What is your best practice recommendation for using a student's email for signing up for standardized tests, registering for college visits, and setting up the Common Application or other application accounts?
My response: In my experience most students’ personal emails are full of trash and by their sophomore and certainly by their junior year in high school store promotions from colleges that are essentially worthless, since the student is not requesting information. Most students also have a high school email, which can be crowded with messaging that is not college-related.
As a matter of best practice, I have asked my student clients to set up a college only email; what I call a “dedicated college email”. This address should also be used exclusively for the Common Application (or other applications) so you receive messages from colleges that you actually plan to send an application. I recommend that students not use their dedicated college email to register for tests, since that triggers an avalanche of messaging from colleges, who purchase student addresses from the testing companies and send out massive, frequent mailings. Although students quickly learn to ignore most of these types of emails, it is distracting and important messages from colleges students do want to hear from may be lost.
If a student has already given colleges an email address (let’s say when s/he signed up for a college tour or when s/he registered for a standardized test) and wants them to change over to the dedicated email account, I recommend students contact each university and explain that their email has been changed from the one used to sign up for the information session and campus tour. I recommend the student include both the previous and new email addresses. In my experience, spanning over two decades, each university typically replies stating that the change was noted. If a student does this procedure correctly, as explained above, the change from prior email to dedicated college email should work out well.
Why is all of this information vital?
Because many colleges do track emails ‘clicks’ from students to assess demonstrated interest – as you may remember from my prior articles, demonstrated interest is one important factor colleges use to make admission decisions. If a student shows lots of interest and another demonstrates little or no interest, all things being equal, the first student has a higher chance of admission.
Tip 1: Students should follow the links within college emails, so it gets counted. Colleges can, and do, track click rates.
Tip 2: One reason I do not give my clients access to programs like College Planner Pro and Guided Path is because if they click directly to a college website from one of these platforms, it will not "count" the way it will for click-rates if they access the website directly from their e-mail address.