You email the Admission Office and wait patiently. After days – and in extreme cases weeks – you still don’t have an answer. Sometimes you can avoid the delay – how? Here are 11 do’s and don’ts if you want a fast reply from your university’s admissions office.
Look for the answer first
This may be really obvious but you’ll be surprised to hear how often students contact the admissions office for information that’s easily available on the university website. Imagine emailing admissions and waiting several days to get an answer– that just says “Hello, here’s a link to where you can find the information on our website.” In my book, that’s an email and time totally wasted.
Always read the letters and emails
A few years ago I joined a book club and received a couple of emails from the founder. I emailed him with a question and he replied with a simple sentence: “Please read the emails I’ve sent you”. My first thought was: “How rude!”. But he was totally right – everything I needed was in those emails.
So if you’re wondering about things like accepting your offer, paying your deposit or getting the right documents for applying for a student visa – chances are the university has given you this information in any emails or offer letter they have sent you. Look for the answer in them (or online) before contacting admissions.
Give them the details they need…
Before getting in touch with the university, think about what information the staff need from you so they can help you. In the very least you should give them your full name, your date of birth, the name of the course, your application status and your reference number if you have one.
The reason I say to include your date of birth (in this format: (day/month/year) is because, unless you have a very unusual name, there may be another applicant or student with a similar name on the database. Using your date of birth the admissions staff can double-check that they’re looking at the right record. Also it’s a good idea to capitalise your surname (like this: Antoinette TURKIE) so the staff can easily see which is your first name, and which your surname.
…But don’t write a novel
Describe your question or problem clearly but don’t use too many words or give any unnecessary details. The shorter your message, the higher the chance of getting an answer more quickly.
Look at it this way: If you’re having a busy day and have little time for answering emails, would you first deal with the emails that look easy and quick to resolve – or the ones that seem to need more time and attention?
Write your answer in the comments below and I’ll tell you if you’d make a good admissions officer!
Find out who you should contact
As an applicant, most of the time you will email the Admissions Office for help.
But often the admissions staff end up forwarding the emails they receive to other departments / offices at the university, like the International Office, academic departments or the student accommodation office. Avoid delays by taking a few minutes to find out from the website which is the right office to contact for the question that you have. If you can’t find this information, call the admissions office and ask who you should email.
You can avoid delays by taking a few minutes to find out from the university website which is the right office to contact for the question that you have. If you can’t find this information, call the admissions office and ask who you should email.
Don’t email the entire university
One thing I’ve seen some applicants do is they copy into their email many different members of staff, thinking this way they’ll get them a response more quickly. Sometimes that does work, but sometimes it has the exact opposite effect: Each of the staff might think someone else will respond.
I’m not saying never send an email to more than one person – there are situations where you might need to or should. Just think about why it’s relevant and what action you want the other person(s) to take.
Read out-of-office replies
Sometimes you might get an automated reply to your email saying the member of staff is away on training, on holiday, business travel or other.
The out-of-office reply usually says when the staff will be back and whether they’re dealing with emails while away. They might provide the contact details of colleagues to send any urgent enquiries to.
If you do forward your email, it’s a good idea to copy in the person you had originally emailed (so he or she can see that someone else is now dealing with your request).
Don’t forget about the time difference
Depending on where you live, there may be a big time difference between your country and the UK. You may also find that working hours are different to what you’re used to. The typical office hours in the UK are 9am to 5pm, UK time, Monday to Friday.
If you email towards the end of the working day in the UK, you shouldn’t expect an answer that day. Or if you email on a Friday afternoon, you probably won’t get an answer until the following week at the earliest.
Do follow up….but not too soon
Don’t be the applicant who emails the university and then emails them again the day after because you still haven’t got a response. Now, there are some admissions offices out there that reply within only a few hours or the next day, but often it takes longer. Give the admissions staff enough time to get back to you.
And as per my advice above, if you’ve had an automated email, read it – it will tell you when you can expect an answer or what to do if your query is urgent.
Expect delays at certain times in the year
Admissions offices around the UK tend to get very busy (that is, busier than usual) from around mid August. This is when Clearing and Confirmation happen – they are two big dates in the university calendar. Things continue to be pretty hectic until after the new students arrive and enrol in September / October. So my advice would be to try and get everything sorted before August. If you need to contact admissions, it may be better to call than email (although some admissions offices may not take calls during very busy periods and will only accept email).
Don’t be shy to say if you have any more questions
Many admissions emails will end like this: “If you need any further assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me.” I admit, a lot of people just include this phrase because it’s polite. But really, take it literally: If the reply that you have received hasn’t answered the question or helped you solve the problem you had, or perhaps you now have more questions – just ask again.
Don’t feel embarrassed to say if you don’t understand the reply – or perhaps the staff haven’t understood your original question. It’s better to give / ask for clarification than to pretend all is fine.
My first university job was in an Admissions Office. I can assure you that in the vast majority of cases staff will want to deal with your enquiry in the fastest and best way possible. Often there is a delay because it’s a very busy period or too many staff are away. But as an applicant – or future applicant – there are things that you can do to avoid delays.
Always start by asking yourself if you really need to email the admissions office and whether or not you may already have the information you need – or could easily find it online. When you do email, think about what information and details the university may need from you. This will avoid you having to go back and forth via email just to provide those details. Find out who is the right person or office to contact and don’t copy your email to too many people unnecessarily.
What’s your experience contacting your university’s admissions office? Were they quick to get back or did it take a long time? Do you have any tips for other international students? Post them in the comments below or join me on Facebook.