7 Tips: How to write an email to a college admissions office

Application Strategies
December 2, 2021
Emailing a college admissions office is no time for spelling errors or etiquette mistakes - this guide and sample email will keep your college emails professional and on point.

Email is such a fast and efficient way to communicate that it's easy to forget basic etiquette and professionalism. If you're not sure how to write an email to a college admissions office, this guide and sample email will keep you on the right track. WeAdmit's simple tips and suggestions will have you sounding professional and staying in the admissions office's good graces, and our college admissions office sample letter will show you how it's done.

Learning to write a professional email to a college admissions office isn't just a formality. Many colleges are teaching courses in professional behavior, including email and social media, because it's a vital skill when moving into the job market and advancing in your career. Plus, although texting and social media have become major ways of communicating on college campuses, a Bowling Green University study found that email is still the primary way students communicate with their professors. Developing professional email skills now will not only help you get into your perfect-fit school, those skills will serve through college and beyond.

Here are seven tips to keep your emails on point:

1. Keep the format clean

A solid college email should start with a formal greeting, preferably with the recipient’s name and title, and end with a sincere send-off. Keep the font size and color legible while avoiding frequent use of emojis, formatting, or images. If the email is difficult to read, it will not come across as if your student takes the email or its contents seriously.

Additionally, make sure the email’s subject line is clear and direct. “Questions Regarding the Economics Major” is much better than “asking about a few of your majors.”

Finally, make sure your student is sending any college-related emails from an appropriate and direct email address, such as firstnamelastname@email.com. This will help prevent their email from ending up in a spam folder or being disregarded for its lack of seriousness.

2. Make a good impression by demonstrating real interest

Many of the emails you'll send to a college admissions office are about information you need, such as your application, your financial aid, the major you're interested in, and scholarships you want to apply for. That's fine! But remember that the college is looking for people who are going to become part of their community, who participate in all aspects of college life, and who genuinely want to be there.

One of the intangible aspects of college admissions is demonstrated interest. It doesn't show up in an application, but it can give you an edge over other applicants. It simply means, "show the college you're invested in being a student there." You do that with campus visits and meetings with department chairs, but when that isn't possible, a well-written heartfelt email that asks good questions about the school can get the admissions office's attention. Put the focus on the school and how you'll be a strong and active part of its community, rather than always focusing on what the school can provide for you.

3. Don't be too casual

We all have a way of talking with our friends via email and text using abbreviations, emojis, slang terms, and shorthand. When it's time to email a college admissions office (or, later, a professor, a job recruiter, a co-worker, or your boss), leave the slang and abbreviations out. Write your emails in your natural voice, as if you're having an in-person conversation. But don't forget that it's a conversation with someone you should treat with respect. Use complete sentences, and proper capitalization and punctuation. Address the person you're emailing as Mr. or Ms., or, if appropriate, Dr. (if you know they have a PhD, it's a good idea to go with Dr.), and their last name.

Keep your email brief and to the point, and make sure you proofread it before you send it.

4. Don't be too formal

I thought we just said don't be too casual? We did. But a common mistake is to go too far in the other direction and write like you're reciting a speech or giving a sermon. There's no need to use big words or stiff, awkward expressions. That's not how you would talk in person, so don't do it in an email!

Also, never use a form email that you've simply filled in the blanks. The college admissions sample email in this article is just to give you an idea of what your email should look like before you write your own. There are plenty of form emails online, and trust us when we say that college admissions staff can spot them a mile away. Your goal in the admissions process is to stand out from the crowd, and a copy-paste email is never a good look.

5. Be polite and respectful

It might seem obvious, but it needs to be said. Approaching your college admissions journey with humbleness and gratitude will serve you better than being rude or entitled. Even if the college has genuinely made an error (it happens!), be kind and polite. Inevitably, you will miss a deadline, forget to send paperwork, or otherwise misstep, and your gracious behavior will reward you when you need help from the people in charge of accepting you to college.

6. Think before you send

Sometimes the best college admissions email is one you never send at all. If you have a question about the school that's answered on the school's web site or in an FAQ, or even on a student forum somewhere, there's no need to ask an admissions official about it. Don't be afraid to do some research and find the facts about admissions that you need.

If you're further along in the admissions process, you might be following up on an earlier email that hasn't received a reply in a little while. Of course, when you're waiting for your acceptance letter or financial aid package, a single day feels like forever. Still, don't pester admissions every other day. In general it's a good idea to wait a week or two before sending another follow-up email (unless the matter's especially urgent, in which case it might be time to just pick up the phone).

Getting into college can be a stressful time, and you don't always get the answers you want to hear from the admissions office. It's ok to feel upset or hurt when this happens. Just don't send an email when you feel that way. Take a day to cool your emotions so your reply is always polite and respectful, even when you want to scream.

7. Sample college admissions office email

In this sample email, the person sending the email is reaching out for more information on a college's honors program. Note the tone: respectful, but not stiff. It draws connections between the student and the college, demonstrating interest, and includes a personal point (that she wants to try mountain climbing) to help Dr. Alvarez remember her. This student has suffered a setback, but doesn't speak bitterly about it, instead moving forward to other opportunities. She has researched and found that the honors program is run by Janet Alvarez, who has a PhD.

Dear Dr. Alvarez,

My name is Hannah Wilson, and I'll be a freshman at State University this fall. I was disappointed that I didn't win the Masterson Scholarship, but Mr. Klein in the admissions office told me I would still be eligible for the honors program. I noticed that last semester there were honors classes on agriculture in early human history. I'm considering anthropology for my major, and I was wondering if you knew which honors classes will be offered this fall. Is it possible to have honors class credits count toward a major if they're in the appropriate field of study?

I saw from the honors program website that honors students get to participate in extra activities together. I'd love to be part of the honors program, and I can't wait to meet the other honors students. I really want to try mountain climbing - I've never had a chance to do that.

Thank you,

Hannah Wilson

That should give you a good idea of how to approach any emails you send to a college admissions office, or any other email where you need to be your professional best. If you're looking for personalized help with the other parts of your college journey, from essays to test prep and more, try one of WeAdmit's free counseling sessions. A team of WeAdmit college counselors can guide you down the path to your perfect-fit school.



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