Families are sometimes surprised when shortly after taking the ACT, Pre-ACT, PSAT, or SAT exam their student starts to receive emails and marketing material from colleges across the country. The two main testing agencies, ACT, Inc. and the College Board, sell access to student information if they say “yes” to opting into their marketing programs. Buyers include colleges and certain other non-profit organizations. This practice has different names for each: ACT’s is called Educational Opportunity Service and SAT’s is the Student Search™ Service.
Both ACT and the College Board will tell you that students who opt into their services are more likely to attend college. They will show you numbers demonstrating that fact. However, we are skeptical that the act of opting in by itself creates real student value or truly influences whether a student goes to college. A student opting into the service may have simply been more inclined to go to college in the first place.
Should your child opt in?
There is no harm in opting in if you are interested in receiving the mail and emails and don’t mind sharing some specific demographic information like GPA, graduation date, potential major, ethnicity, and extracurricular or academic interests with outside colleges and organizations. This data is entered by the student when they register for the exams.
Students who opt-in will receive mail from colleges they have never heard of before which can be a positive to expand their thinking. You can always unsubscribe from any individual colleges that are sending emails. Discontinuing the paper mail is a little more difficult, and it is probably easier to simple toss it in the recycle bin. You can also opt out from ACT and SAT marketing programs at any time.
If you prefer to be selective about the schools you share information with and would like to receive communication from, you should opt-out and simply reach out to colleges of interest to subscribe to their communications.
Will colleges find out my student’s score?
No. ACT and College Board provide colleges and scholarship organizations with score ranges but do NOT share a student’s score.
Coming changes from the College Board
Because the College Board’s SAT and PSAT exams are moving to a digital format, online privacy laws kick into effect. College Board is launching a new Connections™ app that students will download to their phones. They will ask for a student’s cell phone number during registration. Students will be prompted to download the app in order to receive scores faster.
The app will allow the College Board to continue to provide lists of students to colleges who pay for access. We don’t know yet what the app will look like or how the marketing will be handled. Click here for information from the College Board about opting out of the service.
Four quick tips:
1) When registering for tests, we suggest students use a unique, professional email address. In this way, all college-related email goes to one place and does not clutter up a personal inbox. Students should enable notifications for email on their devices and actually check/respond to emails, especially for communications regarding testing.
2) Remember, marketing phrases like “we’ve noticed you’re a successful student” and “invitation to apply” have nothing to do with actual acceptance. Colleges try to attract as many students as possible to apply. Students often aren’t savvy enough to recognized mass mailing like adults can.
3) Be proactive. Rather than just waiting for schools to contact you, a student can reach out to the admissions team at any college of interest and subscribe to their mailing list. By making this contact, the student will be connected to the marketing information from those colleges that are on the student’s list.
4) Wondering what else about testing you might not already know? Be sure to catch our ACT/SAT/PSAT: The Ultimate Family Planning Guide program. We’ll help your family understand the process and create a game plan for less stress and more success.
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