Why your mailbox is overflowing with envelopes addressed to your high school senior.

IMG_0948The first few letters and view books that came to your house from colleges impressed you, didn’t they? Now you’ve started wondering about all this interest in your teen. Do you have a genius on your hands?

Not exactly. PSAT, SAT and ACT scores are circulating and if your student checked the box that says they want to hear from colleges, they will, primarily via email. After each new round of tests, colleges and universities across the country reach out to students who might fit the mix of their campus. Or not. Read on to find out what’s really going on.

Help with the potential list of colleges If your student still appears lost when it comes to finding schools that interest them, then some of this mail might help. Without too much effort, they can learn about a variety of colleges. Maybe this is the push they need to get on the college bandwagon. 

Flattery will get them everywhere The letters make it sound like these colleges really want your teen and admission will be a breeze. The truth? Schools sometimes use these letters to increase their applicant pool to make themselves appear more competitive. If they reject enough students, the colleges end up with low acceptance rates, putting them on that list of selective schools.

Even Ivy Leagues use this ploy. My son received a couple of invitations to apply, most likely because of his solid math scores and interest in engineering. He felt a little impressed with himself when the letters arrived, but he didn’t expect to be admitted and   had no desire to attend.

Dollar SymbolScholarships are enticing Some of these letters guarantee a scholarship with acceptance. No one ever wants to turn down one of those. Read carefully, though. An $88,000 scholarship will go far, but it’s spread out over four years on a full tuition bill of $200,000. Unless your family can afford the balance, the scholarship may not be enough to make the college a real option for your student.

No application fee With some application fees running as high as $100, having one or two waived can save your family significant money. Keep in mind your teen still needs to make time to fill out that application, so unless this school seriously interests your student or they need another safety school, don’t be swayed.

What type of college is your student looking for? My kids received the majority of their college mail from schools that didn’t fit their interests. Letters with offers of a partial scholarship from small, private, liberal arts colleges didn’t match their choice of large, public universities near/in a major city.

With my daughter we held onto the letters and kept them in a box until she reviewed them just before application time. Two years later we knew better and my son tossed and saved as he received. His “college box” only contained information from schools that appealed to him.

In short, use the flood of letters, view books and emails to your advantage—to find new colleges your son or daughter might be interested in. But don’t be sold on schools that don’t fit your teen’s’s profile. We all want to feel that our student is special, but the truth is, every other parent will be bragging about how many letters and emails their kids are receiving, too. As my son said, none of it matters if these aren’t the colleges you want to go to anyway.

Share your thoughts on college mail for high school students in the comments section below.