Writing a letter to a college admissions office may seem scary at first. You may be asking, how do I make a good impression? What’s an appropriate reason to send a letter to a college admissions office? How do I show I really care about this school? What’s the best way to ask for application assistance?
If you’re asking these questions about writing a letter to a college admissions office, you’re in the right place. Read on for answers to these questions, as well as more tips for contacting a college admissions office.
There are several reasons to contact a college admissions office or counselor, and many may overlap. The two main reasons, though, are to demonstrate interest in the school and get application assistance.
Demonstrated interest is how colleges measure how interested a student is in a particular school. Not every school considers this during the admissions process, but many do, and contacting a college admissions office can be one method of demonstrating interest.
A 2017 National Association for College Admission Counseling study showed that 13.7% of schools considered demonstrated interest of considerable importance in the admissions process, 25.5% considered it of moderate importance, 32.1% limited importance, and 28.8% considered it to be of no importance in the admissions process.
So, 71.3% of colleges and universities consider demonstrated interest during the admissions process—at least in some capacity. Colleges want to know you care about what unique opportunities they have to offer, not just that you want to attend college in general.
According to Forbes, “Reaching out to the school to ask intelligent questions judging whether it is a good fit is a good idea. You can also use an email to explain why you are unable to visit the campus and ask what alternatives there are.” By doing this, you’ll show the school you care, and you’ll get a better sense of whether that school is the right place for you.
Don’t overuse emails for this purpose, as you don’t want to bombard admissions officers or seem helpless. So, ensure you’re thoughtful and careful about what emails you send to admissions officers when demonstrating interest in the school.
Another reason you may contact a college admissions office is in regards to your application. If there’s a deadline approaching, and you need to confirm the college received a certain piece of information, such as a transcript or a letter of recommendation, you can reach out and ask if the office received that piece of your application.
If you email your college admissions officer regarding your application, make sure you are not asking for information posted elsewhere. If you ask a question that is clearly answered on the application platform, it might negatively impact your application.
However, if you can’t find the answer to a question, don’t be nervous to reach out. If the information you’re looking for is not readily available on the school’s website, then it’s something you can reach out to the college admissions office about.
In the digital world, it can be hard to know which communication platform you should use. Online platforms are usually more convenient than physical letters, but there are still advantages to sending a letter.
If you are asking a specific question regarding your application, an email is the better option. It’s more convenient for you and the college admissions office, and you’ll probably get a much faster reply, especially if you’re asking a time-sensitive question.
However, if you want to inquire about specific aspects of the school, you may want to consider writing a physical letter. A lot of people consider a physical letter to be more personal, especially in the digital age, so this can be a good way to set yourself apart in the application process.
Overall, it’s important to first consider why you’re contacting the college admissions office before you decide whether to write an email or letter. An email is more convenient and will usually result in a much faster response, but a letter can seem more personal.
You may wonder how to write a letter to the college admissions office. First, we’ll cover some etiquette tips, then we’ll cover how to write each piece of the email. The Princeton Review has some great tips for writing letters or emails to college admissions offices.
While you want to make a good first impression with your email, it’s important not to use this email to brag about yourself. By asking intelligent questions the school’s website doesn’t already answer, you will show ambition and intellect, so there’s no need to include other details about yourself. Keep it short and to the point.
While you want to keep your email short, you also want the college admissions office to know who you are. Include your name, high school graduation year, high school name, and home address in the first part of your email. This is especially important if you’re asking a question about your application—you don’t want the admissions officer to have to search for your information. Plus, if your email makes a good impression, this will make it easier for them to remember you.
We can’t overstate how important this is. If your email or letter has any spelling or grammatical errors, your email will seem much less formal and mature. Ensuring your letter or email has no typos shows a lot of care, which is what college admissions offices want to see from you.
One way to approach this is by typing your email in a document first. You can read it out loud to spot grammatical errors. You can also put it in a different font and color to check for spelling and grammatical errors, because changing the way it looks helps your brain pick up on any mistakes.
To be professional, you must evaluate more than just your email or letter’s content. You must consider your subject line, introduction, signature, and even your email address.
Don’t use any slang. If your email address includes slang, nicknames, or anything other than a form of your name, consider creating a new email account for communicating with colleges.
Now that we’ve covered some general tips to keep in mind when corresponding with a college admissions office, let’s go over each individual piece of your letter or email.
This may seem like an unimportant piece of your email, but ensure your subject line is also direct, to the point, and professional—just like the rest of your correspondence. Try to communicate exactly what you’re asking in as few words as possible.
For example, let’s say you want to ask about diversity initiatives at Duke University. You could title your email, “Question About Diversity Initiatives at Duke University,” but that’s an awfully long title. Plus, if you’re emailing the admissions office at Duke, they know you’re asking about their school, so there’s no need to include that in the subject line. Instead, aim for something more like, “Diversity Initiatives Question.”
