Chronicling Email Pitches from Colleges to High School Sophomores

Smith the Quad

In my effort to contribute to the quest for sanity and humanity in college admission, I have been encouraged by guidance counselors and independent educational consultants (IECs) to share my “research” chronicling email pitches from colleges to high school sophomores.

An unsuspecting sophomore indicated interest in being contacted by colleges on the PSAT registration form. As a result, that student received 44 emails from 44 different colleges during the first seven days in March. Subject lines included such misleading teasers as:

  1. Time is running out
  2. Last chance
  3. I’m intrigued [student’s first name]
  4. Correct email address?
  5. You’ve impressed us
  6. Deadline approaching
  7. Relax, [student’s first name]
  8. Re: my previous email
  9. You still have time
  10. Only a few days left [student’s first name]
  11. I haven’t heard back from you
  12. Do you know the secret?
  13. I forgot to mention

Most invite action on the student’s part and imply that their offer is somewhat timely or “important.” One with the subject line, “You still have time,” promises to help relieve stress! That one reads, “Bottom line: When it comes to getting into a good school you still have a little time — but getting started early can mean the difference between relaxation and stress when senior year rolls around.” [And to put that school in “context,” its middle 50 percent range for critical reading and math SAT scores is 1030–1200.]

Jokingly, I suggest that David Letterman do a top 10 most egregious! But more seriously, I invite college admission directors to reflect on the effect of these practices on unsuspecting 15-year-olds in 10th grade who are likely, and maybe hesitantly, just beginning to think about the world of college and college admission. No wonder high school students and their families find the process stressful.

To close, I’d like to share my choice for most bizarre college email pitch. Its subject line is “Relax, [student’s first name].”

It reads:

“Dear [student’s first name],

One way to keep yourself relaxed during your college search is to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and say to yourself millions of people have gone through this—and most do NOT live out of their cars. Another great way is to ask for a Short Guide to a Happy College Search [link]. This unique guide shows you the right questions to ask and the smartest things to do (and what NOT to do) to stay calm and find the right college.

When I send yours, I will also include information about X College and our unique program…”

Published as a Letter to the Editor of NACAC’s Journal of College Admission in Fall 2013.

The CEP is the Certified Educational Planner which Jane holds, and is the mark of distinction for independent educational consultants and high school counselors.

Jane Hoffman is a Certified Educational Planner (CEP). The CEP is the mark of distinction for independent educational consultants and high school counselors. It reflects the highest level of professional achievement and signifies extensive knowledge and commitment to the profession and to providing the highest quality of service to students and families. It is conferred only after demonstration of expanded institutional and professional knowledge.

CEPIECANACACJane Hoffman is an active member of a number of professional associations in college admissions and counseling, including the American Institute of Certified Educational Planners (AICEP), the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). Jane is a graduate of IECA’s Practices and Principles Training Institute and adheres to IECA’s Principles of Good Practice. Since it is important to remain current, Jane frequently attends national conferences and participate in professional exchanges that provide the latest information on admission policies, practices, trends and developments. Jane regularly visit colleges and meets with admissions officers to learn about each school’s culture, educational programs, institutional priorities and admissions practices. Ongoing professional development activities also include taking courses online, completing webinars and consulting with colleagues.