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College solicitations: Real mail or junk mail?

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Learning about options for higher education

In the increasingly competitive college application process, not only are our kids competing for spaces in the college or university of their choice, colleges and universities are competing for them, as well.

When a child does well on a standardized test, such as the PSAT or SAT, colleges take note. And then they start the hard sell.

Just when you're trying to get a handle on the idea of your baby going off to college, colleges and universities already are off running, trying to get your attention and, let's be honest, your tuition dollars. Before you know it, your inbox is overflowing with cleverly designed marketing materials from schools all over the country. How did this happen?

Choosing to be contacted

How does your child get on these lists? By opting in when entering information on standardized tests, through existing marketing information gathered about your family and through your child's school. If you don't want such promotional materials, it's better to be proactive to stay off the lists. Not only should your child opt out of being contacted, but you should check with your school about whether and how they give information to the college testing board, the local university system -- even the military.

Junk mail and spam

If your child opted in, you'll be bombarded as schools get creative about grabbing your attention. Trees and bandwidth could be saved if your child opted out, and much of the material will be deleted or recycled. Additionally, if you know your child will be staying within the state/local system for post-high school education or will be taking a break from schooling, the solicitation can be particularly annoying. If you have younger children, at least you'll be better prepared to prevent the onslaught next time around.

Previously unknown options

On the other hand, in the reams of mail might be information about a previously unknown college option. A smaller, less expensive school couple hours from home with great financial aid and degree options that excite your teen? Yes, please!

As daunting as the amount of information is, keeping your mind open may open up a whole new world of opportunity for your child. In addition, many institutions offer summer programs for high school students and visiting weekends for learning more.

Unexpected repercussions

Receiving all those solicitations may have some unexpected repercussions. If your child did well on a test and schools that contact her are of a higher caliber than she expected, the interest may compel your teen to redouble her efforts on everyday classwork, thus keeping more of those high level options open.

For other kids, the response is different. Some teens feel overwhelmed by the solicitations and aren't ready to think beyond high school. The impending process may cause more anxiety than excitement. In those cases, intercepting snail mail and creating a filter to manage the email can help reduce the anxiety until your child is ready to face the issue.

The process of choosing a college is daunting, to say the least -- and mailings from colleges can both help and hinder the process for you and your child. Take them for what they are -- just part of the process.

More on kids and college

Tips for helping your child choose the best college for their needs
Acing the college application
Do your kids really need college?

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