How to Correspond with a College

There are some great faux pas that people make when communicating with colleges, and many of the written ones end up on funny image sites. Such as the applicant who answered the question, “Do you have any hobbies?” with “Can I write anything in here?” To keep yourself out of the funny applications websites, you should really follow the advice detailed below.


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    Do not be too casual in your communication. This is from every conceivable angle, meaning that if you are on the phone you should not have music in the background or keep telling the admin staff to hold on a minute. It means your written and verbal communication should be cordial and even friendly whilst maintaining an air of professionalism. It also means phoning, emailing, submitting and/or visiting within their schedule and not casually turning up five minutes late without so much as a plausible excuse or apology.
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    Do not be afraid to build a rapport with the professors or admin staff that you communicate with, but keep your casual attitude on a tight leash. This also means picking suitable language and not calling the staff “buddy”, “pal” or any other colloquial term of endearment. Once again, a friendly rapport is okay, in fact it is advised, but be careful how you comment, how you use your language and be extra careful if you are cracking any jokes. Sarcasm is even harder to get away with and requires such skill that it is best avoided.
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    It shouldn’t have to be said, but here it is, you should not use text-talk on any of your written communications, and slang of any sort should be avoided unless the people you are communicating with use it first.
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    Learn the names of the people you are communicating with. If they call you by your last name then call them by theirs. If you speak in person then a friendly smile goes a lot further than a stern and serious look. The situation is a serious one, but you are dealing with human beings and you have not entered a criminal court.
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    Check the website and any printed paraphernalia to get all the information you think you need for your written and phone conversations. This is especially important when meeting people in person. Saying something such as, “I was told I should bring along my portfolio by the arts and technology teacher Mr.…erm, what’s his name?” The admin staff and professors will cordially brush off your faux pas but it will stick in their mind when they think of you next time.
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    Address your written messages to a named person unless seriously cannot, in which case address them to the department they are heading for. Remember that you are judging their college as much as they are judging you, which means you should be asking questions too, just make sure they are suitable questions. Asking what time the bars close or how many hot women attend the college is not going to go down well.
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    Practice your phone conversation before making the call if you are at all nervous. Just rehearse your opening once or twice with a phone in your hand just so you know you will not fumble the first bit. The rest of the conversation should flow very well if you get off to a good start.
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    If they want all enquiries via email then send an email. A hand written card through the post may have made an impact in the 1950s but it is going to do you no favors these days. Fill out every form in full and miss out “nothing.” There is nothing more infuriating in both the academic world and the business world to have to receive applications that are not fully filled out.
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    Give them more than one way of getting back in touch with you. Email, a landline, your mobile, and your address are pretty standard things to add in. Adding details such as your fax number or beeper number may send the wrong impression these days. If you have a particularly well written and professional social media profile then you can take the risk and add in (for example), your Facebook ID or Twitter handle. Some admin staff enjoy putting a face to the applications they receive.
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    If you turn up for an interview then tone down the perfume or aftershave, and light makeup is sufficient. You do not need to look as if you work behind a L’Oreal counter in the mall. Shiny shoes and a suit is not needed as you do not have to look as if you are about to accept an academy award. Use your own style but let it be seen that you have made an effort.
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    Read the literature they give you because there is nothing worse than asking staff members questions that are answered in the college prospectus. Also, make sure you address your questions, comments and other non-requested communication to the lowest office that can handle the question. Emailing the Dean to ask about tuition fees is going to be a mistake.
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    Spell-check your written communications but read it through for typos too as they will not appear on your spell check. For example, some colleges get a lot of applications from people describing themselves as an avid leaner, to the point where admin staff start to worry if they have a subsidence problem, especially when they have people saying they think they can lean a lot from their collage.

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Categories: College University and Postgraduate