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Time to hone your communication skills
Roshna Mohan

Roshna Mohan is a Content Writer at Hotcourses India - an IDP company. A post-graduate in Biotechnology, she chose content writing as her career out of sheer interest. Reading and cooking are her stress-busters. Talk about these to take the introvert out of the ambivert. Her all-time favourite authors are Paulo Coelho, Yuval Noah Harari and Robin Cook.

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11 Jul 2020 Book icon 4 mins Share

Time to hone your communication skills

Good communication skills are necessary to effectively provide information and to comprehend the information that you receive. Here are some tips to enhance your communication skills.

11 Jul 2020 Book icon 4 mins Share
Time to hone your communication skills

Not all of us are good communicators. Communication is however a key skill and with the advent of coronavirus, it’s more needed than ever. You have to sharpen your communication skills, as providing and requesting accurate information is key to keeping your academic ambitions on track. Internet slang is not going to help you with that unfortunately, and it won’t make you popular with your prospective university. If you are not careful, you will have no control over the way in which the recipient will interpret your words. We have come up with some tips to help you get a better understanding of how to communicate effectively with your university. Let’s kick off with what’s known as netiquette.

What is netiquette?

Simply put, netiquette is the etiquette to be followed on the internet and for electronic communication. You will have to abide by a set of conventions and practices. There are no written rules, but rather you just have to ensure that you follow the same code of conduct you would use if you were talking to the person face-to-face. Be polite, introduce yourself, give context, keep your questions short and clear and respect the recipient’s time and bandwidth. Remember that you are communicating with a human.

‘Hey, when does the semester start?’, is really not the kind of email that you should write, if you want an update from a university. Non-verbal cues are absent while we communicate over the internet. Your choice of words, the way you address the recipient, the punctuations and capitalisations take the place of these cues in a formal set up.  So, what should you bear in mind while you write to a university?

Be clear and concise

Time and attention span for reading emails is very limited. There are some key ways that you can write and structure your communication for maximum effect:

  • Keep to the point and make the communication short
  • Use clear and simple terms to express what you want
  • Add an introduction, but not an elaborate one
  • Keep questions clear and succinct
  • Avoid repeating yourself and redundant details
  • Include attachments only if necessary or requested
  • Don’t add your CV, certificates, qualifications unless explicitly requested

More importantly, do your research before you get in touch with an institution. This will help you narrow down the key objective of drafting the email. For example, if you had questions about the entry requirements, acceptable English language proficiency tests and exam dates, it is possible that one or two of the answers are already available on the university website. That means you only need to write an email about the remaining topic. You can also use the opportunity to show that you have taken the initiative to read up and find a solution. This will help build a good impression. If you have multiple questions, using bullet points or numbering is a good idea. The recipient will be able to understand your questions clearly. If you are the one responding to the email, you have to ensure that you address all the points, while being clear and concise.

Develop the right tone

Does written communication have a tone? Yes it does! It is amplified by punctuation marks, word choices and capitalisation. Writing in all caps is considered shouting. Using too many exclamation marks might show over-enthusiasm and emoticons denote over-familiarity. It can be considered as being flippant. You should not be too abrupt or too flowery. Avoid punctuation overkill. A polite, professional and positive tone will help your reader build a positive image of you. It is a different matter if you have actually built a rapport with your recipient, in which case, the rules can be bent a little. Reading your email out loud will help you check if it sounds polite.

Provide the necessary and correct information

As much as it is necessary to avoid over-communication, it is essential that you provide all the necessary and correct information. Adding relevant info will help the recipient address your query quickly. The university might be receiving hundreds of emails per day. You can get a quicker response if they have all the necessary information from your end to analyse your query or concern. For example, if you are enquiring about your application, noting your application number in your email will help. You should add the course code or your test score if your enquiry is related to it. If you have included any attachments, mention that in the email so that they know to look. Don’t leave things for the recipient to guess. Ensure that your factual claims or statements have credible sources.

Choose the right channel for communication and direct it to the right person

The university might have multiple channels through which students can communicate with them. Most universities will have a dedicated phone number or email address to which the queries should be addressed. Look out for this detail on their website. Address them with their name in your email or message rather than simply saying ‘Hi’. If you have an urgent query to sort out, you should just pick up the phone and make a call. If it is not time-bound, email is the best approach.

If the university has forums and they are active, it might be the best place to get people’s opinion. Mostly, forums and social media are managed by student representatives or staff.

Remember that your social media interactions might be taken as an indication of your suitability as a student of the university. Hence you have to make sure that your profile and interactions match the image you want to portray.

Let’s summarise the do’s and don’ts

Don'ts

  • Do not spam – Do not send multiple messages or emails if you don’t receive any prompt response. This will only reduce your chances of receiving a response, let alone a proper one.
  • Do not use internet slang and abbreviations. Your communication with your friends and family cannot be compared to your communications with a prospective university.
  • Do not send out emails without proofreading – There should not be factual, grammatical, or spelling errors.
  • Do not share the responses you receive on a public platform or share it with others.

Do’s

  • Contact the university only if necessary and send it to the right person
  • Keep your emotions out of your emails. You might be feeling frustrated and impatient. But an email to the university is not the right place to showcase it. Arrogance and anger – no,no!
  • Respect people’s privacy, time and bandwidth.
  • Check your tone.

How to make sure you follow the do’s and don’ts? Simple. Just imagine yourself in the shoes of the recipient. Pause and reflect whether you would like to be the recipient of the email that you are about to send.

Before we end this topic, keep in mind that to err is human. It is possible that some errors creep up in your communication. We all can be understanding and forgiving, both to others as well as to ourselves and move forward. Keep the do’s and don’ts in mind and you should be all set to communicate with your prospective university. You can also reach out to our counsellors or make use of the updated information available on our site to find your answers.

A version of this article originally appeared on Hotcourses Abroad.

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