So, you did everything that you were required to do in order to make it out of high school. You made amazing grades, developed lasting relationships with your teachers, and KILLED the SAT. You were even known as the “cool guy/girl” in school. Now, it’s the summer and you’re ready for the #CollegeLife; however, you have so many questions and no idea where to get the answers! To make things worse, your parents are posting every picture that they can find of you on Facebook.
Colleges have tons of different offices, and sometimes they will send you a long to-do list with lots of small steps to get done before you officially can enjoy life on campus. Some colleges are organized about these items, putting them in a “to-do” section on the student portal they’ve provided you once you’ve been accepted. Others will send you letters in the mail, infrequent emails, or simply post next steps on their website without notifying you at all. It is your responsibility to figure out what they next steps are to make sure that you’re all set for the first day of class in the fall. That being said, don’t panic! You’ll be surprised at how many people have the exact same questions that you have, and you aren’t alone.
So where do you go first to figure out what to do? You might have what feels like a million questions about what to do now that you’re accepted and turned in your financial aid paperwork, but the best place to start is usually on the school’s website. Look for a section of information for “admitted student,” AKA, you! Or look for Frequently Asked Questions. On these pages, you can usually find the most updated information about items such as housing, enrollment deposits (to secure your spot at the school), financial aid, and also contact information for who you can reach out to if you have more questions.
Most colleges will also provide you with log-in information to access a student portal. The student portal is personalized to help guide you through exactly what you need to know. However, these portals can be tricky to navigate if you’ve never seen one before. Here’s a step by step guide of how to use the portal.
- First, look for a username and password from the college that was sent to you in an email or in a letter from the school. There should also be a link to the website in this email which you can click to log-in. Bookmark this website so that you can find it easily later to log on!
- Every college portal is different, but the main features are a financial aid section, a “to-dos” section, and a form you can click to submit your enrollment deposit and information to the school.
- If you aren’t finding the relevant information on the student portal, this is an instance in which you would contact the college staff directly. Read
Your Communication Options
Staying in communication with your college over the summer can seem like a daunting task. However, it’s best not to overthink it. Try to keep it simple! Over the summer, there will be times when your college or university will send you emails (or letters in the mail) requesting that you complete a list of tasks. These task can range from having to select your housing arrangement, picking your classes, signing up for a meal plan or registering for your orientation. (So, if your mailing address changes any time before you move to campus, notify your school of this change within your student portal or with a quick email or phone call to your school.)
It is very important that you respond to emails or letter promptly, as missing deadlines or prolonging certain process can cause you to miss out on certain classes and the best housing. The best way to stay on top of everything is to make a list of what’s being requested of you along with any deadlines.
If you have a question and you cannot seem to find the answer on your college’s website, never hesitate to pick up the phone to call someone at your school. Not exactly sure who you should reach out to call the main office or someone within your department. They will point you in the right direction.
Effective communication is one of the most important components of the college process. Colleges are constantly bombarding students with information about upcoming deadlines, important to-dos, and incredible opportunities. Many of these things require a response from you as a student. The way you communicate, whether it’s over email, on the phone, or in person, is central to how people develop an impression of you over time. And, given that you’re in college to help build a better life and future career, you want to make sure you’re making a good impression at all times, especially with college faculty and staff.
Example Emails / Phone Calls
Now that you’ve got some tips on how to effectively communicate with your college, you’re ready to go. Whether you have questions for admissions, financial aid, housing, or Disability Services, it is now up to you to advocate for yourself (but always remember that your college adviser is there to support you 🙂 ). That first phone call or email to a college administrator can be a little intimidating, so here are some sample templates to get you started:
Email Intro: Make sure you state your full name and student numbers, along with a general inquiry about what you need.
To Whom It May Concern,
My name is (insert your full legal name) and I am an incoming first-year student at (insert your school). My student ID number is XXXXXXXXX. I am reaching out in hopes of getting more information regarding (insert general inquiry here. Ex: my financial aid package, my housing assignment, my accommodations through Disability Services, my final high school transcript, etc.).
Email Body: After introducing yourself, you should go into more detail regarding what exactly you need, or what answers you are looking for. Here are a few examples of body paragraphs:
- I still have not received my financial aid award letter. Are there any financial aid documents or information I am missing? If so, what information do I need to submit, and how do I go about submitting the necessary documents? If I have all required financial aid documents submitted, when should I expect to receive my financial aid award letter?
- I received testing accommodations during high school. What process do I need to go through to receive accommodations as a student at (insert college name)? What type of documentation is required?
- I have received my housing assignment and have some questions about the residence hall I am in. What type of furniture will be in my room? Am I permitted to bring my own mini-fridge, or is there a campus service that provides rentals?
Email Conclusion: Be sure to thank the recipient for their time. It is also a good idea to ask them to refer you to another person if they are not the correct person to answer your question. There are often changes in positions and roles over the summer, so this will hopefully get your question to the right person.
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my question. If there is someone else I should be speaking with about this concern, please let me know and I will reach out to them. If you would prefer to call me, please feel free to do so at XXX-XXX-XXXX. Thank you again, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Insert Full Legal Name Here
Remember, you need to check your email regularly to ensure you don’t miss important messages or replies to your questions! More than likely, the answers to most questions you might have are online or have already been emailed to you, but if you have a specific questions, don’t hesitate to reach out via email. If you send an email and don’t get a reply within a few days or weeks, you should send a follow up email to confirm that your email was received. If you still don’t get a reply, you might want to email another person in the office or give the individual a call. Always remember to be patient and gracious – colleges are busy over the summer preparing for your arrival, so they might take a few days to get back to you!
There may be some cases where you aren’t getting a response via email or need an answer quickly, calling by phone is sometimes your best bet. Administrators are often out and about during the day, so you might need to leave a message. Be sure to speak slowly and clearly so they can write down your name, phone number and email address if needed. Here is a script for leaving a message via phone:
“Hello, My name is (insert your full legal name) and I am an incoming first-year student at (insert your school). My student ID number is XXXXXXXXX. I am reaching out in hopes of getting more information regarding (insert general inquiry here – for example: my financial aid package. I have still not received my financial aid award letter and was wondering what else I need to submit in order to get my financial aid). If there is someone who is able to answer my question and could return my call, I would greatly appreciate it. My phone number is XXX-XXX-XXXX. If you would prefer to email me, my email address is (insert email here).Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.