Text compiled and adjusted from the UC Berkeley School of Optometry – Professional Etiquette Tips
Academic Professionalism and Etiquette
Professionalism is a trait that many students will need to build upon in their academic careers. When communicating with academic faculty or entities it is important that students present themselves in a manner that is appropriate and respectful. Accordingly, prospective students interested in any health field should always project their best professional self, especially considering how easily people can be found online. Every year, schools in the health professions receive hundreds, if not thousands of applicants. Demonstrating good character as an applicant will not only help students stand out from the competition, but will also enable the admissions committees to have confidence in the offers they send out to future students.
There are various ways that a student can present themselves as a professional applicant throughout the application process. Proper etiquette in all forms of communication will display to the admissions committees the maturity and potential capability of the applicant. The general information below are good tips to remember when professionalism is needed from the student.
- Your online presence needs to be professional too! Search for yourself online and see what comes up. Remove anything that may appear unprofessional or mar your reputation.
- Never badmouth a school or its stakeholders. Every cycle, applicants are rejected because they wrote negative blog posts or remarks about applicants they met on interview day.
- Always be honest. Applicants found to have violated the principles of conduct risk losing the privilege of applying to their chosen schools.
- Act professionally during any interaction with prospective schools. Whether it be through email or over telephone students should always communicate in a professional manner. Admissions committees and other applicants are always watching. Below are a few guidelines that students should pay attention to when communicating with any professional school or entity.
When Communicating with a School
- Always be polite and courteous. Schools take note of their communication with applicants whether that be the secretary, admissions director, or dean in-person or in written communication.
- Know your information before contacting the professional program. Program websites are very thorough with the communication.
- Prepare what you are trying to communicate, whether it is through email, phone call, or in-person.
Professionalism through email
Email is one of the most convenient ways to communicate with any Health-related program or institution. Consider any email that you send out to these entities a serious and professional form of communication, being so it requires a more formal tone. When sending out emails consider the etiquette provided below:
Formatting is one component that many students tend to overlook. As content and grammar are also important when communicating to any academic authority, students should make ensure that the email they are sending out has all parts included:
- Email is sent from an appropriate and professional email address (e.g. email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Include salutation and signature in your email. Messages may sound unfriendly without it.
- Always provide your first and last name, undergraduate institution or organization and (anticipate) year of graduation.
Content of the email should be appropriate and precise. Do not try to overwhelm the individual or institution you are contacting with questions or information. Keep in mind they receive hundreds of emails every year inquiring about their programs. Flooding them with questions may hinder you from getting a complete response. When considering what to include in an email take into account the following tips.
- Cover just one topic in an email message. If you are presenting 2-3 points, use bullets or numbers to make it easier to read.
- Make sure you are not asking questions that are easily answered by reviewing a program’s website.
- Do not automatically reply to the sender’s message. Delete the old thread or cut and paste relevant parts. Avoiding sending entire threads back and forth.
- Be cautious of the language you are using in an email. Humor and sarcasm can be misunderstood in an email because you are not communicating in person.
Grammar and Structure of an email is also one of the most important parts of an email. Misspelled words and bad grammar can be detrimental to your image when contacting academic individuals and institutions. When composing an email remember some of the points below.
- Use standard caps and lower case characters. Do not use all upper case or lower case characters.
- Write messages with correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Pay attention to the tone of the message and make sure your message does not sound curt, demanding, condescending, negative, or hostile. The tone of the message can convey a nonverbal message.
- Avoid using chat-language/text speak such as emoticons, improper short-hand (rite-right), and acronyms (LOL) for professional emails.
- Lastly, proofread your message. Ensure that it is written to the correct program, correct spelling and grammar. (ex. Hawaii Medical School vs. John A Burns School of Medicine)
Examples of good and bad emails:
Good email example:
Dear Berkeley Optometry,
I am interested in applying to your program. After reviewing your website, I would like to meet with an advisor to discuss the application process more in-depth. Do you have the any openings next week?
Bad email example:
Professionalism through phone calls
With email being the primary means of communication, phone calls are not as common . Still, if you feel that you can communicate more effectively over the phone, be sure that you are still communicating professionally and appropriately. Below are helpful tips to facilitate an effective conversation with the academic institutions and individuals.
- If you are inquiring about a program or school, be sure to do your research prior to calling. Most websites are very thorough and you can possibly find the information you are looking for online.
- Prepare your questions ahead of time to be clear and articulate. Also, if you are expecting a lengthy response, plan ahead. For instance, do not call the program the day prior to the application deadline.
- If you have the opportunity, consider making an appointment to talk to program if you feel that you will benefit more from a conversation-like-setting.
- Always introduce yourself. Include your name, institution, and (anticipated) graduation year.
- Be sure that the tone you are speaking with is appropriate. You don’t want to sound demanding or rude when you are on the phone with someone from a professional program.
- In the case you need to leave a message, speak slowly and clearly. Leave your name, institution, brief question, and a call back number. When saying your call back number, repeat the number slowly and clearly.
Other helpful tips
- Apply early to demonstrate that you are well prepared and will probably continue this behavior throughout your time as a professional in health. When caring for your patients or clients, you will be timely in communicating with them
- Do not exaggerate any aspect of your application like volunteer or research hours. Application screeners will calculate your hours and know whether what you listed is reasonable. Multiple applicants have been passed by for this reason.
- If you need to reschedule or cancel an interview, do so as soon as possible so other applicants can schedule theirs.
- Dress appropriately. It is better to be overly dressed than underdressed. You can also ask the schools what they recommend to wear for interviews.
- Arrive early. This is another way to show that you are well prepared and will possibly be consistent in this behavior when meeting with and performing procedures and surgeries on your patients or clients.
- Make sure that what you discuss in the interview is consistent with what is shared in your application. Admissions committees compare interviewers’ notes with what is listed in applications.
- Send thank you notes or letters to everyone you interviewed with regardless of whether you were accepted. You never know what will happen and with whom you will be working with in the future!