High school students looking for colleges might feel their hearts lift when they receive a letter with a shiny university logo on it before they even start applying. Even if it’s just a brochure with an invitation to apply, that’s good, right? What does it mean when colleges start sending you mail asking you to apply?
The reason colleges keep sending you mail is most likely because you recently took a standardized test such as the PSAT or SAT. Filling out your address on these tests will flag you as a potential applicant for these colleges. It does not mean that you are accepted for admission into these schools.
Let’s explore what it means when you repeatedly receive these mailings from universities and what you should do about it.
Why Am I Getting So Many College Prospect Mailings?
You’re getting so many college prospect mailings because these schools believe you are in the right demographic for their applicant pool. Everyone in the pool gets similar mailings.
The more complex answer has to do with standardized testing and the College Board.
The College Board mainly administers college entrance exams, or the PSAT and the SAT, but they also help connect universities to students and one another.
When you take the PSAT as a high school junior, you usually opt-in to something called the Student Search Service. This service from the College Board usually involves a short questionnaire asking you about yourself, which includes things like race, age, and religion.
This information simply gives the College Board, and colleges, a little bit more of a complete picture of who you are.
If a college believes you are in their target demographic, they might start sending you advertisements so that you are more likely to find them. For example, if you tell the College Board that you are a Catholic, you might start getting ads from Catholic universities. The same goes for sharing your ethnicity or other demographically identifying information.
Is It Good if Colleges Send You Mail?
It is good if colleges send you mail. You can learn more about colleges that are a good fit for you or find out the contact person for admissions in your preferred schools. Some of the mail might include application waivers.
Let’s look at these advantages in a bit more detail:
- Learn about colleges that are a good fit for you. The whole point of the Student Search Service is to find universities that will fit the person you are. Take a look at the names of universities sending you mail and make a shortlist of the ones you might actually apply to.
- Find out who to contact at these universities. When you open up these envelopes, whose names do you see? Presidents and deans might not be your first point of contact, but there is probably an e-mail address you can reach out to for admissions information.
- Some mail might include waivers for application fees. You may want to open up every college letter you receive specifically because of this. If you want to cast a wide net but don’t want to shell out a fortune on application fees, check to see if any schools included waivers for these fees. You may not end up applying, but if it doesn’t require writing any extra essays, why not bookmark it just in case?
So don’t avoid opting into the Student Search Service just to avoid all this mail, unless you have your heart set on one or two schools.
What Does It Mean if a College Sends You an Invitation To Apply?
If a college sends you an application invitation, it means that they believe you’re similar to other students who apply there. They send the same invitation to every other student in the demographic.
Unfortunately, that’s about all it means. It doesn’t mean that you got amazing test scores, or that you have an excellent transcript, or that this college is “interested” in you. Even if the language in the letter or brochure strongly suggests that they are.
In fact, these universities send letters to far more potential applicants than they are able to accept.
It might be disappointing to realize that you’re essentially receiving junk mail and are not a preferred applicant, but you don’t want to dole out a fortune in application fees just because of all this mail.
Let’s go into why colleges might send out these letters to people who won’t get in.
Why Do Colleges Invite You To Apply if You Won’t Get In?
Colleges invite you to apply even if you won’t get in because they want to have a high number of applicants. They accept a smaller percentage of people and therefore appear more prestigious.
This kind of outreach is simply a way to target the right people that they hope will apply, but not those who will necessarily get in.
That means that they aren’t looking at things like test scores and transcripts when they stamp and send these letters. All they’re looking at is where you fit into the applicant pool statistically.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apply to colleges that send you mail.
Many great schools aggressively market themselves. The University of Chicago is notorious for its huge volume of mailings.
All levels of universities have mail outreach programs, so you shouldn’t assume that these schools are of lower quality just because they send you tons of annoying mail. Just keep in mind that you might not be accepted to all the colleges you receive mail from.
If you’re getting swamped with college mail, the only reason for this is that colleges believe you’re a good candidate to apply.
It doesn’t mean that you’re likely to get into the colleges, unfortunately. Don’t apply to a university only because you are getting a high volume of mail from them and think they will let you in.
Be sure to take a passing glance at all this mail anyway, as you just might find your dream college buried in your junk mail.