In our last post we gave you 10 tips on how to get help from the Admissions Office.  In this post we’ll look at what is the best way to contact your university – should you could call, email or use social media?

1.  Social Media

Social media is a great way to contact your university for quick and general questions, like “how many students do you have”, “where is your campus”, “do you offer any scholarships”. Usually, you’ll get a reply fast and the answer may also be helpful to other students following the university.

However, remember only to post questions or information on social media that you wouldn’t mind other people to see.  For example, you may not want to talk about your grades online or about your financial situation.  Also, if you need more specific advice about your own situation, social media is probably not the best way for getting this.

2.  Live Chat

If your university offers “online chat” or “live chat”, this is a great way to get help.    Not all universities offer this type of live support, but those that do usually offer it during specific hours – either every day or on one or more days during the week.

During an online support session you may speak or exchange text messages with a member of staff at the university.  So you really get to ask them all the questions that you have. Sometimes the person providing the support is a student at the university, and this can be very helpful for getting their opinion or advice on what it is like to be a student there.

3.  Telephone

There are a number of situations where it may be best to call the university.  Here are three examples:

You Need a Quick Answer

When live chat is not available, calling the university is the quickest way to get help.

You may want to call the university 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 Urgent & Complicated

If you have a question or request that is complicated but also urgent, we would recommend that you call the university – after sending an email with the necessary details.  When you do call, tell the staff where you’ve sent the email to, when, and from which email address.  This way, they can look for it and get back to you.

4.  Tips for Calling

When you call the university, there are things that you can do to help the staff help you in the quickest and best way possible.  Here are six tips.

Prepare Before You Call

Before making the call, it’s always a good idea to take 1 – 2 minutes to think about your question and what it is that you want help with. By preparing your question in advance you will find it easier to explain it to the staff answering your call.

Pen & Paper

During the call, the university staff may give you some information, like a reference number, another staff’s name, an email address or other important information.  It’s a good idea to have a pen and piece of paper ready to write  down any information they give you.

What’s Your Call About

At the beginning of the call tell the staff your name and what it is that you need help with.  This way the they can tell you if they can help you or whether they will need to transfer you to one of their colleagues.

Do You Have a Reference Number?

If have a reference number from the university, have it ready so you can give it to the staff.  Your reference number is the quickest way they can find your details on the student database.  If you don’t have a reference number, you may need to give your date of birth and spell your name.

Remember, in the UK you use this format when giving your date of birth: day, month, year.

Learn the Spelling Alphabet

When someone asks you to spell your name, it can sometimes be difficult to understand all the letters properly, especially on the phone.   This is why many people in the UK use “code words” instead of letters when spelling.  This is an international system that is known as the “spelling alphabet”.

For example, the regular spelling for my own name is A-N-T-O-I-N-E-T-T-E.  But some of these letters can be difficult to understand correctly on the phone. Therefore, I would use the spelling alphabet like this:

Alpha – November – Tango – Oscar – India – November – Echo – Tango – Tango – Echo

If you don’t feel like you want to learn the full spelling alphabet, just write down the code words for the letters in your name before calling the university.

Click here to see the full list of the spelling alphabet.

LETTER – SPELLING CODE WORD (HOW TO PRONOUNCE IT.  BOLD MEANS EMPHASIS)

A – Alpha (AHL FA)

B – Bravo (BRAH VOH)

C – Charlie (CHAR 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 (YANG KEE)

Z – Zulu (ZOO LOO)

Speak Slowly and Clearly

Remember to speak clearly and not too fast.   If you feel the staff hasn’t understood you very well, you could say “I’m sorry, maybe I wasn’t very clear” and then repeat what you’ve said or say it in a different way.

Say if You Don’t Understand

Similarly, if the staff says something to you that you don’t understand, don’t be shy to tell them.  Just say something like ‘I’m sorry, I’m afraid I didn’t quite get that’ or ‘Would you mind repeating this, please’.

Or, if they tell you about something that you’ve never heard of before, say ‘I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with this. Would you mind telling me a bit more about it.’

5.  Email

In other situations it may be best to contact your university by email.  Here are four examples.

You Want Detailed Information

Let’s say you’ve seen a course that you’re interested in and you would like to find out more.   If you send an email to the Admissions or International Office, they can send you all the relevant details and information.  For example, they may send you links to information on their website that you haven’t yet seen, they might send you an e-brochure, advice about scholarships, details of visits by their staff to your country, and more.

It’s Not Urgent

Email is a good option if have a question or request – but it’s not that urgent.  For example, if you are thinking of applying to the university and you are gathering all the information, but you don’t mind waiting a few days for an answer.

You Need an Official Answer

Whenever you contact your university about something that is very important, it’s best to do this by email.   For example, if you’re accepting your offer and there is no other way to do this online.  Or, if you’ve missed any of the conditions of your offer and you want to know whether or not the university will confirm your place, you’ll want to ask for the university’s decision in writing.

It’s Complicated

It’s also best to use email if your question or situation is complicated.   This way you can give all the relevant details in your email, and the staff dealing with your request can forward your email to any of their colleagues, if necessary.

Remember, if your request is urgent, send an email but also call the university to tell them about your email and that your request is urgent.

6. Tips for Emailing

Keep Emails Short

Short emails are usually answered faster.  They’re quicker to read, quicker to respond to and the staff can deal with short emails even if they have limited time available.

Include Relevant Details

However, whilst it’s a good idea to try and keep your email short, always make sure to provide the details that the university staff need to help you.  At the minimum your email should include your full name, your university reference number (if you have it), the name of your course – and a clearly worded question or request.

Write a Relevant Subject

The subject line should help the university staff see what your email is about.  Ideally, it should also help them search for your email in their inbox, in case they need to.

Therefore, try to avoid subject lines that are vague or very general, like “Urgent, please help!”.  Too many students use subjects like this and they’re not really very helpful.

Try including some of the following in the subject line: your name, reference number, the name of your course, the topic or area that you want help with, or the action you want the university to take.

Read Automated Replies

When emailing your university, you may get an automated reply to tell you when you might expect a reply or to let you know that the staff you’ve sent your email to is away.

If your email is urgent and you decide to forward it to another member of staff, it’s always helpful to copy into that email the first staff that you had sent the email to.  This way they can see that you have sent your request to someone else and that they no longer need to deal with it.

Does Answer Help You?

Whenever you receive an email reply, make sure to read it carefully.  Is the reply clear, does it help you answer your question or resolve your problem, is there anything that you need to do?

Keep the Answer

When you email the university, save a copy of your email in a separate email folder – maybe give this folder the name of the university.  Then when you receive an answer, move a copy of the reply to that same folder.  This way you have all the emails that you have exchanged with the university saved in one place, in case you need them again in future.  You can do this for every university that you contact.

Summary

All UK universities offer you a number of ways for getting in touch with them and for getting help. To decide which is the best way for contacting your university, ask yourself these five simple questions:

  1. Am I asking for general information or do I need advice about my specific situation?
  2. How quickly do I need an answer: is this urgent or can I wait a few days for a reply?
  3. What information does the university need from me to help me?
  4. Do I need to send the information to the university in writing – and do I need an official reply from the university in writing?
  5. Is my question or request to the university clear and will staff easily understand it?

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