How to Mind your Manners while Applying to College

Lisa Endlich Heffernan of the excellent blog Grown and Flown has some great advice for students -- and parents -- about best behavior and student etiquette so the college application process carries you where you want to go. 


The college process is a long campaign -- it can be exhausting, distracting and anxiety-producing. So good manners should have a place of prominence.  But it is all too easy for an overwrought, otherwise distracted teen to forget what they have been taught.   As a parent I was often distracted by the details of the process, too, and failed in my job of reminding my sons to mind their manners along the way.  So here are a few reminders, I wish I had had.


1.  Teachers need to be asked for recommendations the old fashioned way.  Writing recommendations is a time consuming process and yet a good recommendation is key to a good application.  If possible, students need to ask their teachers/counselors/coaches for recommendations in person, showing that they are willing to make the effort and that their gratitude is genuine.  Email is okay for a follow up thank you and to convey more information, but a handwritten note goes a long way.


2. When college admissions staff visit a high school, they are meeting a lot of new faces for the first time. The students they may remember most are the ones who quietly come up afterward and thank them for their time and the presentation.


3.  Guidance counselors have a tough job. They are knee deep in paperwork and have demanding parents and disorganized students as well as teachers and the colleges to cope with.  A little bit of gratitude goes a long way. Many are used to the stinging complaints of unsatisfied parents, but the spoken and emailed thanks from their students is why they keep at this tough task.


4. In this tense period between applying and receiving their notification letters, students may take the opportunity to update colleges of any new activities or accomplishments that have come after applications were submitted.  These emails, while brief, can suggest much about a student, his manners and attitude.  It is a moment to once again show colleges a bit of (well-mannered) personality.


5.  Some colleges offer on-campus interviews, others have alumni interview candidates locally. Either way it is all too easy for a student to walk out of an interview and forget that simply saying, “Thanks for your time” is not enough.  Interviews should be followed up with an email thank you note at the very least and a handwritten thank you, if possible.


6.  Teens are often a bundle of nerves going into college interviews.  Fearing trick questions or an unsympathetic adult, they can all too easily forget their manners.  Interviews might be held at a local coffee shop, the college admission office or even the interviewer's home. A little reminder by parents as they head out the door about best behavior will not go amiss.


7. Once students know where they are going and have accepted one of their offers of admission, it's time for another round of email or handwritten thank you's.  This is the moment when they learn that good manners are not about getting something from somebody, but rather about being gracious and leaving a lasting and positive impression.


For more from Lisa on manners, check out Ten Reasons Millennials Need Good Manners. The photo is a note she made one of her sons write. The mom who received it  saved the note for two years as an example to her own kids!  


Lisa Endlich Heffernan is one of the voices behind Grown and Flown: Parenting from the Empty Nest. She has an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management and worked as a Wall Street trader before becoming an author of three books including New York Times Business Bestseller, "Goldman Sachs: The Culture of Success." 




So true, so true. And please do not begin those thank you notes with "Hey."
Yes, people like to be thanked for their time and attention. One year I suggested to a leader in the senior class that it might be nice to have a little thank you party for the teachers who wrote the rec letters. No class had ever done it before and it was much appreciated. And yes, the teachers like to hear when the acceptance letters come in. Good tips here, Lisa!

A thank you party for the teachers who write rec letters... What a terrific idea! I hope this catches on.  Christine VanDeVelde

Don't forget to look people in the eye! This generation is notorious for having conversations with people while having their eyes on a screen. Most people see lack of eye contact as one of two things (or both)--disinterest or dishonesty.

Yet another great piece of advice! And one of those truths that young people can never hear often enough. Thank you!  Christine VanDeVelde

Add comment