Opinion: Lay Off the Emails, Colleges

Cutting down on constant messages could help all parties involved


Photo courtesy of US News & World Report

Since the beginning of 2018, I have gotten 1,373 emails from colleges, which works out to be about 3.5 emails a day. I know this because that’s when I began putting emails from colleges in a separate inbox folder so I wouldn’t have to look at them every time I checked my inbox. Any high schooler who has taken the PSAT, SAT, or an AP exam has been faced with the decision of whether or not to check the box allowing the College Board to sell your email address and information to colleges. If you did check the box, you’ve may have gotten the same steady stream of emails that I have.

The cynical view about these emails is that colleges send out emails to loads of students, many of whom are outside of their score range. The idea is that, by sending emails, they increase the number of people who apply with no change in the number of people who are accepted, thereby lowering the acceptance rate and making the school seem more prestigious. I don’t completely subscribe to this, but I do think the emails are annoying, stressful, and, frankly, not all that effective.

An extra 3.5 emails in your inbox each day isn’t enough to be truly overwhelming, but it is enough to be inconvenient. Aside from simply being an annoyance, it can be stressful to be reminded of the college process every time you check your email. It feels like, if you don’t delve into the fine print of every email and mailing, you’ll miss something important.

As I’m learning, much about the college search process is more stress-inducing than necessary. Emails from colleges, for me, are a major piece of that exaggerated pressure. Beyond their existence, the emails are pressuring content-wise. They include links that claim to tell you all the secrets of applying for college or which school is right for you, perpetuating the anxiety-provoking narrative that there is exactly one perfect college for any given student. Often, the subject lines of these emails create a sense of impending doom to a nearly-comical extent: “Ready for Day One?” “Last Reminder to Answer: What If?” Even, startlingly, “Madeline’s final opportunity…”

I’m now able to laugh at these subjects, but they used to stress me out. What if it was my final opportunity for something important? For a while I worried that I would miss something crucial if I didn’t read through every email. But then, the volume of emails got too high and I saw that every email was the same: your free guide, your free quiz, etc. Now I don’t read the emails and put them straight into a specific folder so I can reference them when writing opinion pieces for the Echo.

If I only got a few emails a week, I might be able to read them all and look into each college. Schools really aren’t doing themselves any favors by sending so many emails! Colleges could garner the most interest in their school by sending out one or two well-crafted emails to students.

The one email I received from a school that was truly effective actually brought me to tears – multiple times – because of how funny it was. I could not read the email out loud to my family without crying from laughter. I’ve only received a few emails from the school in total, so I haven’t felt at all annoyed. I’m touring that school in April and I probably wouldn’t have even looked into it without that email!

So in the right amount and form, emails can be a good marketing strategy for colleges and a good way for students to learn about schools. Sending out masses of stressful emails to masses of stressed students, though, helps no one.