Every college-bound individual eagerly anticipates receiving an acceptance letter in the mail. However, before that moment arrives, it is highly likely that they will receive numerous printed and electronic mails at their doorstep or in their inbox. Does this mean that the colleges that send them have a genuine interest in admitting them?
Colleges send mail as part of their marketing strategy to increase the number of applications they receive. This, in turn, allows them to have a lower acceptance rate and a higher level of selectivity. On the other hand, mails directly from college admissions officers that students meet at college fairs or during campus tours may indicate genuine interest.
If you have been receiving snail mails and emails from colleges and universities, including prestigious ones that may not necessarily consider your academic profile enough, this post will provide you with all the information you need to understand the significance of these mails and what they mean coming from the senders.
By the end of this article, you will have a clearer understanding of their importance to you and the institutions sending them.
Why Colleges Send Mail To Many Individuals
Colleges and universities send mail in order to attract a larger pool of applicants. The more students who apply, the higher the chances of admitting the most intelligent and promising individuals. This also allows them to maintain a high level of selectivity by accepting only a few applicants.
Do not assume that just because College X sent you something in the mail, it means they are interested in you and that you are guaranteed an acceptance letter if you apply.
Here’s the harsh truth: colleges send you mail because you are college-bound, not because you are special.
Think of these institutions as businesses—college degrees are the products they are selling, and traditional and electronic mail serve as their preferred advertising strategy. They are sending you these correspondences and brochures to encourage you to “buy” from them, or in other words, apply. However, applying does not guarantee automatic enrollment. Admissions officers will still review your application before making a decision.
A higher number of applications is beneficial for colleges because they can only admit a limited number of students per admissions cycle. As a result, their acceptance rates decrease. In the eyes of college ranking sites, parents, and high school students, schools with lower acceptance rates are seen as more selective, making them appear more reputable and desirable.
How Colleges Determine Whom to Mail
Colleges acquire the contact information of college-bound students by purchasing it. Students who apply for standardized tests and check the box allowing colleges to send materials and publications are the ones whose contact details become available for institutions to obtain.
If you recently took a standardized exam such as the PSAT or PreACT, chances are your mailbox and inbox will be flooded with mail soon, if they aren’t already.
This practice began in the 1970s when the College Board started connecting test-takers with colleges and universities.
When you check the box that allows higher education institutions to contact you while applying for a standardized test, you give the test provider permission to collect “personally identifiable information.” They then use this information to connect you with schools, scholarships, and other higher education-related opportunities.
Colleges may send you mail because they obtained your name and address, or because you meet certain criteria. For example, if you express an interest in studying biomedical or civil engineering, you are likely to receive mail from an institution specializing in undergraduate engineering programs. Similarly, if you are a member of the Catholic faith, there is a high possibility of receiving mail from a Catholic school.
The good news is that the influx of printed and electronic mail will eventually stop. While the majority of correspondences and brochures are received during the sophomore and junior years when most high schoolers take the PSAT or PreACT, they tend to decrease during the senior year.
One advantage of emails from colleges and universities is that you can easily unsubscribe from them. Schools and organizations that use email marketing are required to include an unsubscribe link. Unfortunately, this is not possible with snail mail.
It is also important to note that graduating high school students sometimes receive mail from colleges they attended college fairs for or campuses they toured. If you registered or logged in at the event, there is a possibility that the school will eventually send you something. Additionally, if you receive mail from an admissions officer you personally met, it is a sign that the school may have a genuine interest in you.
Should You Read or Respond to College Mail?
It is recommended that students read mail sent by colleges or universities if they are interested in applying or exploring their options. Those who are genuinely interested in applying and have a chance of being accepted should consider responding or asking questions.
By now, we have established that the school sending you mail does not necessarily consider you special or a strong candidate. All they want is for you to submit an application.
Whether you choose to read, discard, or delete the message ultimately does not matter. The only time it is crucial to check the mail is when you are genuinely considering applying to the sender. By reading the materials, you can familiarize yourself with the institution and make a more informed decision about whether or not to apply.
Many colleges and universities with a holistic admissions policy consider a student’s demonstrated interest when reviewing applications. Admitting students who demonstrate their interest is beneficial for schools as it increases their yield rate.
According to a report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), roughly 13.7% of higher education institutions consider demonstrated interest to be of considerable importance as a non-academic admissions factor. Approximately 25.5% consider it to be of moderate importance.
Therefore, if you are interested in attending a school that takes demonstrated interest into account during the application review process, responding with a thank you note or asking questions may improve your chances of admission.
Clicking on links in the emails they send you also indicates to the school that you are interested in them.
Before You Read College Mail
It is not uncommon for colleges and universities to send traditional and electronic mail during or after the PSAT or PreACT season. They do this to increase the number of applicants, which can lower their acceptance rates and potentially enhance their college rankings.
Don’t celebrate just because you receive mail—you are not the only one. Everyone else receives mail as well!
It is acceptable to disregard snail mail or click the unsubscribe link in emails. However, if you are interested in attending a school that has been sending you mail, feel free to use the materials for research before applying.
Should I inform a college that I decline their offer of enrollment?
It is not necessary for a student accepted into one college to inform them that they will be attending another college. However, doing so is polite and allows the school to offer your spot to another deserving student.
How do I know if a college is interested in me?
While colleges and universities may mail anyone whose contact details they have, there are times when they send personal letters indicating that they know the recipient. In many cases, admissions officers or athletic coaches provide their personal contact information to students they are interested in.