Test Prep

How Do I Get on College Mailing Lists Without Taking the SAT/ACT?

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My brother is a year older than I am, and by this point in the year, he had tons of mail from colleges arriving every day. I have almost none. I assume it's because I didn't have a chance to take the SAT or ACT. Is it true that testing leads to college mail? And if so, how do I get on mailing lists since the ACT and SAT are all canceled near me?

Testing does indeed lead to college mail, so you've probably nailed the reason why your brother received a ton while your mailbox is nearly empty. Another explanation, however, may come from the colleges themselves. Admission officials are rushing to revise old brochures in the pandemic era. Gone are the invitations to "Come visit us on campus! Spend the night!" Gone, too, are charts of test-score requirements and ranges, now that many institutions are test-optional. So, with the old materials temporarily retired, there's a lull in the mailroom as admission folks try to figure out what's coming next before revising their propaganda. Yet there is certainly plenty of information around for those who seek it. So here are some alternate ways for you to start receiving correspondence from colleges.

If there are already schools that interest you, just go directly to their admission websites and poke around until you find the place where you can sign up to receive more information. Sometimes this will be obvious; sometimes it's not. For instance, if you were to head to the Tulane University admission homepage, you'd spot a menu at the top of the screen that clearly says, "Request Info." Click on that and you'll land on a page where you can sign up for the Tulane mailing list. Other colleges, however, may require more of a treasure hunt, but you can almost always find a "Contact Us" link. So if there's no obvious way to register to receive information, you can send an email with your request.

If you're NOT sure where you want to apply and are hoping for mail that will put unfamiliar colleges on your radar screen, then try registering for virtual college fairs, like the ones that will be hosted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). Registering for — and "attending"— these events should get you on many mailing lists. (NACAC has canceled all in-person fairs for Fall 2020. So if you're not a senior this year, you may be able to go to fairs in person in the spring or next year, which will mean even more mail heading your way.) And if you Google "Virtual College Fairs," you'll find other options ... including specialty events for arts aspirants, STEM students and so on.

While colleges do continue to send snail-mail information to prospective students, you will find that — once you land on mailing lists — you'll be hearing from many schools via email. An email address created specifically for college admission can be a good idea and can help keep you from losing your "real" mail in the avalanche of college correspondence. But if you DO create a college-only address, be sure to check it regularly. Prospective students have been known to overlook important missives from colleges (especially the ones they're applying to) by failing to pay attention to their college email account.

One final word of warning: Just because colleges happily send you materials in the mail — even unsolicited materials — don't automatically assume that they really want you ... they may simply want you to apply, which can drive up their "Selectivity" ratings if they eventually turn you down. So make sure you check your profile (GPA, class rank, etc.) against each college's statistics to see if it's likely to be a "Reach," "Realistic" or "Safe" choice for you.

About the Ask the Dean Column

Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean please email us at editorial@collegeconfidential.com.

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