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One Simple Thing to Make The College Application Process Easier

Ask your student to do this 5-minute task and start their college search the right way. 

We’re all looking for ways to simplify. Especially when it comes to the college application process, which is complicated enough on its own! 

If you have a high school student beginning their college application process soon, ask them to start with this one simple task:

Create a personal email address they will use for their college search and applications.  

“I already have an email address,” they might say. But if they’re talking about an email address provided by their high school, or one they use around the rest of the internet that sounds something like soccergrrl90@, that’s not going to be very helpful.

In fact, it might cause more headaches to use one of these accounts than to add a whole new email to keep track of their applications!

As someone who has a personal email, a work email, a “junk mail” email, and another email for household bills and accounts – I get it! It’s one more step in your student’s day to check yet another email inbox. 

But ask your student to consider these reasons to create a personal email for college applications:

  1. Your high school email account might not deliver mail from college admission offices. Schools have good reason to be concerned with safety, but the reality is that sometimes the firewalls they create around student email are a little too restrictive. College admission offices will communicate with you about deadlines, more information needed for your application, and of course, your acceptance letter! You don’t want to miss it in your school’s spam filters. 

  2. Sooner or later, you’ll lose access to your high school email. (This is true of college-sponsored email addresses, too!) It’s different for every high school, but it’s not unreasonable that you will be locked out of your account after graduation. You may need your AP scores for transfer credit or a copy of an unofficial transcript you sent later on down the road. Being locked out of that would be a big problem.

  3. Admission counselors can see your email address, so it’s a good idea to have a professional-sounding email. If you’d be embarrassed spelling your email address aloud over the phone then it’s time to make a switch.

  4. You deserve rest. The college process can be a bit of a chore. Working adults get the opportunity to log out of their work email and focus on their free time; you also deserve to be able to use email for personal reasons without getting reminders about your college applications. I always encourage my students to avoid multitasking, and keeping your "work" email separate is one way to do that!

My recommendations for your new email address:

  • Use a reliable, easy-to-navigate email provider, like Gmail or Outlook.

  • Incorporate your first and last name. If you have a common name, try “last name first name,” “nickname last name,” “first and middle initial last name,” or other combinations. Someone should be able to guess that it’s you from the email alone. 

  • Set up notifications on your phone so you don’t miss any emails to this account. Another reason I like Gmail is that you can ask it to notify you for “important” emails only. Be warned: that won’t catch every important email, but it will at least remind you to check that inbox!

Once you’re set up, use your email for college applications, college tours or campus visits, your CollegeBoard and Common App accounts, and for FAFSA! You can also use it for job or internship and scholarship applications.

And parents, one more thing:

never, ever use your email address for your student’s college process. 

Admission staff are expected to adhere to their office privacy policies. So if they send an email with specific information about an application, and the reply doesn’t come from an account that’s private to the student, those privacy policies are compromised. When I was an admission counselor, those instances were frustrating and very concerning to me – not the feelings you’d like to be associated with your student! If your student hasn’t had their own email address before, now is the time.

It might not seem like a huge chore to sign up for a new email account. That’s a good thing! I call this a “snowball task." It's one concrete task that allows you to build up the momentum to do more, just like a snowball rolling down a hill. A productivity win like a dedicated email address can give your student the motivation they need to continue with their college search To Do list.

Before you know it, they’ll be opening acceptance letters – through their new personal, professional email accounts, of course.

For more tips, including more “snowball tasks” to help your student build momentum and motivation in their college application process, sign up for my newsletter here!

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