “College Bound Consortium” held at American High. I wanted to introduce myself and ask you some questions about Cool College.
My name is Sammy Successful. I’m a junior at American High School here in Awesometown, MO, and currently, my primary interests are entrepreneurship and playing soccer for your successful team. Knowing the large time commitment of both of those programs, do you believe it would be possible for me to complete a business degree in four years if I’m also lucky enough to make the soccer team?
Additionally, since Awesometown is not close enough to drive to Cool College, I won’t be able to see any games this year. Would you be able to connect me with some of your current players so I could get a better understanding of what your team is like?
I am excited to learn more about Cool College and to speak with someone one-on-one about the specifics of your programs.
Sample College Admissions Email #2
Dear Dr. Carter,
It was a pleasure meeting you today and I appreciated how you took the time to speak individually with each student at the College Fair.
After talking with you and reviewing Unique University’s information, I have some additional questions.
As captain of my school’s debate team, I hope to continue competing in college. In my research, I noticed that you have an active, award-winning debate program. Would you be able to tell me what events they focus on, how big their team usually is, and the process for selecting next year’s team?
Also, I took home your packet about the biology department and was impressed with the system you have in place for advising students about med school after college. My current goal is to attend veterinary school after college, but I wasn’t able to find any further specifics about that. Can you give me more information about any possible animal-related opportunities your school might offer and whether your advising program covers veterinary medicine?
I look forward to learning more about Unique University and how I might fit in there.
Now that you have all the tips and information, you’re ready to craft your own emails that represent who you are and connect you with the school of your dreams.
Of course, none of this is going to be possible if you don’t know what the school of your dreams is.
We can help you there, too.
Do a College Comparison Data Dive with us to explore the essential information about schools you have your eye on and also discover hidden gem programs and colleges that you hadn’t even considered before, but might just be the best pathway to your life and career goals.