What Receiving College Brochures Means

University Brochures, College Brochures, College Mailings

Washington University in St. Louis loves to send out college brochures (photo credit: Baili Min).

Come junior and senior year of high school, no walk outside to the mailbox would be complete without returning home with a college brochure in hand. Many students (and particularly their parents) believe that when a college sends a brochure, it means the college is really interested in you, that the school thinks you’d be an excellent fit for their incoming class. And while we so hate to burst bubbles, we also are well known for telling it like it is. We’d rather burst a bubble than not dispel a misconception in college admissions. Receiving a brochure from a college does not in any way indicate that the college is interested in admitting you. Receiving a brochure from a college only means that the school wants you to apply. Why? Because the more students who apply, the lower the school’s admission rate will be, and the higher the school will be ranked in “US News & World Report.” That’s right. Colleges — even our nation’s most elite colleges — want anyone and everyone to apply. Mailing out brochures is their little way of expressing this desire.

How Colleges Get Students’ Information to Send Brochures

Students who take the PSAT, SAT, or ACT (and answered a few questions in a specific way and also indicated that they’d like to receive mailings from colleges) receive college brochures. These brochures could be in the form of postcards, letters, reminders…you name it. While our nation’s most highly selective colleges tend not to snail mail their big, thick catalogues as they did 15 or 20 years ago (these are costly), it hasn’t stopped colleges from sending smaller mailings in the digital age.

Also, once students complete the ‘Personal Information’ section on the Common Application (and add specific colleges to their ‘My Colleges’ section), they begin receiving emails and snail mail from those schools. Sneaky, right? When a student attends a college’s webinar or a college-related webinar (Common Application, Coalition Application, etc.), completes a college / career related survey, fills out a college’s online contact form, schedules and /or attends a campus visit, or submits a college application, this can all trigger a college to send out snail mail, too.

Which Colleges Send the Most Mailings?

Among the highly selective colleges, we’re sometimes asked which schools send out the most mailings. While we don’t keep data on this subject (why would we?) and so we’re basing this answer strictly on our gut instinct developed over a quarter of a century working in this field, we’d have to say that the winner in this category is Washington University in St. Louis. Boy does Wash U. love sending out mailings to prospective students. And the runner-up in the category, you ask? That would be the University of Chicago. Duke University, Stanford University, and each of the eight Ivy League colleges are also certainly in the conversation.
Have a question about college brochures? Let us know your question by posting it below. We look forward to hearing from you.

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