What Unsolicited Letters From Colleges Mean

Question: I recently received a letter from a university asking me to consider applying there. I was wondering how they got my name. Was I specially selected or did the college just send the same letter to everyone in the state?

The university probably got your name from "Student Search." If you checked the appropriate box when you registered for the SAT, you gave the College Board permission to release your name and address to subscribing colleges. Colleges and universities pay for the Student Search service to help them locate students with the characteristics they're seeking. These include racial or ethnic preferences, geographical preferences, choice of majors, test scores, and so on. The College Board doesn't release actual scores, but let's say that a college is looking for males with a total SAT I over 1200, and you fit the bill, then that school will get your name and contact info. The same is true if the school is seeking prospective scientists, band members, lacrosse players, etc. Some colleges have very specific criteria while others are after almost anyone who isn't on life support.

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