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Making Email Contact with a University

Making email contact with a university-magoosh

If you are considering going to an English speaking university, you’ve probably been practicing your academic writing. Academic writing, the kind of writing you need to do on the TOEFL and other entrance exams, is formal and complex. But for many university applicants, academic writing is not the only writing they need to do.

During the university application process, email writing skills can be as important as academic writing skills. Often, choosing the right university and getting accepted requires the student to email university administrators and teachers.

Emails are generally less formal than academic writing. Sometimes they can be much less formal, with sentence structure and vocabulary this is more like spoken English than written English. This can even be true when you are emailing university staff and professors.

Be careful though. If you are making the first contact, emailing the university before the email you, it’s best not to be too informal. You don’t want to seem disrespectful. It’s also important to seem serious about getting accepted.

If you are starting an email conversation with a university, use the formal features of letter writing, not academic writing. Have a formal greeting. Use complete sentences, but don’t make them as long and complex as academic sentences. Group your sentences into clearly organized paragraphs. At the end of the email, use a formal sign-off word or phrase such as “cordially” or “sincerely.”

To help you understand what to do and what not to do when you make email contact with a university, here are three different versions of the same email. The emails are written to a director of admissions for an American university.

Email Version 1 (too informal):


    Practice for your TOEFL exam with Magoosh.

    Just writing to see what your TOEFL requirements are. Couldn’t find the info on your website.


Comments: This email doesn’t even use the names of the recipient or the sender. In the context of an email to a university, this seems not only informal, but a little rude. Using the first names of the recipient and sender would be a little better. However, it’s best to use the title and last name of the recipient and the full name of the sender. The use of slang/conversational words “hey” and “thanx” is also far too informal. Finally, the sentences are fragments. They should be complete sentences with a subject and predicate.

Email Version 2 (too formal)

    Dear Ms. Johnson,

    I hope this day finds you well.

    I am writing because I have concerns about the acceptability of my TOEFL score. I have a 25 in Reading, a 24 in Writing, a 20 in Listening, and a 21 in Speaking. I am certainly cautiously optimistic that my scores will be acceptable to the admissions committee at the time that they are making their decisions. However, after navigating the admissions website extensively and carefully analyzing the available information, I feel there is still more I need to know.

    While your departmental website offers copious amounts of helpful information, I was unable to locate TOEFL specifications that would indicate whether or not I should retake the exam. It seems possible that you may have no absolute score requirement, and that my TOEFL score will merely be part of holistic assessment of my eligibility. However, it also seems equally plausible that there is a TOEFL requirement, but that your office has not made the requirement available publicly. Conversely, perhaps you have published the scores, but I was simply unable to successfully locate them on your website.

    Regardless, it is very important to me to know your exact policy regarding TOEFL and TOEFL scores. Any information you could give me that sheds light on this important issue would be greatly appreciated.

    Yours sincerely,

    Seung Oh Choi

Comments: If you didn’t read all the way through this email, don’t feel bad. A university administrator probably wouldn’t have the time or patience to read through the whole email either! University officials and teachers are busy people, so the flowery, wordy language of regular academic writing is not appropriate when emailing them.

Email Version 3 (just right)

    Dear Ms. Johnson,

    I am writing to ask about the admissions office’s TOEFL score requirements. I looked on the admissions website and couldn’t find them. Could you please let me know what the score requirements are? If the requirements are somewhere on your website, a link would be much appreciated too. Thanks in advance for any help you can give.


    Seung Oh Choi

Comments: This email is perfect. It uses the last name of the recipient with a formal title (Ms.). It also uses the full name of the sender of the email. That way, Ms. Johnson can know exactly which applicant she is speaking to. The body of the email itself gives Ms. Johnson the information she needs help the applicant. It also contains some polite and thankful language, without becoming too wordy or running too long.

In the second email above, the tone of the email would be acceptable in academic writing. But the third email, with its less formal tone, demonstrates a better writing style for university contact. As you practice your academic writing for the TOEFL, be ready to switch styles if you need to email any of the universities you’re applying to.

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23 Responses to Making Email Contact with a University

  1. Khuong Ho July 6, 2017 at 9:28 am #

    Thank you so much

  2. Nia February 15, 2018 at 8:07 am #

    Thank you so much, David. This post is very helpful 🙂

    • David Recine
      David Recine February 15, 2018 at 12:31 pm #

      Thank you for your kind words, Nia. 🙂

  3. sarthak tiwari March 13, 2018 at 9:16 am #

    what if i do not know the name of

    • David Recine
      David Recine March 13, 2018 at 10:26 am #

      That’s a good point, Sarthak. Sometimes you won’t know the name of the person who will read the email. The email address itself might just be something like “” In that case, your opening greeting can be nonspecific. You have a variety of options for no-name email greetings, such as “Dear Sir or Madam,” “Dear University Admissions,” “To Whom it may Concern,” and so on. Hope this helps, Sarthak, but let me know if you have any other questions. 🙂

      • Tariq May 16, 2018 at 2:52 pm #

        Yeah that’s exactly what I needed to know, thanks a lot

      • Okenwa February 14, 2021 at 1:40 pm #

        Thank you so much David

  4. Andres Torres December 1, 2018 at 9:12 am #

    How would you start the email if you don’t know the name of the person? I’m want to contact the financial aid department and don’t know the specific name of the person who will receive the email.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 3, 2018 at 7:12 pm #

      Hi Andres!

