Email Tips for College Applicants

As you prepare to apply to college, one of the most valuable pieces of advice I can give you is this: Get on top of your email inbox – now.

Everyone manages his or her email differently. Some prefer a clean inbox, read everything immediately and quickly delete or archive what they are done with. Others don’t mind having thousands of unread emails sitting in their inbox. Whatever your preferences, as you begin the college admissions process, keep this in mind: Almost all colleges use email as their primary form of communication. They will use email to send you information, to request follow up once you apply, and sometimes even to announce admissions decisions.

The challenge with this is that people today receive such a large volume of email that it’s easy for important things to get overlooked. High school students are especially prone to this, because they usually haven’t had to use email for work or professional purposes. Many colleges are aggressively marketing themselves now, so if they get your email address, you can bet they’ll be showing up in your inbox. If you aren’t diligent, the important emails from the colleges you care about can easily get missed in the midst of everything else.

During my time as a high school college advisor, I was always heartbroken when a student came to me crying that XYZ College had declined their application or rescinded their admissions because they failed to reply to an emailed request (usually to send transcripts or test scores.) The student and I would search their email for communications from that college, and almost always would find the email that requested the information. In most cases, the student hadn’t read it because it blended in with the dozens of other emails they received everyday from colleges.

I also recently learned about a student who, after being denied Early Action admission to a private university, lost the chance to be considered for Regular Decision admission because she didn’t notice an email stating that she was required to notify the school that she wished to do so. The consensus among college counselors was that, although it was an unfortunate incident, the student was at fault because she hadn’t paid attention to the email from college.

So as you gear up for the college search and application process, here are some tips to making sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen to you:

  • Create a brand new email address that you use exclusively for college application related communications. This way, all the other stuff won’t bury the important stuff.
  • Unsubscribe from email lists that aren’t useful anymore. I fondly remember a senior whose inbox was overflowing with “Question of the Day” emails for SAT practice. When I asked him how many of the practice questions he had completed, he sheepishly said, “None.” If something is cluttering up your inbox, but you aren’t getting anything useful from it, get rid of it.
  • Create filters for your email so things like regular newsletters, social media notifications, promotions and the like are separated into different folders.
  • When talking to college representatives and visiting college websites, avoid giving your contact information unless you are genuinely interested in that college. Some colleges flood prospective students with email and mailings – and it can be overwhelming. If you aren’t really interested, don’t give your contact info just to be nice to the representative. (If you are truly interested though, it’s actually important to give the college your contact information.)

Once you have applied to colleges, or identified the colleges you will definitely apply to, READ ALL EMAILS from them carefully. Some will contain generic information targeted to all applicants (“Come to our Preview Day!”), but others might contain very important information that you can’t miss – requests for transcripts, setting up an interview, etc.

If you think you are one of the many students who benefit from having some help with organization while applying to colleges, check out my programs here. You can also contact me for your free 30 minute consultation.

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