Consider When to Contact the Graduate Admissions Office

Don’t regularly reiterate your interest in the program or school.

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Submitting multiple or irrelevant updates to admissions officers can frustrate the people you’re trying to impress.
Submitting multiple or irrelevant updates to admissions officers can frustrate the people you’re trying to impress.

Although some graduate school applicants may be tempted to contact admissions officials on a regular basis to reinforce their strong interest, schools almost always will view that strategy negatively. It is perfectly legitimate, however, to contact the admissions office from time to time for more practical reasons.

[Consider six questions about your admissions office experience.]

Such instances can include the following:

1. You change your mind. You determine before learning of the admissions office's decision that you are no longer interested in attending that institution.

If at any point in the admissions process you decide you are no longer interested in a particular program or institution, let them know immediately. Send a letter to the admissions director, asking that your application be withdrawn. This way, you will help to make a seat available for someone else.

2. There's a new development. You would like to alert officials about an academic award or honor, a promotion at work, or another achievement that you earned after submitting your application.

Should you receive such an award, honor, or promotion, contact the admissions office via E-mail and ask if you can add the new achievement to your application. The answer will most likely be yes, in which case you should ask how best to submit the update or updates.

[Learn how to get more money from your graduate school.]

3. You were promised an update. You've been asked to submit additional information to the admissions office and were told that you would be notified upon receipt—but it's been more than a week since you sent the information, and there is still no word from the admissions office.

It's generally a good sign when admissions officials ask you for additional information, such as another letter of recommendation, clarification of something mentioned in one of your essays, or confirmation of your employment dates. This probably reflects the officials' interest in your candidacy, which is why they are seeking to confirm information that you submitted, or to find additional information.

Don't panic or overreact. Simply provide the requested updates. If 10 days go by and you haven't received confirmation of your updates, call the admissions office and verify that your application has been updated.

[Read about how to fix errors in grad applications.]

4. The deadline has passed. Several days have passed since the notification deadline, and you have not heard anything from the admissions office.

If an institution has not notified you of its decision by the deadline, wait 7 to 10 days before calling the admissions office to inquire about your application status. Before you do so, assemble a list of all of the possible responses you may receive. And make a promise to yourself that you will respond professionally regardless of what you hear.

Some responses from the admissions office may be:

• "We are behind in our evaluations, and it will take several more days or weeks." In this case, you should simply thank the official for the update.

• "We did send or post your notification decision on [date]." If you check and the notification is not there, ask the official to resend or repost the decision.

• "We would like to conduct an interview with you, and were not yet able to contact you." In this instance, let the committee know that you would be delighted to conduct an interview and ask for next steps.

• "We contacted you to ask for additional information, but never received it," or, "Your application was never completed." This will obviously come as a surprise, so it's very important to keep your cool. Do not become argumentative or accusatory.

Instead, let the committee know you are very sorry, and that you thought your application was complete. Find out what information is needed, and ask if you can send it online or via overnight mail within 48 hours. Then check a day or so later to make sure that your package has arrived and that your application is now complete.

Remember: Every time you communicate with the admissions office, you are sending a message about your level of maturity and professionalism, for better or worse.