Originally Posted: Dec 30, 2015
Last Updated: Sep 14, 2020
So maybe your mailbox is being weighed down with bundles of pamphlets every day, but let’s be honest—it’s actually kinda fun! You are cool enough to be approached by all these different schools, and you have a (literal) heap of options to choose from. All you have to do is find a way of digesting aaall this information, which might seem overwhelming, but I promise it isn’t as hard as it sounds. Fortunately, there is a straightforward process to help you wade through all of those college letters and brochures:
First, don’t get overwhelmed
During my senior year, there wasn’t a day that I didn’t have at least one college letter in my mailbox. Typically, I had around three to five. And that doesn’t even include the ones that flooded my e-mail inbox! To be honest, there were days where I didn’t know what to do with a single day’s worth of letters, let alone the whole year’s. To cope with all that information, the first and most important thing I learned was to not let it overwhelm you. When possible, read all of your letters the day you get them. If you’re a list person, keep a list of the colleges that have contacted you and whatever struck you about their letters. You can also simply keep the letters you really like—and chuck the ones you don’t. No matter what, remember that you don’t need to keep all of these details in your head. There are tons and tons of colleges, and most likely you will only apply to a handful of them. Besides, you have a year or two to think about these schools, and your list will narrow with time!
Establish a few must haves, but be open to variation
You need some way of sorting through the letters and picking which colleges to consider. While you should keep your options open, it’s a good idea to look at those letters with some set criteria in mind, just like you would during your overall college search, so you know which schools to investigate further. These things will vary (a lot) from student to student, but here’s a section of my list:
- Good location—it’s the South for this girl!
- Small to medium size school
- Skilled professors/mentors
- Friendly, welcoming atmosphere
- My major (graphic design, although I also considered art with a design concentration)
- Fun traditions
Some of these college search criteria are more important than others. So, to begin with, just look for one or two of these criteria in the pamphlets you get. Of course, not everything about a college will be covered in a single letter or brochure, so don’t completely cross off a school until you receive several mailings from them!
Remember: this is marketing
Every college mailing has one goal: to get you to go to their school. They want the best and brightest to congregate there, and so their mailings will, hopefully, make them look flat-out awesome. Does this mean that they aren’t flat-out awesome in actuality? No way! However, these schools might not be flat-out awesome for you. What’s the takeaway? Make sure you consider all those subjective things with a grain of salt. Meaning if a school says they have a “friendly atmosphere where you are not just a number!” you really need to get a sense for that “friendly atmosphere” on your own, like through a campus visit, because, well, every school says that! (The objective stuff, like lists or majors or number of students, you can usually take at face value.) How a school markets itself is a great way to get a “feel” for who they are, to learn details, and to decide which colleges to visit—but it shouldn’t be your only factor in the eventual college decision. Don’t forget to do your research, connect with current students, and make your college visits before picking your school or crossing a possible school off for good.
No matter how many letters you see in your mailbox tomorrow, keep in mind that it’s just the beginning. Don’t let the stack stress you out! You have time to consider your options, and soon you’ll establish your best process for picking which schools to consider. For now, simply try to enjoy the first impressions.
For more advice on what to expect during your college search process, check out our College Admission section.