What Does it Mean if a College Emails You?

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It’s almost the end of your high school year, and suddenly you are getting tons of emails from different colleges and universities. You’re probably surprised and asking what happened.

Understandably, these mails make you feel important, and you are suddenly battling the urge to show off to your friends. Before going on to show off, however, an important question to ask is, “why do colleges send me letters?” The most likely source of this flood is your participation in the PSAT. The truth is that colleges get data of PSAT takers and send emails to them to spark their interest. However, this doesn’t exactly mean that they want you? So, what does it mean if a college emails you? Read on to find out everything you need to know about emails from colleges.

Why Do Colleges Send Letters?

Why Do Colleges Send Letters?

As a teenager, it is mostly exciting being a recipient of unsolicited brochures from prestigious universities. The excitement is even more pronounced if it’s a seemingly personalized letter from your chosen school’s dean of admission asking you to apply. The truth is that this happens to millions of other high school students like you. Every year, we see millions of high school students show off to friends and classmates because they hold what they often believe is representing tangible proof that several world-class colleges want them.

Unfortunately, these emails are not what most students believe they are. In fact, some commentators refer to what they are holding as a post-high school equivalent of junk mails. Yes, we get that these Letters are personalized with your name clearly on them, but they are not different from a grocery store note. The truth is that you put yourself in a position to be flooded with institutional correspondence from the moment you take the Pre-ACT or PSAT. Sadly, this doesn’t show that you had excellent test scores like you probably think.

Instead, this mountain of brilliant literature pulling up on your study table could be a result of a controversial marketing strategy that has lasted over fifty years.

Did You Play Any Role in This?

Probably yes!

Suppose you check the box that allows colleges to send publications and materials while taking a national standardized test. In that case, you can expect your inboxes to dwell in the coming weeks with electronic and print publications. This shouldn’t be a cause of worry for anybody, considering that the swelling will die down after a couple of months. However, this sudden affliction would raise several questions in the minds of families.

In case you are wondering about the cause of these mails, there’s a likelihood that it’s from your participation in the PSAT. As part of their marketing strategy, colleges now purchase the list of PSAT-takers that meet certain criteria from the College Board.

Most colleges and universities have very sophisticated marketing programs. Some even go as far as hiring outside marketing consultants to handle the coordination of their mailings to students. As a college coach, our emails often get bombarded with questions like, “why do colleges send me letters?” The answer is simple: most of these mass mailings are targeted at generating interest from a wider range of students. It is not necessarily a testament to the college’s interest in your son or daughter. Sorry to disappoint you, but an email from Harvard doesn’t necessarily mean that they consider you an admissible applicant.

Do Colleges Send Emails to Everyone?

Do Colleges Send Emails to Everyone?

No, colleges don’t send emails to everyone because that’s statistically impossible. However, it is typical for colleges to send emails to anyone with an SAT/ACT score above a certain threshold. For example, if they set a threshold of 1400, that means they’ll send emails to anyone with an SAT score above 1400. However, because of the numerous works that go into the application process, most colleges look beyond just scores. This is why a majority of people that surpass the threshold may still not get accepted.

As explained in the previous section, colleges often buy these data from exam boards, and that’s why you are likely to get emails from them weeks after writing the SAT.

Getting emails from colleges doesn’t necessarily signify that you will be admitted. It doesn’t signify that they are sending the same emails to every other person too. So, you’ll likely be the only person that will receive such emails in your immediate neighborhood if you are the only candidate from the said neighborhood.

How Do Colleges Decide Who to Send Letters to?

How Do Colleges Decide Who to Send Letters to?

In part, a simple equation serves as the drive for this mass marketing phenomenon – more marketing leads generate more applications. This would, in turn, cause a lower acceptance rate, which will lead to increased ranking in selectivity. The general ranking system includes applicants’ ratio to students admitted as part of the algorithm used for ranking school selectivity.

In 2019, the US News excluded the inclusion of any acceptance rate from their ranking formula, dropping selectivity to 10% of the total score. One of the biggest benefits of this change is the slight decline in post-secondary junk mail. However, this push to get more applicants is not just about improving the college’s selectivity rating. It is also about enhancing the school as a brand, especially to attract elite professors, increase alumni ratings, and preserve the school’s bond rating.

Now that we’ve covered these let’s get to how colleges decide who to send letters to. What if we told you that there’s no special process for deciding who a college would send emails to. Yes, that’s a surprisingly terse answer, but it’s true. Against what you probably think before now, colleges do not have any special process to decide who they send emails to. They typically buy names and contact information from the Exam Board, screen and select students who meet certain criteria to send personalized emails.

