Director of College Counseling
Collegewise of Millburn
That’s a great question. Striking the right tone in your communication with colleges is important. Any time you are writing or talking to an admission officer, college professor, or other staff member, you want to come off as confident but not arrogant, respectful but not ingratiating. How do you do this? First, above all things, be yourself! If you are trying to be someone you are not, you are more likely to sound inauthentic, overly formal, or fall short in some other way. So, just be you. Aside from that, be respectful. Address college staff in the same manner in which they have introduced themselves to you. If someone who works in admission at a college you would like to attend introduces herself with her first name, then you can call her by that name. If not, you want to use whatever title they used. When it comes to professors, you can absolutely follow the same convention, but it is also always safe to use the title “professor” or “doctor [last name]” (if you know they have a PhD). When you are having conversations with college staff, remember to be polite. And you don’t want to be too casual, but you also don’t need to go over the top with formalities. Rather, think about the way you would speak to a teacher at your high school whom you like and respect. That’s about the right tone to use. If you are writing an e-mail, don’t write something so formal that you cannot imagine yourself saying it out loud.
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