White hands holding tablet looking at email inbox with 12 new messages

How to Use College Recruitment Emails to Your Advantage

Getting a million messages from colleges can be annoying, but they do have a purpose. If you keep these steps in mind, you can turn them to your advantage.

Yes, you read that title right. And yes, I am referring to the millions of messages you and many other students have been getting since your first year of high school—emails, letters, posters, and all sorts of other things. These can be annoying and even downright upsetting; however, they do have a use. If you keep the following in mind and approach these emails and letters in a prepared way, you can turn them to your advantage—I know this because I have. So, without further ado, here are some ways to make use of all those college recruitment emails in your inbox.

Look past the “recruitment fluff”

You usually need to sift through a lot of jargon to get a real glimpse of the university sending the email. I can guarantee that just about every recruitment email will say one or more of the following:

  • You are a gifted student.
  • We have small class sizes.
  • We have a small student-faculty ratio.
  • We have a diverse student body representing all 50 states and # countries.
  • You should come visit us.
  • We are ranked very highly on a certain list of colleges.
  • We are committed to making college affordable.
  • Our application process is easy.
  • We have a nationally recognized curriculum.
  • Our campus is the most beautiful in the world.
  • Oh, and we’re completely unique.

Learn to ignore all of these statements; this is just the college trying to appeal to you. Once you remove these 11 phrases from a recruitment email, only the useful stuff is left behind: random tips, suggestions, programs, opportunities, and even scholarships or useful information about applications and such. Now you can really get the most out of the email.

Filter all the college emails to one place

Colleges and universities get your personal information from tests like the ACT, SAT, PLAN, and PSAT as well as other things like AP tests and scholarship sites. If you can somehow direct all of these emails to one isolated place, they will be much easier to look through and compare. One way to do this is by creating a college-only email address through Gmail (or whatever your email service is) and using that address for all of your school-related things. Another way is to let the emails gather in your inbox, then start using forwarding rules to direct them all to one folder.

Related: How to Organize Your College Search

Take the surveys they send you

Every once in a while, a college will send you an email with a link saying something like “take this survey on our website!” Take those surveys. Yes, they will always end up saying you should go to their university (“It seems you have an interest in Physics. Well, our university happens to have an excellent Physics department...”). However, the surveys will tell you other things too, like what you’re interested in, what type of college is for you, and other useful information. If nothing else, they can help you get an idea of what that college is aiming for. In general, it's good to keep talking to the schools you actually want to go to. That's because they track your interest, and though it won't make or break your chances of getting in, it can legitimately help tip the odds in your favor.

Unsubscribe from schools you don't want to hear from

Every recruitment email has that link within it somewhere; use it. Get rid of any colleges you just don’t like, and eventually you’ll have an inbox full of emails from only your colleges of interest, which is more useful than not. This will also make room for the non-recruitment emails (see below).

Sum up the college in one or two words

Each college aims to give you a certain impression, and they’re all different. If you think for a minute and come up with a word or phrase that describes a college that sent you an email, it’ll help you know if that college really appeals to you or not. It will also let you know what kind of message that college is trying to send and whether or not they actually fit that impression. Some examples: Yale, sophisticated; Ohio State, big; Macalester, small; Columbia, city life.

Connect me with OHIO! Connect me with Columbia!

Try to see why they're interested in you

These colleges aren’t just sending you emails because they feel like it. They want you to attend their university, and they want you to make them look good. There's a reason they’re targeting you in particular—you just have to find it. Did you do well on your ACT? Are you interested in a major the college offers? Realizing the reason behind the email will give you an idea of how you appear to scholarship givers, college application readers, job interviewers, and the like. That is valuable information. 

Look for programs, visits, and scholarship opportunities

Sometimes colleges aren’t trying to recruit you. The only email I ever got from Stanford University (a school I happen to want to go to very much) was about an eight-week summer college program they were offering. These offers are like diamonds in a giant pile of rocks. Some will be pure scams, but occasionally they’ll be truly awesome scholarships or programs like the one Stanford offered. Others will include smaller things, like essay-writing tips or example application essays.

Connect me with Stanford!

Check for offers that aren’t from specific colleges

This is one of my favorite uses of recruitment emails. Colleges will sometimes tell you about academic opportunities that have nothing to do with that school in particular. In addition, some programs will obtain your email address the same way all those colleges did and use it to send you information about what they offer. This is how I found out about the Common Application, QuestBridge, CollegePoint, the National Society of High School Scholars, the National Young Leaders Conference, and more—and that made looking at all those recruitment emails totally worth it.

Related: College Search Resources Students Need to Know About

College recruitment emails aren't useless—in fact, they can be extremely useful. You may find the college of your dreams through these emails. Or, if you’re like me and have your university chosen already, you’ll find tons of scholarships and other programs ready for you to dive into. So don’t discount these emails as endless trash and abandon your computer for a trek across the Plains just yet.

Ready to start corresponding with colleges? Check out all our featured schools and press the green "Connect me" buttons to get on their email lists!

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About Russel Anderson

Russel Aaron Anderson is a junior in high school, ready to graduate early next May and leave on an LDS mission. His hobbies include history, music, and writing, and he intends to major in Physics.


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