Tips on managing college marketing materials or the beast that's taken over your mailbox.


So, you took one little test on a Saturday morning or maybe a random Thursday at your high school and now, 3 months later, you might as well start your own recycling company due to the amount of mail you are getting in your mail box.  And, you’re only a sophomore!

Here are a few tips to help manage the college marketing blitz that may only get worse before it gets better.

1. Discuss as a family who is responsible for weeding through the materials.  Ideally, since  students are the ones going to college – it should be them – but you also want to be realistic about addressing the ever increasing pile of stuff, you probably need to be honest and set expectations.

2. Decide if you will address the materials daily (it’s less intimidating that way) or weekly or however often works for you.

3. Limit your search.  Set some boundaries so you know what mail materials you can recycle as soon as you get them.

Good limits to consider are:

  • Location (especially, how far is too far?).
  • Size (what’s too big, what’s too small?).
  • Type of school (2 year/4 year/technical/online/etc/etc. I think this site does a pretty good job explaining some options
  • Deal breakers – are there certain things you must have at a college such as a particular sport, or major, or religious interaction – if so, it’s best to establish that right from the beginning.
  • One note of caution:  I do not recommend ruling out a school due to cost. Colleges (especially private colleges) have significant funding available to help families with college costs.  While I do recommend applying to a cost-safety school (one you know you can afford), it’s good to keep your options open until you know what the true cost to your family is going to be.

4. Make a home for your college stuff.  I recommend 1 box and one set of folders.  The box is for items you need to week through.  Keep a folder for each school you’ve identified as a potential option and keep all that school’s materials in one place.  Every couple of months, revisit the folders you’ve set up to see if there are any you are no longer seriously considering.

5. Very Important: THROW AWAY or RECYCLE all the colleges you aren’t interested in…if you don’t the college materials will begin to take over your home.  You can always request info again (trust me – schools are HAPPY and even excited to be asked) but it is much less daunting if you prune your materials on a regular basis.

6. Get a family email address for the college search process. The recommendations above seem to apply to mail pieces, but I suggest having the same philosophy for emails.  And, with all the email you will receive from colleges

– it’s better to have a separate account.

See #1 above and revisit it in regards to email – sometimes, it’s helpful to have a parent check this email address and help determine what might be worth checking out.  The amount of email from colleges can be a bit overwhelming.  Be sure to set filters and unsubscribe from mailing lists as soon as you know you aren’t interested in a school.

If you do set up this college search account YOU NEED TO CHECK IT! The schools you are interested in will send you important information only via email – especially as you get close to a decision deadline (May 1, typically).

Name your family email something you can use for subsequent students or purposes.  For example rather than, I’d recommend

Try to keep in mind it’s easier to process materials in small doses rather than having a lot of materials or emails that have piled up of a couple of months.  Also, if there are timely events or scholarship opportunities you may miss them if you don’t stay on top of the information you receive.

Overall, cut the clutter by getting rid of the materials (both print and electronic) from schools you aren’t interested in. Try to read through the materials from colleges you are interested in at least weekly.

About meghancooley

Meghan Cooley has worked in admissions for over 15 years. She's served in a variety of roles, ranging from tour guide to admissions counselor to her most recent position as Director of Admissions and Recruitment. Through many admissions cycles - she's experienced the ebb and flow of the higher education landscape in the Midwest, become an expert on family dynamics within the college search, guided many through the details of the college search and witnessed the joy and disappointment of student college decisions.

Now, as the Director of Recruitment Communication and Manager of social media at Augustana College, Meghan and her team of talented students focus on marketing Augustana to prospective families, educating families about the college search process, and enhancing professional development opportunities in the profession. She is passionate about increasing diversity (socio-economic and ethnic) in private higher education, alleviating the fears and frustrations that often come with a college search (especially in first generation families), and above all, helping students find the best fit for them as they explore all the educational opportunities available.

Meghan often invites guest bloggers mostly including Augustana admissions staff and current students to contribute. The talented students and staff offer a perspective in the trenches of the college search and college experience.

A 1999 graduate of Augustana College, Meghan holds Bachelor's Degrees in English and Spanish. An avid international traveler, she recommends hiking the Inca Trail to Manchu Picchu in Peru, eating Gelato in Rome, Italy, and seeing an opera at the Volksoper in Vienna, Austria. She is married to Augustana graduate and Modern Woodmen project manager, Luke Cooley. They have three sons, Charles, Oliver and Bennett.

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