If you ever want to explain any given situation, would a letter or phone call be preferable? A letter is more formal but a phone call can be expressive and you can kind of be able to see how the admissions officers will understand the situation (if that makes any sense). I was leaning towards a letter since it's more formal but I wanted some input. Thank you!
P.S. I was reading the thread on Houses as sororities (but better) and it was hilarious. I think at CC, one of the things that attracted me to Smith was how lighthearted and friendly everyone here was, especially the adults. I've been on other sites and people seem so surly and strict...but maybe it's just my imagination.
For questions that may involve some back and forth, I prefer a phone call. If I judge it necessary, I follow up in writing, summarizing the phone call as I understood it, an effort to make sure that everyone is on the same page and that it's the page they thought they were on.
E-mail or letter is fine for something fairly straight forward or simple.
If there is any question of delicacy, I prefer the phone so that I can hear the tone of voice, the silences, the grunts, etc. By extension of the same principle, I sometimes will defer to a question to a face-to-face meeting, so that I can get body language as well. And, candidly, to be able to communicate non-verbally as well, without having to explicitly say something...a sometimes useful ability to save someone's face or preserve deniability. However, I can't think of often where these latter considerations would arise in college admissions.
I explained a weak grade in an email after I had sent in my application, and I directed the email straight to the admission officer in charge of my region. You will usually get a quicker reply if you direct an email straight to an admission officer instead of using their general admission office email address.
Anyway, I agree with TD that if it will involve a two way conversation, do call. The Smith admission officers that I had contact with so far have been really patient, helpful, understanding and encouraging. They really eased my mind on a lot of occassion.
I'm assuming, Talk, that you are referring to contact with the admissions office. Especially during this busy time, I would advise against a phone call unless it is urgent. Many CCers say that they called admissions to find out when decisions are mailed or whether the envelopes are fat or thin or to ask whether their B+ will affect their chances. These kind of calls must annoy the admissions people to no end. Then there is the category of call that requires a simple answer -- and that's for email. Adding information to your application might require a letter, or, if time is of the essence, a FAX. Anything that you want documented should be in writing.
Of course, at other times of the year, especially in the summer, a call to admissions for simple information can be seen as demonstrating interest. Right now, though, with RD decisions bearing down on the staff, limit phone calls to those that require, as TD says, "delicacy" or "back and forth."
Speaking of loving Smith, I just got off the phone with the young woman conducting the survey so that I can get my missing questions and score sheet. (And she kindly said that my calling was above and beyond and she'd enter my name in the first drawing...I'm gonna win it, doggone it!) Anyway, we had a 4 minute, 58 second chat about Smith. As it turns out, she's working with one of D's favorite profs on a statistical analysis of retention data for Smith. And I found out that with wind chill it's 30 below today.
With D not there this semester, we hadn't been tracking the weather.
I'd happily ship a little of our balmy mid-70's there.
Thank you for all of your advice. I called one of the admissions officers (the one who looked into my region) and I explained the situation. I felt kind of bad because I started crying when I started talking about my mom... I never expected to, though. Usually, I'm very professional and don't try to use the sympathy card as a way to get what I want, but... it's been a hard semester. It was an unexpected cry -- and I called from school. But she seemed very understanding and I don't think she was irritated at all. She said she took notes, so I hope it helped explain my situation. I'll follow up with an e-mail but at this point, there is literally NOTHING I can do except have a glimmer of hope. And do homework. An IB student's job is never done!!!
BJM, I'd happily send some of our balm your way too. I have a sentimental attachment to RI despite never having been there; it turns out a direct ancestor was one of the original shareholders of Block Island. Wish they'd kept it in the family.
TtHT...good on ya for calling. It sounds as if you did the best you could in conveying your situation and in a positive (non-whiney) manner. I'm pulling for you.
And don't worry about suddenly breaking down. It's happened to me twice in the past year and in both cases I thought I was "in control" before hand. The most recent was in a church full of people delivering a short eulogy about our recently deceased former pastor...people were very understanding as I just stood there and swallowed in silence for a while before finally regathering my composure and continuing.