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Around December of junior year, many students will suddenly receive a flood of mail and email from all sorts of colleges and universities—some they know, most they don’t.

What happened?

Some colleges and universities have very sophisticated marketing programs; some even hire outside marketing consultants and mail houses to coordinate all of their mailings and track responses from students. At Bright Horizons College Coach, we are often asked the question, “What does this mailing mean?” The reality is that the majority of these mass mailings are an attempt to generate interest from a wider range of students. It doesn’t necessarily indicate that the college is specifically interested in a student. Sorry to disappoint, but getting an email from Harvard doesn’t mean they are recruiting you or that they think you are an admissible applicant.

If, however, you meet a college admissions officer at a college fair, a high school visit, an interview, or while visiting a university, you may receive an email or note directly from that admissions person. In this situation, it may mean that the college has a particular interest in you. It comes down to this: is this contact a mass mailing that’s generalized in nature, or is it an individualized contact written specifically for you by a member of the admissions staff? The answer to that question will solve the underlying mystery as to whether the college or university is genuinely interested.

Having said all that, if there is a response mechanism in the mailing or email, clicking on that link will indicate to that school that you are interested in them and that you would like more information about their offerings. For the colleges that you like, it’s a good idea to show them you are interested and click away.

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Bright Horizons College Coach® is the nation’s leader in educational advising. We help students and families across the country navigate the path to college, with a team of experts—all former admissions and financial aid decision-makers at top schools—who know the process from the inside. Collectively, we’ve helped more than 32,000 families successfully manage every aspect of college admissions, from choosing schools, to creating stand-out applications, to economically saving, and financing it all. Visit the Bright Horizons website.