Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Asking the Right Questions to the Right People

By Zhengrong Lu
Research Assistant, World Education Services

In our previous blog, we discussed 9 factors you should take into account during your school search. Today, let us expand on a related topic to help you navigate and make more knowledgeable decisions during your school search.

Our latest research indicates that more than two-fifths of the respondents (42%) cited that, a university network comprised of admissions officers, faculty, current students and alumni as the most influential in their decision of where to apply. In particular, 44% of master’s students chose the university network as the most crucial to their decision making compared to 33% of bachelor’s students. Therefore, you need to take full advantage of this group of people because they could better answer your questions in terms of their own professions and personal experiences.

Admissions officers 
If you have any questions related to application requirements, admissions officers would be the most ideal resource to direct your concerns to. However, don’t ask questions to which answers already exist on the college/university website such as application deadlines. Also, never ask admissions officers to assess your application like “Here's my GPA, my SAT scores, my list of extracurricular activities. What are my chances of getting in?” The admission decision involves many factors and materials, which cannot be made based on only two or three scores. In addition, remember to follow these email etiquettes when writing your emails to come across as professional.

Admission processes are extremely competitive and for you to improve your chances of being accepted, it may be a good idea to know more about the research or expertise that the faculty are currently involved in and what they look for in prospective students. You could also look into college/university website or their personal websites where most faculty make their bibliography public. You should read their studies to become familiar with their work and ask interesting questions that could impress them through email. Only by preparing can you stand out from the tons of emails that faculty get every day and truly make a difference.

Current Students
How can you really dig deep into a school’s soul and get beyond the retouched photos and inflated statistics that universities typically tend to publish? The secret is talking to current students. Current students are a good resource for you to explore answers about many questions from student life to cost of living. You can read their reviews for the college/university from websites such as Unigo or become friends with them directly through social networks and ask more specific questions about their own personal experiences.

University’s alumni can be some of the best candidates to answer any questions you may have about career prospects after graduation; they can answer specific questions related to a particular field. In such a wired world with many professional social networks, it would be very easy for you to connect with alumni in a few clicks. Just keep it mind that alumni with a similar international background may be more ideal to answer your questions because the job market is usually different between domestic students and international students due to visa status.

To conclude, asking the right questions to the right people would be the most effective rule to help you get what you want. Hope this post gives you some insight on how to become more productive in finding the right answers. Don’t forget to start planning questions early so you can have all the answers in time. Good luck and wish you all the success!
Zhengrong Lu is currently a research assistant intern of Research & Advisory Services team for World Education Services in New York. She joined WES with enthusiasm to explore the field of international higher education and help international students make wise decisions in studying abroad. Zhengrong earned her Master's degree in Applied Statistics from Teachers College, Columbia University and Bachelor's degree from Fudan University in China.

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