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Email in the College Application Process

Burning question mark

At the outset of the college search, application, and admission process, students will have a seemingly weird decision to make: how should students handle email in the college application process?

First, some background. Email plays a very important role in the overall process. The adult world is still run on email, and this includes the world of colleges. Even though texting and other forms of direct messaging are the way that students and many adults manage their everyday lives, email continues to rule the day when it comes to “professional” communications. Colleges will utilize emails to students to market themselves and provide information, as well as to manage major aspects of the application process. So, first and foremost, students need to ensure that they regularly check their email inbox (at least daily) or they might miss significant information that is coming their way.

Additionally, colleges will use students’ email addresses as a critical part of their “big data” effort to develop profiles of their admissions prospects and applicants. Colleges collect information on students’ overall cyber activity to build profiles about individual students. They gather and synthesize data on a variety of activities to gauge student engagement and interest in their school:

  • Visits to the college’s website
  • Time spent on the site
  • Pages visited on the site
  • Follows on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
  • Mailing list sign-up information (including email provided)
  • Email open rates
  • Clicks on links provided within emails
  • And so much more!

This cyber data collection is then combined with students’ offline engagement (campus visits, college fair contacts, etc.) to develop a picture of how interested the student might actually be in that school. Why do colleges go to all of this effort and care about a student showing interest in the school ahead of an application appearing in their admissions readers’ hands? Because they know that students who show lots of interest ahead of time are more likely to attend if they are accepted by the college. Colleges are businesses, and it is critically important to them that they can accurately project their enrollment (and thus their budget and finances) year over year.

So, what does all of this have to do with email addresses? Students should decide whether they want to play the “college game” with the email address that they use for all of their other communications or if they want to designate a new email address just for their college efforts. Here are the pros and cons of each:

Keep the Same Email Address:


  • Only have to worry about checking one email inbox regularly
  • Email address has existed for a while, so colleges may already have it on their radar


  • Inbox will get inundated over time with hundreds of college emails
  • Only the student will be able to manage demonstrated interest using this email

College-Specific Email:


  • Keeps primary email clear of college clutter
  • Can share email access with other family members to enable them to assist with the demonstrated interest efforts
  • Students learn to manage more than one account – most adults manage at least two (business and personal) – and students might as well learn to juggle while young


  • Must be sure that this secondary email inbox is checked daily
  • Need to use college-specific email consistently throughout college efforts. This includes:
    • Standardized test registrations: College Board and/or ACT
    • Communications with the colleges including mailing lists, all applications
    • Social media registration

Ultimately, there is no right answer for which way to go with your email address. Decide what is best for you, and then go with it. But be sure to let us know which way you’ve chosen!


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