Every college-bound teen waits for an acceptance letter in the mail. But before that (or a rejection letter, perhaps) arrives, chances are that dozens of printed and electronic mails will show up at the doorstep or in the inbox. Does this mean that their recipients have high chances of getting admitted into schools that send them?
Colleges send mail as a marketing strategy in order to increase applications, which leads to a lower acceptance rate and a higher selectivity level. Mails directly from college admissions officers that students meet at college fairs or during campus tours, meanwhile, may show genuine interest.
Read on if you have been getting snail mails and emails from colleges and universities, including some from prestigious ones where your academic profile isn’t particularly considered enough, for a while now.
In this post, I will tell you everything you need to know about mails, traditional and electronic alike, being sent your way by higher education institutions, including those that you are not planning on applying to or whose names you haven’t heard of before.
After checking this out, you will have a much better idea of what they mean to you and the senders.
Why Colleges Send Mail To So Many People
Colleges and universities send mails in order to attract more applicants. The more students apply, the better the chances of admitting some of the smartest and most promising individuals. But then they also use it to make themselves more selective by receiving a lot of applications and accepting only a few applicants.
Refrain from assuming that just because College X sent you something in the mail means it’s interested in you and that you are sure to get an acceptance letter should you apply.
Here’s the hurtful truth: colleges send you mails because you are college-bound, not because you’re special.
You can think of these schools as business establishments — college degrees are the products they are selling and traditional and electronic mails are their advertising strategy of choice. So, in a nutshell, they are sending you all those correspondences and brochures because they are encouraging you to buy from them.
By buy, I mean apply. And when you apply, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will automatically get an offer to enroll — admissions officers will still check out your application before they make a decision.
Getting a lot of applications is good for colleges. Because they can admit only as many students per admissions cycle, their acceptance rates go down. And in the eyes of college ranking sites and parents and their high schoolers, schools with lower acceptance rates are more selective, which makes them appear more reliable and desirable.
How Colleges Know Who to Mail
Colleges know which graduating high schoolers to mail by purchasing contact information of college-bound kids. And students whose contact details become available for institutions to procure are those who apply for standardized tests and check the box that allows colleges to send materials and publications.
Just took a standardized exam such as the PSAT or PreACT?
Then chances are that your mailbox and inbox will be jam-packed with mails anytime soon — or are already being flooded with them!
It all started in the 1970s when the College Board started hooking up test-takers with colleges and universities.
The moment you put a check in the box that says you allow institutions of higher education to get in touch with you while applying for a standardized test, you give the test provider power to collect “personally identifiable information”. It then uses it to connect you with schools and other stuff such as scholarships and higher education-related endeavors.
At times, a college will send you mail because it got hold of your name and address, while other times a school will get in touch with you because you meet certain criteria.
Getting an email from an institution specializing in undergraduate engineering programs is likely if you indicated that you are interested in studying biomedical or civil engineering.
Or there’s a huge possibility for you to receive mail from a Catholic school if you are — you guessed it right! — a member of the Catholic faith.
The good news is that those printed and electronic mails will stop coming sooner or later.
While the bulk of correspondences and brochures tend to pour in during the sophomore and junior years when most high schoolers take the PSAT or PreACT, those in their senior year of high school usually get fewer and fewer.
One of the nicest things about emails from colleges and universities is that you can easily unsubscribe so that you won’t receive any more of them — schools and others that use email marketing are required to include an unsubscribe link. Meanwhile, it’s something you can’t do with snail mails.
It’s also important to note that there are times when graduating high school teens get mails from colleges whose fairs they attended or whose campuses they toured. Especially if you registered for the activity or logged in at the event, there’s a possibility that the school will send you something eventually.
Sometimes, if you receive mail from an admissions officer you personally met with, the school may actually like you.
Should You Read or Respond to Mail Sent by Colleges
It’s recommended for students to read mail sent by colleges or universities if they are interested in applying to them or looking for many options available to them. Those who are interested in applying and actually have a chance of getting accepted into them may consider responding or asking questions.
By now, we have established the fact that the school that has sent you mail doesn’t consider you special or a good candidate — all it wants is for you to send an application.
Whether you read or throw away or delete the message, needless to say, doesn’t matter. The only time checking it out counts is if you are genuinely thinking about applying to the sender. By reading the material, you can get to know the institution more, thus allowing you to decide so much better if you should apply to it or not.
Many colleges and universities with a holistic admissions policy consider just how interested students are in enrolling in case acceptance letters are sent their way.
Admitting those who demonstrate their interest is good for schools as it boosts the yield rate.
Based on a report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), around 13.7% of institutions of higher education consider demonstrated interest a non-academic admissions factor of considerable importance. About 25.5%, on the other hand, say that it’s of moderate importance.
So, if you are interested in attending a school that takes demonstrated interest into account when reviewing applications, responding by sending a thank you note or asking questions may help boost your admissions chances.
Clicking on links in the emails it sends you also lets the school know you are interested in it.
Just Before You Read That College Mail
It’s not uncommon for many colleges and universities to send traditional and electronic mails during or after the PSAT or PreACT taking season. Such is something that they do in order to increase the number of applicants, which can help lower their acceptance rates and potentially boost their college rankings.
Don’t celebrate just in case you get mail — you are not one of a kind and everybody else also gets one!
Disregarding snail mails or clicking the unsubscribe link in emails may be done. But if you are interested in attending a school that has been mailing you, feel free to use the materials for research before applying to it.
Should I mail a college whose offer to enroll I wish to decline?
It’s not really necessary for a student who is accepted into one college to let the school know that he or she will be attending another college. But doing so is polite and allows the school to know that they can give your spot to another student who also deserves to attend it.
How do I know if a college is interested in me?
While colleges and universities mail just about anyone whose contact details they get, there are times when they send personal letters stating that they know the recipients. In many instances, admissions officers or even athletic coaches provide their personal contact info to students they are interested in.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.