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Making the Right Impression: Professional Communication in the txt msg wrld

by JoeFantozzi
03/13/15 Bookmark

Joseph Fantozzi Jr. has been a member of the admission counseling team at the City University of New York (CUNY) since 2009. Recently, he has taken on a management role as recruitment coordinator. In this role, he coordinates outreach activities for high school and transfer students throughout the New York Metropolitan area while fostering relationships between college counselors/transfer advisors and the University.  Additionally, he oversees all virtual recruitment efforts and social media activities. Joseph has also been an adjunct faculty member at the City College of New York since 2008. He is an active member of National Associate for College Admission Counseling, the New York State Association for College Admission Counseling and the College Board. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in music from The Boston Conservatory.


(Disclaimer: This entry will not be 160 characters or less)  

Every minute, technology is evolving around us; new gadgets to make our lives better, easier, faster and more efficient. In education, technology has changed the way we do business on just about every level, from the classroom to the way in which your students interact with an admissions office. However, sometimes the lines start to get blurred and tech slang sneaks its way into emails to colleges, messages left on social media for us or even phone calls. It is very important for students to learn the basics. The art of making a first impression and the ability to properly present oneself on paper and in person is something that is very relevant. I believe that the college search process can often serve as the perfect opportunity to help students make that jump into professionalism and start forming good habits they will need in college and beyond, not to mention the impression they will leave on the admissions team at their dream school. 

What do we expect?  What are admissions offices seeing on the college side?

Calling an admissions office can be a nerve wracking experience for a high school student, especially since that is probably the least used feature on their cell phone. Whether a student realizes it or not, that initial 1-2 minute interaction is basically a mini interview. If they are going to call, have them practice first! Prepare a script that has the basics to give them confidence. Simple reminders such as identifying themselves seem silly but can be quite useful in the moment. I think a good phone call can go a long way and is the perfect opportunity to make that lasting impression, especially at a college that does not offer interviews.

5 Simple tips for your students to execute a phone call:

  1. Always clearly identify yourself with confidence – it sets the tone for the conversation.
  2. Have your information ready. Write down those questions beforehand.
  3. Remember to drive the conversation from your point of view. Starting sentences with "my 2nd cousin told me..." makes you seem uninformed.
  4. Call from a quiet environment.  A chaotic background will not be ideal and will likely give you unnecessary stress.  
  5. Always thank the admissions professional that helped you. This will nicely wrap up your conversation so that it comes to a natural conclusion.


The phone is not for everyone and quite often, an email can be the perfect substitute. Too often we come across emails from students that resemble a text message they would shoot to a friend on a Friday night. An email is the perfect place to start a conversation with an admissions counselor because it can be perfectly crafted. 

4 Simple tips for your students to write an effective email:

  1. Create a professional email account. One that usually is some variation of your name and not your favorite afterschool activity. Remember, your email address will be the first thing we see, even before your actual email.
  2. Proper identification. A simple task that gets overlooked so often. Have a common name? Throw in your birthday or high school name to make life easier for the person receiving your email.
  1. Proofread! Spelling, grammar, organization. It all counts. You put all of that effort into your essay. An email to us is yet another point of direct contact you have to make an impression.  
  2. Set a realistic expectation for a response from us before following up. In the age of immediate gratification, often times 24-48 hours seems like an eternity for a response to your question. But, I assure you, that email is certainly important to all of us.


With all of this great technology available to connect with a college, nothing will ever replace the good old fashioned campus visit. When your student finally makes that visit to campus and winds up in the admissions office, how do they really make it count?  

4 Ways to make a great in-person impression:

  1. Dress well. This does not necessarily mean a suit and tie, unless you want it to mean that. However, appearance can make an impression, so what do you want to say about yourself?
  2. Have your questions prepared in advance, and always have some!  These questions should be informed questions and not necessarily something you could have easily looked up with a quick Google search.  
  3. Be able to speak about your area of interest. Nothing impresses me more than a student who has a passion for a certain subject area and also happens to know a thing or two about it. Interested in art? Great, who is your favorite artist or time period? Do you have a favorite museum or exhibit that you have visited?
  4. Unclear about what direction you want to head in? You are certainly not alone. However, be able to muster up a few things that you like. Do you have a favorite subject area or activity?

Putting your Energy in the Right Place

These tips may seem quite basic and painfully obvious to us on the professional side of the desk, but so often these basic skills are lacking in students looking to make that next step. With the college admissions process being as daunting as ever, students are looking for ways to make themselves standout. Quite often energy is focused on squeezing in that one additional extracurricular activity to round out their resume. These experiences are of course invaluable, but too often the basics of professional communication are being ignored.  

What has been some advice that you give to your students to help them standout in the admissions process? 


  • JoeFantozzi

    Hi RHI College Readiness, thanks for your comment. I definitely agree that students should always keep track of who they are speaking with. It will be beneficial to the student (and college) to establish a relationship with an admissions professional.

  • RHI College Readiness
    RHI College Readiness

    One other suggestion to file under "tips for students to execute a phone call": be sure to get the name of the representative you speak with. This not only sets a conversational tone and personalizes communication with the school, it also establishes a record of who the student has spoken with (and a reference point in case your student receives contradictory information).

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