How to Write a Letter to a Dean

Keep your letter to the dean focused and clear.
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As a high school or college student, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to write a formal letter to a dean. Whether your letter is regarding potential admission to a university, addressing a problem on your campus, or asking for assistance in a hardship situation, a well-worded letter can help you smooth the way to getting the response you need from the school leadership. However, it's crucial to compose a professional, polite letter in order to get your point across in a clear way.

1 Establish Your Purpose

Before you begin writing your letter, take some time to clearly identify what it is that you want to say. The dean of a college or graduate school may have thousands of students to supervise, as well as faculty to manage, a board to appease, other employees to evaluate and budgets to balance. If you aren't sure what you want to ask for, or even whether the dean is the best person to ask, stop and re-evaluate. Once your purpose is clear and you know the dean is the best person to approach with it, you're in a good position to begin.

2 Format the Letter Properly

Whether you choose to write a paper letter or send an email, you need to format your letter correctly. If you're unsure about how to greet the dean in writing, double check the spelling of his name and whether he uses a title such as "Dr." In many cases, addressing your letter with "Dear Dean Jones" or "Dear Dr. Jones" will suffice, but you want to be certain that your first impression is best. You should be able to locate the correct title, spelling and contact information for the dean on your school's website, but you can also call the dean's office directly to double check. If you're writing a letter on paper, include correct formatting for the address and date at the top. Most word processing programs will have a template for this.

3 Write Concisely

Clearly communicate your purpose. A dean may only have a few minutes to read through letters or emails, so tell her what you need right up front. Identify yourself and what your relationship is to the school. If you are discussing a problem, state it immediately. For example, "I am writing to request a leave of absence for one semester due to a family emergency," or "The dining hall's lack of a policy to publicly list common allergens present in the kitchen has caused me to suffer an adverse reaction." After your identification and statement of purpose, provide any supporting information you want to share, but keep it concise and factual. Make it easy for the dean to understand the reasoning behind your request.

4 Close Respectfully

Once you are finished with the body of your letter, close in an appropriate way. Closings such as "Sincerely" or "Respectfully" show that you appreciate the time the dean has spent on your issue. Run a spelling and grammar check on your letter or email. When you feel confident that your letter meets your goals, sign it and provide the dean with all of your best contact information, including phone, email and mailing address so she can respond to you directly.

With hands-on experience in the traditional classroom, the online setting, and the world of curriculum development, Jessica Smith is a veteran educator who is passionate about learning. Smith earned a M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction from Concordia University and is certified in mathematics and exceptional student education.