Don't you hate those time stamped emails?

I've been calling students departing on our newest program this summer to inform them of our plans to "ticket" for the group flight (assign their name to an actual seat) and Eur Rail pass next week. We do this to explain that even though the payment deadline for the program isn't for a few weeks, they will owe the money for both of these items no matter what happens (read: make sure you have your $#!^ together).

The majority of students today rely on some form of Financial Aid to fund a portion if not the majority of their program - this means that come the payment deadline they are not always due any money out of pocket to us, because their aid typically doesn't get released until days before the program departs. If they have enough aid to cover the full cost of the program, then they don't pay anything out of pocket before departure. Breaking it down even further, students can drop out days before the program and not be out any money, but we lose because we've usually already paid out on their behalf. In the case of their airline tickets we can't do anything but charge them for it because it belongs to them after we ticket, and if they withdraw from the program, well, "congratulations you have an international plane ticket good for a year! Woohoo!"

When I make these calls I leave a lot of messages. I understand, I screen my calls too. Sometimes while I'm on the phone leaving another message, one of the students who screened my call earlier returns the call and leaves me a message. One student, we'll call her Shelley, left this message:

"Hi, this is Shelley, you just left me a message about the ________ program and I'm just calling to let you know that I withdrew from that program a long time ago, so I don't understand why you're calling me at all. Please call me back."

I called Shelley back. "Hi Shelley, this is Jessica with the ________ program returning your call..."

"Yeah, I talked to y'all, like, months ago, and withdrew my application for that program, so I don't know why you are calling me."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Shelley, we hate to lose you! I called you about the program because I'm actually looking at your very active application online right now. If you would log in when you have a moment later and click the withdrawal button though, you will be officially removed from the program. Either that or send us an email - we just need something in writing from you."

"I did this weeks ago, I just don't understand, my application is already withdrawn. I already did all of that."

"I'm sorry for the confusion, Shelley, but when you log back in you'll see that you're still listed as being approved to go on the program - there's nothing to worry about, this is why we make these phone calls. All you have to do is withdraw or shoot us that email."

"Well I won't be near internet tonight."

"Totally understandable, there's no rush, I've noted our conversation and you have about a week to get this done before we ticket."

End of conversation....

So, I continued with my list. About a minute after I hung up with Shelley, an email popped into my inbox from our application software. You see, whenever a student does anything within their application, our software notifies us in case we need to follow up with that student. Ingenius, I know. Well this particular email named the program for which I was making these phone calls, and you'll never guess whose name was listed having "WITHDRAWN APPLICATION"...

The notification email came in while I was leaving yet another message for a different student and simultaneously I saw my new voicemail light turn on. Another message!

"Hi, this is Shelley, I just spoke with you and told you that I had already withdrawn from that program, and I just checked my application online and it indeed lists me as withdrawn so if you could call me back and tell me that you misread my application and that everything is okay now I would appreciate it. Thanks."


Shelley didn't know it, but she really didn't want me to call her back.

Instead, I counted to 10, took a deep breath, and clicked "Forward"on the Application Withdrawal announcement email.

Dear Shelley,

We spoke on the phone earlier in regards to your ________ Program application. Sorry for the confusion but I wanted to let you know we just received your successful application withdrawal, today, at the time marked below in the confirmation email. Thank you for taking care of this and please know how sorry we are to lose you, and we hope you will consider studying abroad in the future!

Have a fantastic day!


Mothers....not mine.

For having not been in the home office for the month of April in two years, I sure have experienced a whirlwind of a welcome back! The phones ring off the hook. Students are studying abroad - that's great! And with the Olympic summer approaching we're seeing a banner year in terms of enrollment for London. All positive, woohoo!

We're also seeing more "friends" and "parents" wanting to come over. Which makes for interesting phone calls. I picked up a call to the main line from a mother the other day, her son is studying abroad on "the study abroad program" this summer and she was hoping to have a few questions answered, could she speak to me about them?

Of course, ma'am, I'll be happy to help - would you mind telling me which program your son is participating on? The London one. Great. Thank you.

She proceeded to ask a few of the usual questions that we do in fact go over during our pre-departure orientation closer to program departure, but I answered them for her nonetheless. Towards the end of our conversation she asked about the mini-break travel period, "housing is not provided during that time, is this correct?"

Yes ma'am, that is correct, students pack up and move out for that period of time, all travel and accommodation is independent of the program during the mini-break.

"And when do they start to make those arrangements?"

Well, some students will plan their mini-break travels long before program departure, but many students wait until they are actually in London, to see where their friends decide to go, and they make plans together.

"Oh I see, well my husband and I would like to come over during that time to get him from place to place, is that something people do?"

Do parents come to visit? Yes, parents and friends come every year to visit program participants. Generally they come before the program or after the program rather than during the mini-break because that time is rather short, but it's entirely possible.

"Oh wonderful. So when will we pay for those arrangements?"

I'm sorry, I don't think I understand your question?

"Well for those travel arrangements, the ones during the mini-break, when will we pay you for that?"

Um, well, I don't make those arrangements, they are separate from the program, your son will make his arrangements. Not our office. If you decide to come over during that time, then you can make those plans accordingly.

"Oh, I see, so you're not just the travel agent?"

What does that even mean?

No, no ma'am, I am not a travel agent, far from it actually. But our office does in fact work with a travel agent and I would be happy to put you in touch with her if you need assistance planning any sort of non-program-related travel.

"Well that would be wonderful, yes, thank you."

I have an even better one coming later...