Peabody is the building, Jack is the dog, and I'm Dean J (she/her, btw).

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Emails, Letters, and Brochures, Oh My! (College Mailings)

A friend of mine has a son in 10th grade who recently took the PSAT. She shared a screen shot of his inbox yesterday, which prompted me to write this entry. The picture shows a slew of emails from colleges. Some of the subject lines:

"You've impressed us"
"___ University has selected you"
"An exclusive invitation from ____ College"
"Great work, [Student's Name]!"
"[Student's Name], you've caught my attention."

If you're a senior, I'm sure you roll your eyes at some of this stuff by now, but for a 10th grader (and a 10th grader's parent), it can be kind of exciting! Some of those subject lines sound pretty awesome.

I applied to college before email (I got my first email address in college!) and I still remember the first brochure I got. I don't remember the name of the school, but the brochure had a pile of beautiful, red apples in a silver, Revere bowl. It made me feel special and wanted. A month later, the brochures were coming daily. I'd flip through some and recycle others without much more than a cursory glance.

Can we go outside to play instead of reading all that mail?
What's point? Well, obviously there are schools with which you might not be familiar sending you things in hopes that you'll take a look at what they offer. Then there are the schools that get lots of applications that might want more students from certain places or with certain interests (maybe that's why two schools known for engineering came after my liberal arts-loving heart when I was in high school!). Still others might have been charged with increasing their overall numbers so they can be counted among the most selective schools in the country.

Technology has improved so much over time that many colleges can personalize what they send you, which can do two things: catch your eye (how did they know that about me?) and creep you out (wait...WHY do they know that about me?). Most of this info comes off your PSAT registartion and is given to the schools when they buy mailing lists from the Student Search Service. There are other sources of mailing lists for students, but SSS is the original and still dominant one.

In undergraduate admission at UVa, we have a publication budget that allows us to send some mailings, but not as many as some of our peers. We do send emails, since the cost is an upfront investment in a communication system. We try to keep them reasonable (monthly newsletters plus application announcements), but feel free to tell me otherwise and I'll share the feedback. There are always links at the bottom of the emails that will opt you out of future communications.

Anyway, seniors, it might be a nice time to reflect and share some advice with the students who are coming behind you. Juniors are starting to make lists and sophomores are starting to do their research. They could benefit from what you've learned!