When it comes to contacting your university, what is the best way?  Should you call or email, or is it best to post on Facebook or send a tweet? Get my tips here.


Your university is on Facebook – are you?

help tips for international students

Contact the university on social media if you have general questions like “how many students do you have”, “where is your campus”, “do you offer any scholarships”. You may get a reply more quickly than if you email, and you’d also be interacting with the university.

Though I wouldn’t recommend posting personal information or questions on social media, like about your grades or financial situation.  Also, if you need more specific advice about your own situation, don’t ask for it on Facebook or Twitter.


Chat online with university staff

help tips for international students

If your university offers ‘online chat’ or ‘live chat’, you’ll find this helpful.    You can exchange messages back and forth with a member of staff (or often with a senior student) until you have the answer or information you need.  But, not all universities have live chat, or they may only offer it during specific hours.  Also, if your question is ‘complicated’, the person on the chat may have to take your details to get advice from another colleague or department, and then get back to you by email or phone.


Sometimes it’s just best to speak to a person

help tips for international students

I’d recommend you call the university in any of these situations:

  • You’d like a quick answer –  For example, if you’re not sure how to do something or you want to quickly check some information that’s not clear from the university website.
  • It’s urgent – It’s also best to call if you need to speak to the university about something that is urgent.  For example if you need a copy of your offer letter urgently and there’s no way for you to request this online.
  • It’s complicated and urgent – If you have a question or request that’s complicated but also urgent, send all the necessary details by email and then call the university so the staff can look for the email and deal with it.


Things to do when you call

help tips for international students

When making an international call, you don’t want it to be longer than necessary.  Make sure you:

  • Prepare in advance a clear question to ask or request to make.
  • Have any relevant details they might ask for, like your reference number or course title.
  • Keep to hand a pen and piece of paper to write  down any information they give you.
  • Speak clearly and not too fast.
  • Say if you don’t understand any information or advice the staff gives you.
  • Learn how to spell your name using the international ‘spelling alphabet’ (see below) .

This is how to spell your name using the international 'spelling alphabet':

In the international spelling system you use code words instead of letters.  This helps avoid misunderstanding, as especially on the phone some letters can be easily confused. For example, using the international spelling alphabet, I would spell my name like this:

Antoinette:  Alpha – November – Tango – Oscar – India – November – Echo – Tango – Tango – Echo


A – Alpha (AHL FA)

B – Bravo (BRAH VOH)

C – Charlie (CHAH LEE)

D – Delta (DELL TAH)

E – Echo (ECK OH)

F – Foxtrott (FOKS TROT)

G – Golf (GOLF)

H – Hotel (HOH TELL)

I – India (IN DEE AH)

J – Juliette (JEW LEE ETT)

K – Kilo (KEE LOH)

L – Lima (LEE MAH)

M – Mike (MIKE)

N – November (NO VEM BER)

O – Oscar (OSS CAH)

P – Papa (PAH PAH)

Q – Quebec (KEH BECK)

R – Romeo (ROW ME OH)

S – Sierra (SEE AIR RAH)

T – Tango (TANG GO)

U – Uniform (YOU NEE FORM)

V – Victor (VIK TA)

W – Whiskey (WISS KEY)

X –  X-ray (ECKS RAY)

Y – Yankee (YAN KEE)

Z – Zulu (ZOO LOO)


Sometimes it’s just best to email

help tips for international students

There are a few situations where I’d recommend that you email the university, especially when:

  • It’s not that urgent– You don’t mind waiting a few days for an answer.
  • You want a lot of details – For example about a course or scholarships, or you want an e-brochure.
  • You need an official answer – If you’re accepting your offer or are asking the university to confirm something, do this in writing. This way you have a written reply in case you need to show it in future.
  • It’s complicated – If you have to describe a problem or situation.  The person you email may also need to discuss your case with one or more colleague.

Remember, if your request is urgent, send an email but also call the university so they can prioritise your email.


Things to do when you email

help tips for international students

When you email the university, remember to do this:

  • Keeps your emails short – Short emails are usually answered faster (at least that’s how I’d do it).
  • Include relevant details – Keeping your emails short doesn’t mean leaving out important information: Think of what details the staff will need to help you.
  • Include a relevant subject line – Your name and reference number would be helpful, as would be the topic you’re emailing about, for example ‘Accommodation’ or ‘Student Visa’.   If it’s urgent, put ‘urgent’ in the subject line also.
  • Read automated replies – Check for things such as when you can expect a reply or what to do if the staff is away and your email is urgent.
  • Save a copy of your email and the reply – Create an email folder and drop your sent and received emails from the university / universities to that folder.  You never know when you may need them again.


There are a number of ways you can contact your university and in this post I’ve share with you the main ones – I’m sure there are others.  I’d suggest you decide in each situation by asking yourself some simple questions.  I’ve put in brackets the method I would use to get in touch with the university:

  • Am I asking for general information (social media) or do I need advice about my specific situation (live chat, email,or phone)?
  • How quickly do I need an answer? Is it urgent (live chat or phone) or can I wait a few days for a reply (email)?
  • What information does the university need from me to help me? (Relevant for all method).
  • Do I need to send the information to the university in writing (email) – and do I need an official reply from the university in writing (email)?
  • Is my question or request to the university clear and will staff easily understand it? (Relevant for all methods).

If you have any tips to add or personal experience to share, post your comments below or join me on Facebook.


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