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How to Write an Email to a College Admissions Office

So, you want to write an email to a college admissions office! Maybe your guidance counselor or an academic advisor in school suggested doing this, or maybe your parents are insisting it’s something they did “back in their day.” In any case, if you’re scared about reaching out, this is the guide for you! While it’s easy to be intimidated by prestigious schools, at the end of the day there’s a human being behind the screen who will read your email, a human whose job is to help you get the information you’re looking for. With that being said, take a deep breath, buckle in, and get ready to learn how to write a killer email.


We will cover various situations and give examples of how to write emails to a college admissions office.


Why Write an Email to a College Admissions Office?


There are several reasons to reach out to an admissions office in the first place, so it’s important to know why you’re doing it. Let’s clear up some misconceptions: do not write an email because you feel like “you have to” or “everyone else is doing it.” There’s a variety of situations you might need to write an email for but doing it for the sake of doing it is not one of them!

  1. An Informational Email is exactly what it sounds like: you’re asking a question about the admissions process, application materials, or some other detail you need clarification on.

  2. A Thank-You Email is sent as a follow-up to an interview. This is a really simple thing to do that a lot of people skip for no reason! You won’t be penalized for forgetting to send one, but it’s basically free points with your interviewer, so why not?

  3. A Letter of Continued Interest is used for a very specific situation. If you apply Early Action or Early Decision to a school and receive a decision of “deferral” or “waitlist,” this will boost your chances of a final acceptance.

How to Write to an Admissions Office to Request Information


The first rule of writing to request information is simple: Don’t ask a question that could be answered with a quick Google search! Imagine for a second that you’re the employee that will receive this email. Do you want to spend your day answering the same simple questions over and over? Would it annoy you that these prospective students don’t have reading comprehension and can’t be bothered to check the website carefully? To avoid irritating your admissions officer, be sure to do your research on the issue ahead of time. (Tip: the best way to be sure you aren’t asking a silly question is to see if someone else can find the answer for you. Ask a parent, guidance counselor, or even a friend to look at the college website with you, in case they spot something you’re missing. Sometimes the longer you look for something, the easier it is to miss it, so having a fresh set of eyes is super helpful!)


Once you’re certain that this question needs to be answered by an admissions officer, let’s go about requesting that information! Don’t be scared: remember, they’re here to help you! With any email in general, be sure to be polite and respectful. However, don’t feel like you need to bust out the thesaurus either. They won’t grade the literary quality of your email, so no need to write the next Great Expectations. In fact, the shorter the email, the better! These employees could be getting thousands of emails a day: make their job easier by making your letter as clear as possible.


Example:


Hello,

My name is Polite Student. I am a senior at Pretend High School interested in applying to Example University. I had a few questions about the application process that I was hoping you could help me with.

First, I noticed that the College of Nursing has an earlier application deadline than the other colleges at Example University. I’m interested in dual enrollment between the College of Nursing and the College of Fine Art, but I’ll be receiving some SAT test results in between those deadlines. Do I have to use the same application for both schools, or can they vary? In other words, can my newer SAT scores be counted towards my application towards the College of Fine Art?


Second, I saw that there was a summer study abroad program hosted by the College of Engineering that first-year students could apply for. Is that program limited to engineering students only, or can any first-year apply?


Any advice you can give would be appreciated.

Sincerely,

Polite Student


How to Write a Thank You Letter After a College Admission Interview


I like to send my thank-you email about an hour after the end of the meeting. Definitely do so within 12 hours of the interview, but don’t do it the second you leave the room! A thank-you note is a great way to show you were paying attention and engaged in the interview. Bring up a detail from your conversation or recap what you were excited about learning in the interview. (Tip: If there was a moment where you blanked on an answer to a question or forgot some other bit of information, this could be a great place to retroactively respond.)


Remember, these interviewers probably meet with at least ten students per day. Make your interview easy to remember by summarizing it in your email–and by summarize I mean abbreviate! What do you want the main thing they take away from the interview to be? If the answer is “a bubbly, bright student who is passionate about robotics,” then be sure to write a line bringing up how much you enjoyed talking about your time on the robotics club with your interviewer. When the interviewer glances at their email, you’ll essentially have written their notes for them.


