You have taken the SAT or ACT and scored very well. Now come the viewbooks and letters from the colleges telling you about each college. But, what really gets students excited is the letter from Harvard or Yale or some other very selective college urging you to apply because you are a great candidate for their college.
Wow, the college of my dreams wants me. And everyone said getting into a highly selective college was tough. Not for me! I need to go online and buy that college shirt to let everyone at my school know how talented I am.
Stop. Take a deep breath. While it is exciting to get such a letter from a selective college, you need to understand a few things. First, you are not the only student to get such a letter. Some colleges send out 10,000 or even 100,000 such letters to students around the country that scored at a certain level on a standardized test. And all of them say the same thing; we want you to apply to our college.
The second thing you need to understand is that getting a letter like this will provide you absolutely NO help in getting admitted to the college which sent the letter. Colleges that send these letters do not give bonus points to the recipients if the student applies to that college.
So, why do colleges send such letters out? On a positive side, the colleges are trying to get the word out to students that have certain test scores that they might want to investigate this college. Equally important from the colleges side is that the more students that apply to a college, the more students the college can reject. The more students they reject, the more selective the college. And in one of those odd twists, the more selective the college, the more students want to go there and the greater the perceived quality.
Bottom line is that receiving a letter from a selective college in no way provides you with any advantage in the college admissions process. If it introduces you to a college you did not otherwise know about, great. Otherwise, file it along with the other college materials as you continue the search for the best college for your needs.