Ask Cappex: I'm Not Getting Emails From Colleges

on June 1, 2016

Our college expert Mark Kantrowitz answers your questions about college and financial aid.

Q: I was just curious if it is a bad thing that I haven't gotten any emails from colleges interested in me since taking the SAT. People around me have received many.

A: No, not getting email from colleges isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t mean that the colleges aren’t interested in you. It usually means that you didn’t opt into the College Board’s Student Search Service when you took the SAT.

When you take the SAT, there is a question that asks for permission to share your name, contact information and other attributes with colleges. The current wording of the question is as follows:

Student Search Service®
Say “yes” to this free College Board service and you’ll hear from colleges, universities, nonprofit educational opportunity organizations, and some government scholarship programs looking for students like you. Here’s how it works: We send your basic college profile information to a variety of schools and programs. (Your test scores are not reported as part of this service.) Then the schools and programs send you information about themselves, so you can see if they fit in with your plans.
[ ] Yes, definitely!
[ ] No, thanks.

If you choose the “Yes” answer, the College Board will share your high school graduation year, cumulative high school GPA, intended college major, race, ethnicity, religion, citizenship, desired college characteristics, name, email address and contact information. The College Board does not share your test scores or Social Security Number with the colleges. The colleges will then send you email if you match their recruiting criteria, which are usually focused on the first three criteria and your geographic location.

The ACT has a similar service called the Educational Opportunity Service (EOS).

These services can be a good way of learning about colleges you might not otherwise have considered. Colleges buy student names from the College Board and ACT to expand their potential applicant pool. Increasing the number of applicants makes the college seem more selective.

But, it is an open secret that unsolicited inquiries are more valuable to colleges than cold calls because they are more likely to enroll if admitted. Colleges refer to this as “demonstrated interest.” If you ask a college for information, visit a college campus, go on the official campus tour and stay overnight in a dormitory, it demonstrates that your interest in the college is more serious than just sending in a prepaid postcard.

So, use college search sites like and work with your guidance counselor to identify colleges that are a good match to your background and interests. Then, visit the college’s website or call the admissions office to ask for more information. Such an inquiry is more meaningful than responding to unsolicited email from the college. Adding a college to the student’s college profile on is another way of indicating interest to the college.

But, if you prefer to get email from a lot of colleges, answer “Yes” to the opt-in questions on college admissions tests. If you’ve already taken the test, you can create a free account on the and websites (or update an existing account) to opt-in to receiving email from college admissions offices.

If you want to stop the email, you can opt-out at the Student Search Service (1-866-825-8051) and Educational Opportunity Service (1-319-337-1350) websites.

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