If you ever needed an example of just how much colleges are driven to market themselves in the hopes of driving up their application volume, look no further than “search letters” (a term coined before colleges upgraded to email marketing). If you’re a junior who took the PSAT and you checked the box indicating that you’d like to receive communication from colleges that might fit you, you’re probably already seeing what I mean.
From schools that you may never have heard of to those that are at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it seems that colleges across the country are employing direct marketing experts to reach out and generate interest from students. And it’s almost impossible for even the most rational student not to take those communications as a sign that they have an admissions advantage, especially when some colleges come right out and say things akin to, “You’re exactly the type of student we’re looking for.” But that messaging, especially when it comes from schools that turn away more applicants than they admit, is often misleading.
Benjamin Shapiro, a junior at Stuyvesant High School in New York City who is living this reality right now, penned this piece in the NY Post, “How colleges spam high school students at the worst possible time,” which explains how it feels to receive these messages.
And Marilee Jones, the former dean of admission at MIT, explains the truth about search letters in this post on her blog.