How to Write a Letter to a College Admissions Office

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We’re in the thick of the season when colleges release decisions and award grants. Usually it’s good news — but of course there are bound to be rejections along with all those acceptances. Other times, students are waitlisted, which puts you in a bit of a hard place. What do you do then? Wait and see? Or would sending a letter to your university admissions office help weight the scale?

When you read ‘sending a letter,’ you’re probably thinking email — and you’re probably right. There is honestly no good reason to send a written letter, unless you really want to show off your good taste in fine papers (and in that case, your letter better not be asking for more financial aid). Emails are free and efficient. Admissions officers are busy, and there’s no reason to waste their time by making them open envelopes and recycle your letter after skimming it.

Whether you go for email or deforestation, however, the key to writing a good letter is the same: be polite, professional, and to the point. Wordiness won’t win you points here, and you don’t want to rub your admissions officer the wrong way by making them think that you’re wasting their time.

We recommend that you draft your letter right now, then let it sit as you read the rest of this blog. When you’re done reading, edit (but don’t over think!), then send it off!

Dos and Don'ts of Writing a Letter to College Admissions Offices

Dos and Don'ts of Writing a Letter to College Admissions Offices

Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Letter to College Admissions Offices

Do be polite and concise.

Do explain your situation fully, if asking for financial aid.

Do keep your email as short as possible — you want to respect your reader’s time.

Do check for spelling and grammar mistakes. One typo won’t change your decision, but obvious errors aren’t professional.

Don’t write with a frustrated or angry tone.

Don’t use too many exclamation points (one or maybe two is acceptable).

Don’t address anyone by first name only — include first name and surname, if you are addressing by name at all.

How Do You Address a Letter to a College Admissions Office?

How Do You Address a Letter to a College Admissions Office?

Your admissions officers know that you’re eighteen, so “to whom it may concern” will come off as a little pompous. A good, simple “Dear University X Admissions Office” will do.

Should you list names? If you’re going to address your letter to “Dean of Admissions,” you might as well google the dean’s name, then address “Cathy Habernack, Dean of Admissions.” Chances are, however, that it’s actually Ms Habernack’s secretary who reads your letter, so a general method of address works just fine.

How Do You Write a Letter to an Admissions Officer?

How Do You Write a Letter to an Admissions Officer?

How Do You Write a Letter to an Admissions Officer?

Most students haven’t interacted on a professional level with strangers too often. If you’ve drafted emails to your boss or coworkers, this isn’t too different. It is nerve-wracking at first learning how to write a letter to a college admissions office, but once you have a first draft of your letter hammered out, it’s much easier.

Really you have to figure out what you are trying to say, then write it in the clearest way possible. Don’t crowd your email with big words or complex syntax. Just be straight and to the point, and your admissions officer will appreciate your professionalism.

What Should You Include in Your Letter to an Admissions Officer?

What Should You Include in Your Letter to an Admissions Officer?

Begin any formal letter to an admissions office with a salutation as seen above.

Then, introduce yourself — just your first and last name will do — and state clearly why you are writing. Generally students write either to ask for admission (if they have been waitlisted), to ask for more financial aid (if they have been accepted), or to ask pertinent questions (if they are choosing which university to attend).

Be as concise as possible. Remember that admissions officers are busy, and they are more likely to respond positively if you are respecting their time.

Don’t brag or sound demanding. It’s easy to feel frustrated if you have been waitlisted from an institution you feel you deserve to be in — and that’s fair. There are usually more applicants than universities have spots for, so perfectly eligible students are waitlisted or rejected every year. It’s rough. The best thing you can do, however, is to be polite and professional.

Next, thank your admissions office for their time, and sign off with one of many traditional exits: think ‘sincerely, warm regards, best wishes,’ etc.

If you choose, you can include your email, phone number, and address below your name. It’s not necessary, but it adds a formal touch.

Does Writing a Letter to an Admissions Officer Increase Chances of Getting In vs. Email?

Does Writing a Letter to an Admissions Officer Increase Chances of Getting In vs. Email?

Does Writing a Letter to an Admissions Officer Increase Chances of Getting In vs. Email?

Your admissions officers are ordinary people, albeit ordinary people with a special view to how college students live off ramen and cereal, shower weekly, and procrastinate month-long assignments until one night before. They see you as a juvenile who works hard and exists in chaos, so while a physical letter will surely show earnesty, it won’t change how the admissions office views you. Your biased blog writer can’t help but think of a written letter as overkill.

If you want your letter for admission to have that extra formal touch, and you feel strongly that writing a physical letter is best, then go ahead. Type it, don’t handwrite. And include your contact information, especially email, in the header or underneath your signature. Your admissions officer does not want to go to the trouble of replying via snail mail.

Sample Letter to a College Admissions Office

Sample Letter to a College Admissions Office

Here is a sample letter asking a college to match financial aid. ‘Matching’ financial aid is when a university pledges to offer more financial aid so that their package is equivalent to another institution’s package, allowing the student to choose which school to attend independently of money.

If sending a letter, make sure to have proper letter formatting. If sending an email, which is highly recommended, leave out anything in brackets [].

[Bobbit Jones . 666 E Fifth St, Oakum, CA, 12345 . 123-345-5435 . [email protected]]

(Date)

University of Bill

(address)

Dear University of Bill Financial Aid Office,

Hello! My name is Bobbit Jones, and I am excited to have been accepted into the University of Bill’s class of 2024. I am writing to inquire about financial aid matching, as I have received financial aid offers from University of Bill and my second choice university, Harvard. I understand that the University of Bill pledges to match financial aid given by a few universities, including Harvard. I have attached both financial aid awards below. {in an email, you could send these as attached files. If you are still bent on sending a physical letter, make copies, don’t send the originals}

Thank you for your generosity and your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Bobbit Jones

[swirly signature]

{in an email, you could include contact info below, as it won’t appear on the header}

Wrapping Things Up: Ultimate Guide to Writing Letters to Admissions Offices

Hopefully this has shed a little light on the unsanctified act of writing letters to admissions offices. If you can walk away feeling a little less dread, or if you can view the situation with less seriousness overall, then our job is done.

Remember, for you it may feel as if the world hangs in balance, but for the admissions office, you’re one of hundreds. You have stood out on your merits — that’s why you’ve been accepted, or made the waitlist. Now is the time to be professional, to state your case, and hope for the best.

Know also that it may be a while before you get a reply. It’s fine to poke your admissions officer with a follow-up email after a few days (now aren’t you glad you sent an email? A letter would still be trekking across the country). They overlook emails at times — they are just people too.

In the meantime, look at the merits of the universities you have been accepted into, or the ones you know you can afford. You’ve worked hard to get here, and you’re almost through! Congratulations to you.

Now draft that email, check it for spelling, and send it off!

If you found this post helpful, you may also want to check our post on how to write a letter of continued interest. We’ve also written a guide on what to wear to a college interview that you might find helpful as well.

Want more college admission resources? Check them out here:

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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