Sunday, September 01, 2019 / Kai Chang
College mail, at it’s core, is marketing, with the student as the consumer, and the school the product.
In an analysis of over 40 million marketing emails, Hubspot found that emails between 50 and 125 words had the best response rate. In my dataset of 674 emails, I found that on average, each email had 99 words, smack in the middle of this optimal range. Though shopping for a school is obviously orders of magnitude more important than shopping for new clothes or gadgets, schools and companies have the same goal of grabbing your attention and planting the seed of their product in your mind.
Hubspot also found that having questions in an email increased response rates. 21% (142) of the emails I analyzed also used attention-grabbing questions in the subject line.
However, a short spurt of interest doesn’t directly translate to the student applying or attending the school in the same way it might drive an online sale. Schools try to cultivate longer-term interest from these emails in creative ways, with around 10% (68) of emails including a link to an online quiz, and 18% (126) of them providing some instruction to “click” something.
These quizzes can range from generic personality or college major quizzes, such as “Creative, Clever, or Charismatic: Which Are You?” from Northern Arizona University, to “How Does Your Diet Contribute to Climate Change?”, a quiz which Tulane University contributed research to.
Within the body of these emails, colleges also attempt to make what are transparently automated emails seem personal.
My first name, Kai, was used in the body of 77% (519) of emails and the subject lines of 26% (176) of emails. Interestingly, 7% (48) also opted to include my last name, Chang, when addressing me.
Besides references to my name, a large portion of emails also followed the standard letter format, with 35% (242) of them using the “Dear” greeting, and 33% (226) of them using “Sincerely” to close, often with the Dean of Admissions themselves signing off.
Colleges often employ marketing tactics similar to other institutions, and try to convey both formality and friendliness in their emails.