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Should You Cold Call A College Admissions Office?


No matter where you are in the college admissions process, chances are you’re already sick of it. It’s a stressful waiting game and you can’t help but wonder if there’s anything else you can do to get that acceptance letter. Some pre-collegiettes are even driven to do crazy things—like this guy who sang his way off the Michigan waitlist and this dude, who dedicated a rap to Johns Hopkins. Cold-calling an admissions office may not be as bold of a move as recording a song, but it can be nerve-wracking nonetheless. When should you make the call and what should you say? Should you even make the call at all?  We talked to Michelle Podbelsek, co-owner of College Counseling Associates in California, to answer all those questions and more. With our tips, you can be sure that you won’t flub the call like this.

Is It Okay To Call An Admissions Office? 

Podbelsek confirms that it is “absolutely appropriate” in certain circumstances to call an admissions office. “You should mostly call for informational purposes—questions that are more immediate and information that cannot be obtained another way, or to report something significant,” she says. 

The part about the info being otherwise unobtainable is important. Admissions officers are busy people, so you definitely don’t want to bother them with questions that are obvious or easily answerable on the college’s website. Search thoroughly on the Internet, especially the school’s website, and read any letters or emails the college has sent you first. If you can’t find an answer, then you are totally entitled to call the office! 

Contrary to what you might think, Podbelsek actually advises against calling for the purpose of cajoling your way off the waitlist.

“I personally don’t feel it is a good idea to call to show interest if you are waitlisted,” Podbelsek says. Admissions offices must deal with a zillion applicants, so a call may not necessarily be documented or considered in the crazy-hectic process. “When a student calls they are usually not going to be directly connected with their appropriate admissions officer — and they may not be able to reach them at all,” Podbelsek says. 

Instead, Podbelsek advises, “the most appropriate way to show your strong interest in a college after you have applied or are on the waitlist is to put it in writing in a heartfelt letter.” 

But if you have a question, want additional information, or have something time-sensitive to inform the office about, then go for it! 

How Should You Do It?

First of all, you should make the call yourself! Parents can get a little psycho during the admissions process, but it looks better if you call instead of them because it shows that you are responsible and can take initiative. “It is actually great if a student feels comfortable calling the admissions office on their own,” Podbelsek says. “It is good practice for making that type of ‘professional’ call.” 

That doesn’t mean that your parents can’t help you though! “You can still get help and support from your college counselor and/or parent—maybe to plan out exactly what you are going to say and how to approach it,” Podbelsek says. Your college counselor is an especially good resource to utilize in this situation because he or she may know how specific colleges handle phone calls. 

Working with a parent, counselor, advisor, or any other adult to figure out if you should call and what you should say can help you formulate clear, coherent questions so that you’re not nervous. If you tend to clam up on the phone (we’re all so used to texting that it happens to the best of us), write out your questions beforehand and keep them in front of you so you have backup. Also keep a pen and paper nearby so that you can jot down important info! 

As with any conversation in the admissions process, you want to be articulate and friendly. Ditch the “likes” and “ums,” and be conscious of your voice and tone. You don’t want that high-pitched squeal you use to thank your grandma for the birthday present she sent you, but you also don’t want to sound bored or dull. Also, make sure you’re in a quiet room so that you can hear and be heard. Be confident and happy, and check out this guide to interviews for more advice on sounding professional. 


What Should You Not Do? 

It’s just as important—if not more so—to know what you shouldn’t do or say on a phone call. First and foremost, definitely do not be rude or impatient. While there are going to be aggravations that arise throughout the applications and admissions process, you should under no circumstances unleash any frustration on anyone who works for the college! That could come back to bite you if it gets reported to anyone involved in the decision process. “Colleges always tell [counselors and prospective students] instances of when students kept harassing them or show up at their office. You don’t want to be one of those applicants,” Podbelsek says. 

Podbelsek also warns against being overly emotional on the call. “You don’t want to tell your whole life story/sob story to an admissions clerk,” she says. Because the clerks do have very busy schedules, it’s also best to keep your inquiries focused and clear, so try not to beat around the bush! 

If your call goes to voicemail, leave a message stating your name, what you’re calling about, and how to reach you. If you do not receive a call back in a few business days, then try calling again. If you leave another message and still do not receive a response, try emailing the office instead.  

What Should You Expect During and After? 

Don’t be nervous to make the call! Whoever you talk to will most likely be polite and happy to help you with whatever you are calling about. Remember, colleges have to sell themselves to you too! If you are cold-calling the office, you will probably not have interview-esque questions thrown at you on the spot. The conversation will probably be brief too, or just as long as it takes to get your questions answered. If you do end up getting in touch with someone who is involved in the actual admissions decisions, however, the convo may be longer so be prepared to answer typical interview questions just in case. A few common ones are “Why are you interested in this school?” or “Tell me about yourself,” or “What would you contribute to campus?” 

“If it is the time of year to ask informational questions or talk to admissions about a visit, then just be brief and to the point,” Podbolsek says. If the person begins an actual conversation and seems able to talk to you personally, then go for it! Engage them in a conversation and answer any questions they may ask you.

In all honesty, your call may unfortunately have no impact whatsoever. You should not expect a follow-up, unless the clerk specifically tells you that you should. The best thing to do after calling an admissions office is to write down the information you received so that you don’t forget it, and then just relax! 

As you already know, applying to colleges and waiting to hear back is beyond stressful. So don’t add any more stress or pressure by fretting about calling an admissions office. If you decide that dialing up the admissions office digits is the best (or the only) way to get your questions answered, then keep calm and call on!  

Sammie is a student at the University of Michigan where she is pursuing a BBA. A foodie since birth, she enjoys cooking, eating, smelling, looking at, photographing, reading about, and playing with any and all types of food. Her idolization of culinary delights is complemented by her active spirit- she enjoys running, swimming, barre classes, and even spontaneous bursts of interpretative dance if the mood strikes her. She has completed two triathlons and a half-marathon and plans to tackle more races in the future. She also dreams of traveling the globe, saving the world, and marrying James and/or Dave Franco. 
As the Senior Designer, Kelsey is responsible for the conceptualization and design of solutions that support and strengthen Her Campus on all levels. While managing junior designers, Kelsey manages and oversees the creative needs of Her Campus’s 260+ chapters nationwide and abroad. Passionate about campaign ideation and finding innovative design solutions for brands, Kelsey works closely with the client services team to develop integrated marketing and native advertising campaigns for Her Campus clients such as Macy’s, UGG, Merck, Amtrak, Intel, TRESemmé and more. A 2012 college graduate, Kelsey passionately pursued English Literature, Creative Writing and Studio Art at Skidmore College. Born in and native to Massachusetts, Kelsey supplements creative jewelry design and metal smithing with a passion for fitness and Boston Bruins hockey. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_thornFollow her on Instagram: @kelsey_thorn