Other than your subject line, your introduction is your first opportunity to show you are mature and intelligent. This may seem like a lot of pressure for the first few words, but there is a world of difference between saying, “Hi to whom this may concern,” and “Good morning, Mrs. Brown.”
First, let’s talk about your greeting. Be formal, proper, and kind. Don’t use the same sort of language that you would use when texting your friends. For example, you wouldn’t want to start with “hi,” or “hey,” but saying, “Hello,” or “Good morning,” is appropriate.
Ideally, use your admissions officer’s name in the introduction of your name, instead of a more general “to whom it may concern.” This is not always available on the college or university’s website, but by the time you’re a high school senior, you’ve probably been in contact with the colleges you want to apply to. Usually, a specific college admissions officer will have reached out to you. You can try to find their name from correspondences like those.
So, with those two pieces, your introduction should look something like this:
“Hello, Mr. Miller,”
“Good afternoon, Ms. Marie,”
This is where the bulk of your email will be. The first thing you want to do is introduce yourself to the admissions officer—even if you’ve already corresponded before. Admissions officers receive hundreds of emails a day, so it’s helpful to include your basic information at the beginning.
After you introduce yourself, go straight into your question. If it’s a question regarding your application, explain the confusion or problem and include the due date if it’s time-sensitive. If you want to confirm the university received a certain piece of your application, you can phrase it something like this:
“While polishing up my application, I noticed that it hasn’t been confirmed that my letters of recommendation have been received. To make sure I have submitted all aspects of my application before the January 1st deadline, is there any way you could confirm whether the school has received my letters of recommendation? Thank you so much for your help, I appreciate it.”
The purpose of your email or letter may not be to confirm information about your application. Instead, you may want to demonstrate interest in the school ask about a specific aspect of the school you want to know more about, or some combination of these. What then?
The most important thing about writing an email or letter like that is to research beforehand. If you reach out to ask general questions that are already answered on the school’s website, you’re not going to make a very good impression.
Here’s a list of topics to avoid asking about when reaching out to a college admissions office (though this is not an exhaustive list):
Essentially, you want to ask specific questions showing your ambitions and also that you’ve done adequate research on the school. You can ask about specific opportunities within specific majors or programs, details about student life that are not already listed, and more.
When writing questions like these, remember our earlier advice: be professional and to the point, but let your voice shine through so you don’t sound like a robot. Your natural personality will make a great first impression.
At the end of your correspondence’s body, it’s vital to thank your admissions officer for taking the time to help you and answer your questions. It’s a kind thing to do and reflects back upon you as a kind person.
Much like your introduction, your signature may seem like an inconsequential part of your correspondence. But just like your introduction, that’s not true. Your signature can display professionalism and maturity just like the rest of your email or letter can. Use an appropriate sign-off, such as “Best,” “Warm regards” or “Sincerely,” and sign your name. You can also add alternate contact information (such as a phone number) after your name, just in case the school needs another way to contact you.
These sample letters should give you a great idea how to format your own letters.
“Hello Mr. White,
My name is Jack Hummer, and I’m a senior at Amity High School. I hope to major in Environmental Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall of 2023, and am working on polishing up my application before the January 7th due date.
I was thrilled to see all the research opportunities for Environmental Engineering, and I was wondering if there were any specific research opportunities for first-year students in that program?
I would also love to double major in Environmental Engineering and Anthropology; would this be possible in four years?
Thank you so much for your help!
“Dear Ms. Smith,
My name is Sarah Dill, and I will be graduating from Tacoma High School in the spring of 2022. I am planning on studying Linguistics at Princeton University, and I was hoping you could answer a few questions for me.
I was particularly interested in the Field Methods aspect of the Linguistics program. How are students connected with native speakers of the language they choose to study? Are only specific languages offered?
Additionally, I am curious about the Program in Teacher Preparation. Does this program work with your major over the course of four years or is it a shorter program that you complete separately?
I greatly appreciate your time and assistance. Thank you.
“Good afternoon Ms. Lewis,
My name is Anthony King. I will be graduating from Shorecrest Preparatory School in the spring, and I am finishing up my application for Columbia University before the Early Decision deadline on November 1st.
I noticed that the university has not confirmed they received one of my letters of recommendation from my teacher, Mr. Weber. To my knowledge, he has submitted his letter within the application portal. Would it be possible for you to confirm whether or not this letter of recommendation has been received for my application?
Thank you so much for your time and help.
“Good morning Mr. Teel,
My name is Maxton Morrison, and I am a senior at Renaissance High School. I am applying to Northwestern University, and I was hoping you could answer a question for me.
I was polishing up my application for the December 1st due date, but I noticed that it has not been confirmed that the school has received my ACT scores from April of 2020. Could you possibly confirm for me whether the school has received these scores yet?
Thank you for your help in this matter.
Contacting a college admissions office can be beneficial for a multitude of reasons, whether you actually need assistance with your application or you just want to learn more and demonstrate interest in the school. As long as you use the advice in this guide, sending a letter or an email will be a breeze.
And remember: don’t forget to proofread.