      This is a great question. Sometimes you won’t know the name of the person who will read the email. In that case, your opening greeting can be nonspecific. You have a variety of options for no-name email greetings, such as “Dear Sir or Madam,” “To Whom it may Concern,” and so on. 🙂

  5. Julia January 9, 2019 at 8:48 am #

    Hello. Thank you for this article!
    How do I go about having multiple questions to ask? I would start a new paragraph for each question but what I am struggling with is how to formulate this. After an introductory sentence like “I am writing to ask about [general topic].” would “First,… Secondly,…” be appropriate or are there better options?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 25, 2019 at 7:58 am #

      Hi Julia,

      I would recommend having a short introduction and then ask each question in a separate paragraph. I wouldn’t worry too much about formatting beyond making sure that your spelling, punctuation and grammar is correct. Keep in mind that the admissions counselors are very busy, so often a polite, succinct and direct approach will yield the best results!

  6. ranim January 30, 2019 at 7:15 am #

    ??What about the subject

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 1, 2019 at 8:43 am #

      Hi Ranim,

      A straightforward and polite subject is usually best. Something like “Inquiry about TOEFL scores” or “Question from prospective student about admissions requirements.” Make sure that your subject line provides some information about who you are and what you are asking!

  7. Felicia Edet March 11, 2019 at 2:26 pm #

    Thank you so much for your insight David! I have a question, I’m emailing my SAT scores to a university, what would be appropriate for the subject line? Thank you in advance!

    • David Recine
      David Recine March 12, 2019 at 12:57 pm #

      Great question, Felicia! Your subject line will depend on why you’re emailing our SAT scores to the university. Usually when someone is emailing test scores to the university, you’re doing it because you got a request for your scores from a specific office or faculty member. In that case, it’s good to email to the attention of the department or person who asked for your scores. You’ll also want to mention your name in the subject line. Good subjects for such an email might look like:

      “ATTN: Bard College Admissions Office (SAT scores, Felicia Edet)”


      “ATTN: Ms. Cyndi Smith (SAT scores, Felicia Edet)”

      If you aren’t emailing in response to a request for the scores, it can still be good to mention your name, with a simpler subject such as “SAT scores (attached), Felica Edet)” Schools receive emailed scores form many students, so adding in your name helps make it clear which student you are. This in turn makes it easier for the school to find your SAT scores among all the other ones they receive.

  8. avinash June 5, 2019 at 11:07 pm #

    can u send me an another sample of mail regarding “writing mail to university director regarding lack of gym in college “….thank u in advance.

    • David Recine
      David Recine June 10, 2019 at 6:35 am #

      That’s a really specific situation, Avanish. And it sounds like a situation you might know better than I do. So I’ll tell you what. If you reply to this comment with your own draft of an email about a lack of a gym at a college, I’ll be more than happy to give you feedback on how to improve the email. 🙂

  9. Tahsina July 1, 2019 at 9:26 am #

    Would you please proofread my email? Thanks in advance.


    Subject: Inquiry about the last test dates of TOEFL for Early Decision Application.

    Dear University Admissions,

    I am writing to know about the last test dates of TOEFL which will be accepted for Early Decision Application in your university by November 1, 2019. I looked on the admission website but I couldn’t find it there. There were other last test dates (SAT and SAT subject tests) but no specific last test dates of TOEFL for Early Decision Application. If the last test dates of TOEFL for Early decision is somewhere on your website, a link would be highly appreciated. Thanks in advance for any help you can give.



    • David Recine
      David Recine July 7, 2019 at 12:32 pm #

      Hi Tahsina,

      Normally Magoosh doesn’t take requests for writing feedback, since we’re a pretty small team, and we couldn’t take every student request. In your case though, I’ll make an exception, because proofreading this letter is easy– it’s already properly formed throughout. Nice work!

  10. Sadi Muhammad April 2, 2020 at 8:13 pm #

    I wanted to know how to mail an organization for own information of interest, n here in this article, I found 3 ways. Such a helpful article. Thank u so much.

  11. Jane Adhiambo July 16, 2020 at 11:16 pm #

    Thank you so much David, that was really helpful!🙂

  12. Furba Sherpa January 6, 2021 at 4:12 am #

    Actually i even dont know how to get the university e-mail to contact them,
    can u plz tell me how to find e-mail of a university to contact.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 8, 2021 at 1:35 pm #

      Hi Furba,

      You’ll want to go to the website of the university you are applying to, find the specific college or program, and look in those pages for contact information. You may also be able to google something like “college name + admissions contact” to find the right address. Good luck!

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