How do I get on college mailing lists?

Question: I would like to receive mail to my home from colleges. I need to expand my knowledge of college information now that I am in the 10th grade & I would like to know if this can be done.

This may be one of those “Be careful what you wish for situations." Once you start seeking college information, you might need to build a giant new mailbox to accommodate it all, and your email inbox may be maxed out with more messages than you can read in a lifetime. ;)

Since you are just a sophomore, you may not have taken any college entrance tests yet (PSAT, SAT, ACT). Once you do, the registration form will ask you if you are willing to have your name and contact details forwarded to colleges. If you agree, then you will end up on many mailing lists. The colleges will not receive your scores, but they will get your name and contact details if you meet whatever student "profile" they are seeking. Examples of the traits that colleges may look for using SAT and ACT registration include:


-home state or country

-racial or ethnic background

-prospective major

-other interests or strengths (sports, music, etc.)

Although colleges will not receive your actual scores, some will have score cut-offs and thus won't get the names of those students who did not meet them.

So, when you sign up for the tests, be sure to agree to take part in this student search and then prepare for the onslaught! Keep in mind, however, that the friendly letters are really just invitations to apply but aren't any guarantee of acceptance, no matter how welcoming they sound. Once you have finished your junior year, compare your GPA and test results with the median figures at the colleges that interest you to see if you're really in the ballpark.

Meanwhile, if you want to start getting college materials now, here's a fun and easy way to do it:

-Go to College Confidential's SuperMatch here:

-Complete the questionnaire that asks you about your college preferences for size, location, major, etc. (Don't worry if these change many times before you're a senior.) The questionnaire will also ask you about your GPA and standardized test scores. (If you don't have test scores yet, you can play around with different numbers.)

-Check out your “Results" list on the right side of the page. At the bottom of the box below each college's name, you'll see a “Request Information" link. Click on that and it will take you to a form to fill out that will go right to the admission office to get you on the mailing list.

-If you have specific colleges in mind already but they don't come up when you do your SuperMatch search, you will see “FIND & PIN A SCHOOL BY NAME" near the upper left-hand corner of the SuperMatch form. Enter a college's name there and it will be added to your list.

It can be fun (but exhausting) to explore all the college “propaganda" that will arrive between now and the end of your senior year. Try to have a discerning eye as you go through it. All colleges can start to sound the same pretty quickly, but if some intrigue you more than others, seek out statistics to back the claims in the brochure. For instance, is the racially diverse group of undergrads on the cover really representative of this college's demographics? Is the promise of “highly satisfied students" reflected in the school's retention rate? Keep in mind that many of these publications are not written by college officials but by advertising experts—the same folks who sell you toothpaste, soda, and cereal. So be a careful consumer and don't get hung up on the glossy photos and catchy tag lines.

(posted 2/1/2012)