Why am I getting so much mail from colleges?!?

Applying to College, Building Your College List, College Visits

Why am I getting so much mail from colleges?!?

Juniors – you know what I’m talking about. Those shiny brochures in your mail box, showing smiling students on beautiful campuses. The emails crowding your inbox, sent from colleges all around the country. Some of them are colleges you are interested in or have maybe even visited. But much of the mail comes from colleges you’ve NEVER heard of, let alone toured.

So how did they all get your contact information?

The most likely culprit: The PSAT. The College Board, the company that administers the PSAT, has a “side business” selling student emails and address to colleges. Yes, that’s right – the College Board SELLS student contact information to colleges, for a profit. And colleges are eagerly paying for these lists of names and addresses, so they can reach as many prospective students as possible with their marketing efforts. If you took the PSAT in 10th or 11th grade, this is the likely reason you are receiving so much mail from colleges.

Another possible reason for the flood of mail: You may have entered your name and contact information into a lead-generator site. These are websites that ask users to register by submitting their name and email address, information which is then sold to colleges and other programs that market to high school students. Plenty of websites with information about colleges are lead-generator sites, so it’s common for high schoolers to stumble across them and inadvertently provide their contact info without realizing how it will be used.

But here’s what’s most important to understand: Getting marketing mail from a college does NOT mean you are more likely to be admitted! Colleges send marketing mail to tens of thousands of students, usually without regard to GPA, test scores or fit for the school. So just because Harvard is sending you weekly email does not mean they consider you a strong candidate. It just means that your email address was on one of the lists that they purchased.

The flood of marketing mail will continue through senior year, I’m sorry to say! I strongly recommend that students take active steps to get ahead of the flood of emails before application season, because it’s very easy to miss important information amongst the junk mail.

You may be asking: Are these brochures and emails useful? Should I read them or send them straight to the recycling? My advice: look at them! Use them to learn about colleges you are already interested in or discover new ones. Furthermore, many colleges are tracking which students opened their emails, so reading emails from a college you like could help with demonstrated interest.

But remember – the brochures and emails are marketing devices designed to make the college look awesome; they should be used as a source of basic information only. A savvy student will supplement with their own research to learn whether the colleges is truly a good fit. If the brochures and emails become overwhelming and not helpful, get rid of them. Applying to college is overwhelming enough, so clear out the junk that makes it worse.

Would you like an expert to help build your college list? We guide high school juniors in identifying their top priorities for college and finding the colleges that are the best fit for their needs. Contact us to set up a consult! (And don’t worry, we’ll never share your contact info with anyone else!)