Email Tips for College Applicants

Applying to College, Organization and Time Management

A piece of advice for students preparing to apply to college: Get on top of your email inbox – now.

Everyone manages email differently. Some prefer a clean inbox, read everything immediately and quickly archive what they are done with. Others don’t mind having thousands of unread emails in their inbox. Whatever your preferences, as you begin the college admissions process, keep this in mind: 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 even to announce admissions decisions.

The problem is that high school students get a TON of unsolicited email from colleges, beginning well before they have applied. Once they have expressed interest or have applied, they get even more – it’s all part of the marketing strategy colleges use to recruit students. High school students may not have the skills needed to manage this flood of email – and the result is that important emails from colleges they are interested in get overlooked.

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 because they failed to reply to an emailed request (usually to send transcripts or test scores). We would search their email for communications from that college, and would find the email in question. In most cases, the student hadn’t read it because it blended in with the dozens of other emails they received every day from colleges.

I also recently learned about a student who, after being denied Early Action admission, lost the chance to be considered for Regular Decision admission. Why? 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 had ignored the email.

So as you gear up for college applications, here are some tips to making sure this doesn’t happen to you:

  • 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.
  • Consider creating a brand new email address that you use exclusively for college related communications. This way, all the other stuff won’t bury the important stuff.
  • Create filters for your email so things like regular newsletters, social media notifications and promotions are separated into different folders. Ask a tech-savvy friend if you don’t know how to do this!
  • 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 are truly interested though, it’s actually important to give the college your contact information.
  • Once you have applied, or identified the colleges you will 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 important information – requests for transcripts, setting up an interview, etc.

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