Should You Reply to College Emails?

Should You Reply to College Emails?

You can, but you don’t have to feel that it’s compulsory to. You are getting these emails because you’ve been added to a list of targeted audiences based on certain criteria that you’ve probably met. It’s very difficult to know how big the targeted audience is, but it’s easy to assume that that group is made of several thousand students getting the same emails as you. If you are interested in a school, you can reply to them to request specific information to complete your application. At this point, you become an “active prospect”, meaning that you get more emails from the school.

So, what do you do with all those emails?

Obviously, the emails wouldn’t stop as long as you are at this age, but here are some coping mechanisms that will help.

1. Thin out the email

  • Start by scanning through the mails to find the names of schools that you can recognize. As a teen, you’ll probably prefer to apply to places that you’ve probably heard of before, so you can keep screening these emails until you compile a final list of schools that you are interested in.
  • With your preferred college list at hand, scan your inbox for emails from those schools. We recommend that you keep the initial list between 20 to 35 names. Once you have these names in mind, scan your inbox to see how many of these colleges have reached out to you.
  • Speak to your counselor. At this point, you’ll want to talk to your counselor to know if he/she has a recommendation for you. If he/she does, you should add it to your list too.
  • Move The Other Colleges to Spam. Now that you have a final list, move mails from other colleges that you are not interested into your spam folder. Moving them to spam will help prevent their future emails from reaching you.

2. Use Your Saved Emails

  • Open. Now, it’s time to start opening the emails from your preferred colleges, one after the other. Start from your most preferred college to your least preferred college. These emails typically contain great information on how to go about applying to these schools, and you won’t want to miss such important information.
  • Click. While scrolling through the mails, ensure that you are clicking on any interesting links within the emails. These links are typically inserted to redirect you to the school’s website. You don’t want to miss an opportunity to learn a thing or two about the school’s admission process on their website. Don’t worry; you can always close and leave if you are redirected to a website that is useless to your search.

3. Learn to Survive Moving Forward

Your daily routine would probably change at this stage, and you need to learn how to adjust to the new routine. If you are not used to constantly checking your email before now, here are some basics that can help.

  • Ensure that the address you’ll fill in any correspondence is professional enough to be traced. It is usually recommended that you use your name and some of your favorite numbers. Avoid using anything that could come off as offensive, unprofessional, or juvenile. Keep your email address as professional as possible, because email is a common adult communication means.
  • Make a routine of checking your email daily. As a rule of thumb, students your age should check their email at least once every day. This is because most colleges want replies when they email you, and wasting time won’t speak well of your readiness.
  • Reply to all real, live senders within 24 hours of receiving their mail. As a follow up to the previous point, ensure that you reply to useful emails within 24 hours. You don’t want to leave college waiting. You are becoming an adult, so you should act like one.

How to Know if a College is Interested in You? What Should You Look For?

How to Know if a College is Interested in You? What Should You Look For?

Unless you pay the application fee and fill out a timely application, you might find it difficult to determine whether any college is interested in you or not. The only sure way to know is if you have won a national award for brilliance or if you have outstanding athletic abilities. If you have any of this, then you’ll likely be contacted.

So, what should you look for in mails?

Great question! Have in mind that some of the mails could contain some cool stuff, and if you pay proper attention, you might get a clue or two. We recommend scanning through each new piece to the end. Look at the photos and read a good part of the content that follows. Check to see if some graphics or keywords resonate with you. Do the colleges show that they value the same things as you ordinarily do in your education? You never can tell – you might be learning something new about the school and your education. It’s important to give each school a fair hearing as you might see something that will take them to the top of your list.

Wrapping Things Up: What Does it Mean if a College Emails You?

There you have it, a detailed answer article to the question, “what does it mean if a college emails you?” College emails often bring overwhelming joy, especially when they are from popular schools. But, do these mails necessarily mean that the colleges are interested in you? So far, in this article, we’ve talked about the numerous possibilities that come with these mails, how you can handle them, and what to expect from the best college emails.

Remember that some of these emails may contain important information. So, while they are not directly offering you admission, you can learn a few things about the process. If, on the other hand, you want to reply to some emails, apply professionalism to it. Remember that you are replying to your dream school and not just any casual friend. Keep your mails and short and straight-to-the-point as point as possible, keeping an open mind for the school’s reply.

Want more college application resources? Check them out here:

> 21 College Admission Tips for Freshman

> When Do Early Decision Results Come Out?

> When Do Early Action Results Come Out?

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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