When the first bit of college mail arrives on the doorstep, it's exciting. The kids wonder if they are truly wanted by the schools who court them. The brochures are slick and glossy and it makes the next step in life look exciting.
You wonder how they knew about your child and allow yourself to dream a little bit about the process of finding a college. Was it test scores that brought this bounty of colorful catalogues to your door? Was it a box your child checked off on a standardized test?
Does someone out there realize that your child is special even if they have little information?
Before long, you realize that none of the above is true. Your child is simply on an “elite” list of “high school students." You are now part of a huge marketing machine, some well-intended and some possibly sinister.
If you plan on saving this mail, you better get a few gigantic totes because it just keeps coming. Someone in the know advised me to keep all this mail. She said it might not seem relevant at first, but it gets useful at some point in the process. Another person at the other end of the process told me to read it carefully. Many schools offer codes and deals to waive fees for applicants or even chunks of tuition for students who commit to them early.
So, you get the totes and save it. Sorting through these totes is a wondrous thing. You immediately realize why college is so expensive. Schools spend enormous sums printing and mailing beautiful materials.
We have gotten 30-page catalogues filled with gorgeous, professional photographs. We have received packages inside sleek tins, printed on heavy paper. There are posters and calendars that come in thick cardboard boxes measuring nearly two feet in height. There are decks of cards showing the reasons to attend a school. Some are personalized with your child’s name printed into the brochure and pages tailored to your child’s interests.
It’s expensive to print, costly to mail and it could very well be going to every high school student in the U.S. and beyond.
Much of it is ridiculous. I believe many of these schools would like your student to apply simply for the privilege of getting rejected so the college can look more competitive.
There are elite schools that cannot honestly plan to accept the kids they court. Perhaps they want to brag in the numerous college guides and rankings about their selectivity. Why else would a school practically beg a child who is completely unqualified according to standardized tests to apply by sending reams of mail and waiving application fees?
Others really do seem sincere and really want you to apply. They continue to pelt you with snail mail reminding you to apply after you already have. You start to wonder if they will be reminding you to apply when you get your AARP card.
The good news is that many jobs must depend on the creation of these brochures so they are helping to keep people working. And, if anyone is worried about the future of the U.S. Postal Service, the colleges are doing their best to keep it humming.
Sooner or later, I will find time to empty the tubs and possibly keep that recycling industry busy another day.