As we embark on the season of overseas school applications, I’d like to spend a few moments to remind you how important etiquette is throughout the whole process. When it comes to applications, many of us will focus immediately on fulfilling the actual requirements for the application; rarely do we take a step back and think about our interactions with the admissions officers and schools throughout this whole process. With so many strong candidates competing for those coveted spots, aside from a well-rounded personal resume, students could use an extra ingredient to push their application to an acceptance status: application etiquette.
Interaction with school representatives isn’t limited to face-to-face, even if there’s a chance you may meet some of these admissions officers during school visits — either when you physically visit their campus or when they join school fairs in China or visit your school. It’s increasingly common to be in contact via online inquiries or virtual tours as well. As you communicate with admissions officers throughout the application process — in person, over email, over the phone — don’t underestimate how powerful the use of proper etiquette during each step of this process can be in helping you leave great impressions with the right people. Increasingly so, employers and companies are seeking business leaders and employees to possess good manners; similarly many educators will be able to quickly identify individuals who have the confidence and leadership skills associated with proper etiquette.
Here are some ways how etiquette can help you stand-out from other applicants:
- Whether you’re communicating online or in-person, being able to handle introductions with composure will help ease the tone during the initial contact. Start by addressing the school’s representatives with their proper titles and name if you know them. As you communicate, the ability to engage others with thoughtful two-way dialogue that takes into account what they think and how they react to you as you express your accomplishments, goals and potential contribution to their school and community is quite compelling to many. In all communication, err on the side of formal. Use “please” if you have a request. Avoid language you would use in informal communication such as texts.
- When you have the opportunity to meet a school representative, be sufficiently prepared by doing research on the school. Leave a good impression by asking smart questions that show you have put some thought to it. Avoid questions where the answers can easily be found on the school’s website; you’ll look like you haven’t even bothered when the answer is right there on the school’s homepage. When a school representative finds out you haven’t done your research, no matter how hard you try to convince them of your interest in the school, it will simply reflect poorly on you.
- Thank the school’s representative after each communication, regardless of its importance or whether it’s in person or online. They’re busy people and if they go out of their way to help you or answer a question, even if they reply with a simple “yes” or “no,” thank them for their time.
- After submitting an application, if you have met the admissions officers for your region, follow up with an email to notify him or her you have made a submission. It is one more opportunity to build rapport with the school’s representatives. Hitting the send button online doesn’t mean the application process is over and all you can do is wait for the school’s decision. Until you receive their notification in Spring, you can still play an active role in the application process — stay in touch with the admissions officers. Not only can you continue to ask questions to collect more information that will help you make your decision come time to commit to one school, but you can continue to show your interest in the school. However, with this said, avoid too much communication or any that will come across as demanding or a means to simply provide supplemental information to your submission.
- In Spring, regardless of an acceptance, waitlist or reject decision, thank the school’s representative that you’ve been in contact with. If you’ve been accepted, thank them for the acceptance. If you’ve been rejected, thank them anyway. If you’ve been waitlisted, turn the situation into the positive, thank the admissions officer and plan how you can show your value to them. They’re unlikely to tell you the reason you’re waitlisted, but if you have an idea of where you can improve, devise a plan of action to show how you can improve and follow up with an email a few weeks or months after the decision.
The application process isn’t just about your test scores, grades and list of accomplishments. Good manners in your correspondences with the schools you’re interested it can go a long way to helping you shine. While application etiquette isn’t a guarantee of your acceptance, it can make the difference in whether your application goes in the admit or reject bin.
Alicia Lui is a co-founder at Prep Beijing!, a coaching company focusing on core soft skills such as effective communication, social and emotional skills, etiquette, critical thinking and leadership skills. Prior to founding Prep Beijing! She has worked in management consulting and in banking. She holds and MBA from INSEAD and Bachelor’s from University of Chicago