Example:


Dear Kind Interviewer,


Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me today! I really enjoyed our conversation about women’s rights and how that might translate into pursuing a degree in social work at Example University. I’ll be sure to further investigate that domestic violence prevention program you told me about.


It was great hearing about your time during college. Your descriptions of how beautiful winter is in Boston got me really excited imagining a potential future there. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to experience a snowball fight like the one you had!


Please let me know if there’s any other information you need from me. I hope to hear from you soon.


Sincerely,

Polite Student


How to Write a Letter of Continued Interest


Oh no! You got deferred! Don’t worry: it’s not the end of the world. A Letter of Continued Interest is a great way to let schools know they’re more than just a possible option: they’re your top choice. You’ve already written the application, so no need to make a second Common App essay. Instead, use this as the space to include any new developments or information you couldn’t include on your initial application. For example, maybe there’s a poetry competition you won recently, or you’ve joined the debate team at your school. Maybe you’re planning to conduct an independent research project through a prestigious program…Whatever it is, updating your application with this info is a great way to boost your chances of making it off the waitlist.


If you managed to get a visit to campus in between submitting your application and receiving this notice, let them know how it went! Make sure you also reiterate why you want to attend this school specifically. (Tip: Even if the school isn’t really your first choice, they don't need to know that. Write like this school is your absolute dream university–but do not lie and say you’re 100% committed to going if that isn’t the case!) Keep your tone polite and respectful at all times, and be sure not to blame, beg, or badger. If you’re rude to the admissions officer, it doesn’t matter if you became the youngest astronaut in the world or won an Olympic medal: no one likes a bully.


If you have the name of a specific admissions officer overseeing your application, be sure to address them by that! Otherwise, a general “Example University Admissions Committee” is fine.


Example:


Dear Mr. Admissions Officer,


My name is Polite Student. Thank you so much for taking the time to consider my application to Example University. I wanted to let you know that although I have been deferred, I am still extremely interested in attending this school. Example University remains my top choice: no other school has such a robust bioengineering program geared specifically towards career development.


Since applying to Example University, a few things have changed. First, I discovered a new species in the Amazon Rainforest. I also led our soccer team to the state finals, and raised my GPA from 3.45 to 3.61. These experiences broadened my understanding of the natural world, strengthened my cooperation and problem-solving skills, and taught me rigorous academic discipline. I also had a research project on cellular growth published in a prestigious journal. This project let me work side by side with Example University faculty, giving me a chance to embark on the kind of research I hope to do in the future.


I was also able to visit Example University this past weekend for an informational session. Being on campus, feeling the energy of the students bustling around me and chatting with other prospective applicants, I felt like I was right where I belonged. This learning environment of boundless curiosity with like-minded individuals is where I am meant to flourish, not just grow.


Thank you again for keeping my application in consideration. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you.


Sincerely,

Polite Student


Other Tips and What NOT to Do


Some final miscellaneous thoughts, including how to start and end an email to a college admissions committee. It is always better to address a letter to an actual person rather than “Admissions Committee” or “Example University Staff.” Start with “Dear” or “Hello”, and close out with a “Thank you” line and “Sincerely.” Thanking someone for taking the time to read your letter is a small touch that can really make a difference in someone’s day. As always, keep your tone polite and professional, while also trying to limit the length of the email. Have a second set of eyes look it over before you send it off to make sure the questions you’re asking are clear, and that there are no typos.


As a reward for making it through all this advice, please enjoy this terrible email. I tried my best to include every mistake you could possibly make in one gloriously bad letter. See if you can spot them all!


Bad Example:


hi

What is the acceptance rate for your school? Do I have an advantage if I apply Early Action?


Now pretend I’ve written a very long paragraph reiterating every single extracurricular I’ve done since middle school. I also copied my Common App essay, in case you missed it when I first submitted it :)


Now protend I’ve written a Catcher In the Rye-length story explaining how was my mothers dream for me to attend this college specifically.ly


Now pretend I’ve written an expletive-filled paragraph begging you to admit me and threatening you with physical violence if you refuse.


Attached is my resume.


thanx,

Bad Student

–Sent from my iPhone–


Julianna is a senior at Harvard. She is majoring in English and vividly remembers the college admissions process. You got this guys!


Image source: Needpix

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