Out of the blue last Thursday, I got a text from a good friend who works at a university. Here's our entire conversation.
Her: How come prospective students don't write me back??
Me: A) even bright and talented teenagers are still...teenagers.
Her: OK, I just wish I could connect with students somehow and email doesn't seem to work.
Me: B) they get so many messages that anything they don't answer immediately gets buried and forgotten.
Her: That's what I was thinking.
Me: C) they're intimidated by you.
Her: I hope it's not C.
Me: Any combination of A-C, or all of them. Also, they often set up a formal, official email address and then forget about it. That's frustratingly common.
Her: Oh, that's interesting to know.
Me: If they have a Twitter, Snapchat, or text contact, they'll (probably?) pay more attention to that.
Her: Yes, that's what I was thinking but don't love texting prospectives although I know admissions counselors do it all the time.
Me: Text them to please reply to your email.
Her: Oh that's a good idea.
Me: For what it's worth, I heard the same thing from counselors all the time. It's not you.
No matter your own personal preference for how you like to communicate, email is still pretty much the official and primary way that institutions communicate with people. You have to be able to work with email. Even if you've set up social media connections with schools, like through Twitter, Facebook, or Snapchat, you need to keep up with email. Even if you text with some admissions counselors, you still need to keep up with email. Imagine trying to talk to someone, but they ignore you when you speak to them, like you're not even there. They'll text with you or engage online, but they refuse to speak to you in person. That's what it seems like to the college personnel who are trying to email you. That's how they talk to you, so you can't ignore them. It's rude and incredibly unproductive for you and them.
It's also really important that you check all the email you've set up. Maybe you've got an official account--or multiple ones--that you don't use very often. Or perhaps you're school has given you one that you don't like to use. That's fine, but don't abandon the accounts. Check them at least every few days, set up notifications so you make sure you know if something new has come through, or have them automatically forwarded to an account that you do use. But please don't tell people to reach you at a certain place if it's not actually a place where you can be reached. That all but guarantees missed opportunities.
Probably the most essential thing you should do is to respond to all the college representatives, like my friend, and to do so in a timely manner. Don't "ghost" colleges. I understand the logical reason why it may seem completely normal and efficient to not bother getting back with people at schools you've decided not to apply to. It saves you time, and you're not worried about offending people who you'll never hear from again. But this is one of those situations where you need to be slightly less efficient for yourself to make the whole system more efficient for everybody. Because all those hours being wasted by thousands of people like my friend add up in the big picture. And if you're wondering why people at the schools you are still interested in are taking a while to get back to you, a lot of it may have to do with all the time they're spending trying to get in touch with people who have stopped responding to them. This adds time and frustration to your process and, ultimately, costs us all money. So please do your part by responding. If you're no longer interested, just say so. "Thank you for your time and attention. I appreciate it. But I'm no longer interested in _____ and I don't want to waste your time." That's all it takes.
You're welcome to ignore unsolicited messages, of course. But once you've made contact with a school, please stay in contact until you've told them you no longer want to be in contact. It's the decent thing to do.
Thanks for reading! Please share this with people who need to read it--though maybe not over email if they never check their inbox. There are plenty of ways to follow Apply with Sanity for college application advice: the website, Twitter, Facebook, and a monthly newsletter. Send me questions for future topics!