From an unnamed university in the greater San Francisco Bay Area...
At different times in my august career in higher education, I've joked about writing a book called "How Not to Piss Off College Admissions People". I don't think I actually have enough material to fill a whole a book, but I can definitely fill up 5 to 6 bullet points, thus the following:
- Do your research. Clearly, jobs like mine exist because getting into universities is hard and sometimes people need the help of trained experts. However, questions like "is your program good?" or "do you offer a degree?" are a waste of a person's time. Any self-respecting university has a website; spend a good 5 minutes looking around before interrupting someone in the middle of their work day activities (e.g. reheating Indian food/looking for funny podcasts/reading gossip blogs).
- Know which university you're calling/emailing. I've had people tell me they're writing because NYU/USC/Columbia is their "dream" school and when I write back to tell them that we are, in fact, none of these places, they're like, "oh yeah, well I want information about your program too." Not a great start.
- Don't insult the person you're talking to. Didn't get your last question answered? Don't get snotty with your admissions person. Write again and pretend like it's your fault you never heard back from me, and mention that you know how busy I must be, getting inane questions from dime-a-dozen jokers like you all day long, because you know who isn't going to be in the mood to help you? The person you just insinuated is bad at her job.
- If you are leaving a voicemail, leave your name, a 10 word or less reason for calling ("I have some questions about applying to your program") and clearly state your phone number. I hate listening to a message for 2 minutes where someone rambles on and on about their personal situation, then quickly spews out their phone number so that I have to replay the whole stupid message to get it all down, then I call the person back and they repeat the same damn thing verbatim.
- It never hurts to be nice. Beyond just not being a jerk, a quick email to say thanks can go a long way. I serve a dual admissions/student affairs role in my department and you can be sure I know which students are nice and appreciative and I am a hell of a lot more eager to help them out. I am even more eager to help the students who bring in baked goods.