Where is This College Mail Coming From?

Are you receiving mail from colleges you were not expecting? Maybe you received some mail from colleges you’ve never heard of. Or, you have received mail from colleges you would never consider. Maybe you received a piece of mail from a very prestigious college. How are they getting your name and what does it mean?

You can join a college mailing list by filling out an interest card at a college fair or submitting an inquiry request on a college website. But, what about the mail from colleges you know you never requested information. The easy answer is that the college probably purchased your name and information. Remember taking the PSAT, SAT, or ACT? There are questions that will ask if you would like to receive correspondence from colleges, scholarship programs, etc. If you marked yes, this is probably the reason you are receiving correspondence from colleges.

As someone who purchased names when I was an admissions director, I have a little more insight for you. You may share a lot of demographic information when taking these tests. In addition to your name and address, you might share your intended major, GPA, extracurricular activities, ethnicity, citizenship, and religion. Depending on the college needs, they can choose to purchase names associated with any or all of the information listed, as well as your test scores. For example, if the college is looking to increase the number of students from a certain region, they may focus on students with addresses in that area. If they are having trouble recruiting students for a specific major, they may choose to purchase names of students who listed that major as their intended major. The colleges can choose whatever criteria they like when deciding to purchase names.

Should I opt out of this service?

The answer is up to you. For students who are open to considering many colleges during their college search, receiving unsolicited mail could help you discover other colleges. Every year at my former institutions, students who had never shown interested in the institution would go on to apply and sometimes enroll after receiving correspondence from the college. You never know – you may find a college that is a great option for you.

Does it mean I will be admitted?

No. You may meet a certain criteria the college has set, but a lot more goes into the college admission decisions. The colleges are trying to build interest from students like you. Your test scores may have fallen in their average range, or you want to major in something the college has had trouble enrolling students. However, even though there is no guarantee you will be admitted, look into the college if you’re interested. You have something they are looking for and maybe after applying, they will realize you could be a great student at their institution.

Should I respond to the mail?

If you’re interested in the college, let them know. They may send you more specific information on the things you are interested in. Plus, demonstrated interest could help your case when it comes to decision time. If you are not interested in the college, you can also let the college know so that you will not continue receiving correspondence. You can unsubscribe to the emails, send an email to the admissions office, or even write “Refused” on the snail mail. The college will hopefully get the idea and stop sending you correspondence.

Will it ever stop?

Some colleges will send one piece of mail and if you don’t respond, you’ll never hear from them again. Other college may continue sending mail in hopes you will reply. The colleges know your intended college start date and if they don’t hear from you by then, they will probably stop sending correspondence. If you really don’t want the correspondence from that particular college, let them know.

Should I be offended if they don’t contact me?

No! Some colleges have much smaller budgets and may not be able to purchase names. Even if they are able to purchase names, their budget may only allow them to purchase a small amount and they must choose their parameters carefully to meet their enrollment goals. Other colleges may not need to purchase names because they receive enough applications. Remember, colleges purchase names for different reasons. The biggest reason is to garner interest in their institution, but it does not guarantee students will be admitted. If you learn of a college that could be a good fit for you, reach out to them to learn more information.


If you choose to opt into receiving information from colleges, check out the correspondence the colleges send. You might be surprised to find there are more colleges out there that meet your needs. You may also find that some colleges may be better options than some of the colleges that are on your initial college list. Read through the brochures the colleges send and look to see if they have the things you are looking for in a college. If they do, reach out to get more information. If not, let the college know you are not interested to stop receiving correspondence.

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4 Comments on “Where is This College Mail Coming From?

    • I can tell you from experience colleges spend a lot of money on these marketing materials – designing them (many used outside vendors), printing them, and mailing them. And, because they are dated (they usually include tuition cost for a particular year), all extras have to be thrown own – hopefully recycled.

  1. Many organizations and websites sell contact information to colleges and universities for marketing purposes. In most cases, this is just noise for both the student and the admissions departments. This is why we started Homiee, a platform to match students with colleges and careers that are a good fit for them and to ensure they have the guidance they need to apply and get in. We would love your feedback on it!

    • Colleges receive a small return on these names they purchase (I know from experience), but it will continue happening. And, there are some students who are thankful the information came to them because they may have never heard of the college that they ultimately choose to attend. Students should use all of the resources that are available to them to learn about good fit colleges. This includes counselors, teachers, college fairs, mail they receive from colleges, and websites like Homiee and College Board’s Big Future.

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