Professional Email Address
Remember you want to communicate a professional air to these people from the first moment you contact them. You should have an email name and address that reflects this.
First, I would recommend using a gmail, hotmail or yahoo email addresses because those are the most common ones used in the US. I think most of you have a gmail address right now so that's a good start.
Second, I would use a username that is a bit more professional. Let's look at a couple to compare:
As you know my Chinese name is 安睿和, pinyin An Rui He. A good example of a professional email address would be:
These are not good ones in my opinion:
Notice the difference? The first set resemble a "professional" student, while last few look like an anonymous, personal email address.
Writing the Email - Subject Line
Remember that people in admissions offices get at least HUNDREDS of emails a day and I'm sure it's not very exciting. You can increase your chances of your email being read quicker by being very clear in your email subject line. Be professional. Use capital letters and good grammar.
Chinese student with question about GPA requirements
Prospective international student with question about XX
Prospective international student following up about application status
Question about XX
International student admission criteria question
As you can see there are a number of ways to phrase it but be sure to generalize what you are going to talk/ask about. And if you reply back to this person again they will know the subject.
DO NOT LEAVE THEM LIKE THIS:
How are you?
Writing the Email - The Body
It's always useful to address the person you are writing to in a respectful manner, especially if you've found their name on the university's web site. For example, if you were going to email Jill Heath from our class on Monday you could address her by:
Dear Ms. Heath,
If you do not have a specific name and it's a general email admissions address (ex. firstname.lastname@example.org) then you could do the following:
Dear Admissions Officer,
To Whom It May Concern,
Begin forming an impression immediately. Always introduce yourself, whether you are writing to them for the first time or the 5th time.
My name is Eric An (An Rui He), a Chinese student from Wuhan, China who is interested in your MBA program for Fall 2014. After looking at the school's web site I have a couple questions and was hoping to take a couple minutes of your time to answer them.
Notice I did not say "sorry to bother you", but rather I might take a couple minutes of your time. Americans are more concerned about time so it's more like the Chinese equivalent of 一下 rather than 麻烦 or 打扰.
Also notice I said "After looking at the web site." You have better searched the site first because if you just contacted them and didn't look you will probably get an answer like "look at our web site" and shows you haven't done your share of the work. Be a motivated candidate. Look on the web site first. Then don't be afraid to ask.
Emailing a Professor/Graduate Student at a Particular School
Same rules apply, but a little different.
My name is Eric An (An Rui He), a Chinese student from Wuhan, China who is interested in your MBA program for Fall 2014. I looked at your bio on the school web site and have similar interests in XX (accounting, management, etc). I was hoping to take a few minutes of your time to ask about XX.
My name is Eric An (An Rui He), a Chinese student from Wuhan, China who is interested in your MBA program for Fall 2014. I want to learn a little more about the school and was hoping you could connect me to a graduate student or two so I can ask a few questions about the program.
American professors and teachers, like Chinese ones, can be difficult to contact, though I would say most will reply within a week or two.
Then ask whatever you want to ask, but KEEP IT TO ONLY A QUESTION OR TWO, NOT MORE THAN THAT. That way they won't feel overwhelmed about your email, AND you can ask more in the next email. :) Remember you are building a relationship.
Thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it. Looking forward to your reply.
American Email Etiquette - Waiting Times
If you wrote an email using the template above I would wait 5-7 days for a reply. For example, if you send it Monday morning I would wait till that Friday or the following Monday. If you don't get a reply, first check your spam email folder to make sure a reply didn't go there. If not, you can send the same email again but with some small changes.
Subject: International student admissions question follow up
To Whom It May Concern,
My name is Eric An (An Rui He), a Chinese student from Wuhan, China who is interested in your MBA program for Fall 2014. I wrote your office at the beginning of last week regarding a few questions and wanted to follow up that conversation.
Then ask the same questions you did before with the same ending. Usually you will get a rather quick reply with a "sorry, really busy" etc. They probably didn't mean to do it so give some face to them, Chinese style. Remember, they are dealing with hundreds and hundreds of emails so it's hard to get to everyone in a quick fashion.
If you don't receive a reply after a second week I would do the same thing one more time, BUT CC another person in the school's office (got it from the web site) or email someone completely new. Or, if you have the ability, call the school.
And think about this: the more the email the more replies you have the chance of receiving. Don't just email one school at a time - if you have 3-5 schools on your dream list then you can use the templates above to email them all at the same time and see which ones reply and which ones don't. That will help you decided which schools are better at communication than others.