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Each year a deluge of mail floods the mailboxes and inboxes of high schoolers, often from colleges and universities they may not have even heard of before. But why?

Many colleges and universities have sophisticated marketing strategies. Some even enlist the help of external marketing consultants and mailhouses to orchestrate their outreach campaigns and monitor student responses. So, what’s the deal when you find one of these missives in your mailbox?

The majority of these mass communications are simply attempts to pique the interest of a broader pool of students. Receiving an email or letter from a prestigious institution like Stanford University doesn’t necessarily mean they’re actively recruiting you or that they view you as a top-tier applicant. It’s a bit disappointing, but that’s the reality.

However, if you happen to engage with a college admissions officer at a college fair, during a high school visit, during an interview, or while touring a university campus, and subsequently receive a personalized email or note from that same admissions representative, well, that’s a different story. In such cases, it’s quite likely that the college has singled you out for special attention.

So, here’s the litmus test: Is this contact part of a mass mailing or is it a personalized message crafted specifically for you? The answer to that question holds the key to deciphering whether the college or university is genuinely interested in you.

If the communication includes a response mechanism—such as a link to click or a form to fill out—taking action can signal your interest to the school. For those institutions you’re genuinely keen on, it’s a smart move to let them know by clicking away.


ScholarShare 529, California’s college savings plan, publishes the College Countdown website and articles to provide resources and to ease the minds of parents preparing to send their kids to college. Visit ScholarShare 529.