Hey is for Horses

"Hey, this is Anna, leave me a message." BEEEEEEEP.

That might be a perfectly fine voicemail greeting for your friends and family to hear, but it's not appropriate in a formal, professional context. Now that admissions season is in full swing, it's a good time to check your voicemail greeting -- you probably haven't listened to it in a while -- and make sure it is appropriate for schools to hear if they contact you by phone. And this time of year, admissions officers do pick up the phone if they have questions or -- even better -- happy news to share.

All of your interactions with schools, whether on the phone or otherwise, should be formal and professional. (That will also be true when you're sending out resumes and interviewing for jobs.) From the moment of your first contact with a school, you are being evaluated on your professionalism. Schools -- especially graduate schools -- want to know that they are admitting people who walk and talk and quack like grown-ups, and who will behave professionally as students, on the job market, and as alumni.

Here are a couple of other reminders:

  • "Hey" is not a professional greeting, whether on the phone or in an email or in person, and will probably make a poor impression in a professional context. "Hi" and "Hello" are both fine.
  • Don't pick up the phone if you're in a noisy environment. At a game? In a restaurant? Playing Wii? Watching TV at a friend's house? If you're not sure who's calling, let it go to voicemail. Admissions officers don't necessarily expect to get ahold of you whenever they happen to call, so let them leave a message if the time or place isn't right for a professional conversation, and call them back when you're in a quiet place.
  • The number you list on your application is the number that admissions officers will use if they want to reach you by phone. If, during application season, you anticipate having only intermittent access to that phone for whatever reason, update your voicemail greeting so that admissions officers konw when they can expect to hear back from you. Alternatively, your voicemail greeting can direct them to another number where you'll be more easily reachable for that period of time.
  • Never call an admissions officer (or a professor) by his or her first name unless expressly invited to do so.
  • As the University of Michigan Law School recently reminded everybody (here and here), schools do care how you behave on the phone, and guess what, they have caller ID. If you decide to call a school, always be professional and polite. Even if you don't give your name, it's not that hard for them to figure out who you are.

Some of you are already fielding phone calls from schools, including offers of admission. Questions? Comments? Any other advice to share? Please post!


Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. Read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions, recently updated and available as an e-book. Follow Anna on Twitter (@annaivey).