You have narrowed your college list, you're doing your research, and you know that you want to stay in touch with your top choices all the way through application season.

Beyond the fact that many colleges want to gauge your level of interest in attending, cultivating a relationship and opening a direct line of communication with your regional admissions counselor at a college can help you get answers to questions you might not be able to find elsewhere.

Here are three tips for crafting a great introductory email (remember that these are principles that can apply to nearly ANY email you write):

Tip #1: Use the Subject Line Wisely

Most people who use email addresses in an official capacity have very limited time to get through their inbox and respond. Help your reader out: use the subject line to get your request across clearly and concisely. Don't make them have to guess what the email is going to be about.

Tip #2: Use Space to Make the Body of the Email Reader-Friendly

Imagine that you're sitting down to do your homework, and the first page you open up to in your textbook is one solid block of text, covering the page. Sigh. We've all been there. Whatever resolve we MIGHT have had instantly drains away. Boring. So much work for my brain.

So do your reader a favor: let in a little air. See if you can think about your message in three parts: the intro, the body, and the call to action. The intro establishes the context for reaching out. The body provides more in-depth information, and sets you up to make your request. And the call to action asks for something specific.

Tip #3: Strip Away Any Words that You Don't Absolutely Need

A good rule of thumb for this is that all the text of your email fits on one window, even with spaces. If you have a number of different questions, you might want to consider sending multiple emails. Make sure that you're only including information that is directly related to the request that you're making.

Other than that, keep the tone polite, respectful and upbeat (remember, this is about showing off your excitement!), and make sure that your email demonstrates that you are a competence writer. Use good grammar, spell check the text, and make sure to proofread carefully.