Just the other day, The College Whisperer -- also known as "Current Occupant" in certain postal circles, received a piece of unsolicited mail. Not email, mind you, but actual snail mail, at bulk rate, no less.

Keeping with my practice of opening every piece of mail that crosses my desk -- and actually reading it -- I sliced off the top of the envelope and pulled out what I soon realized was an invitation to take a survey. Innocuous, and otherwise destined for the circular file, until I saw, tucked inside the form letter, a crisp, new $1 bill. [Now if I could only get my hands on a million of such solicitations, I'd have it made! :-)]

Granted, the letter was promptly discarded. The dollar bill, on the other hand... Well, I consider myself just a little wiser and a dollar richer for having opened and read what others would have simply thrown away. [I leave to The Ethicist whether, knowing that I would never take the survey, I should have kept the dollar, donated same to a worthy cause (charity begins at home, doesn't it?) or returned the greenback to the sender.]

The point here is that you never know what you may find in the mail -- or email -- that may well help you in your college quest, let alone in your search for money to pay for college.

A letter from a college offering you the opportunity to apply fee-free. An email from a university that considers you a perfect fit for one of its coveted programs -- together with a sweet financial aid package to help you pay for it. A teaser from one of the many scholarship search engines offering you a legit opportunity to win thousands in scholarship dollars, simply by completing an online profile. Why, you may even get an unsolicited email from The College Whisperer™, giving you the inside scoop on the college application and admissions process. Hey, you never know!

You'll be getting lots of mail -- and email -- now that you're applying to college. After all, everyone from College Board to the Common App has been gathering vital information on you, then turning around and selling it to colleges, banks, booksellers and retailers of extra long twin sheets.

You are on the list. Now, the opportunity to turn trash into treasure.

Snail mail is easy. Take a few minutes to open every letter and read each postcard. Most may be duds, but a few gems will turn up over the course of the next eight months or so.
Email is a bit more tricky, what with spam and a plethora of new viruses appearing daily in your inbox. Sometimes it's not that easy to weed out the prospects from the propaganda. 

An easy fix, which will also make the task of retrieving college-related email a breeze: Set up a dedicated email account for all your college stuff. [Gmail is a good bet, with little or no spam and virtually no clutter]. Use this email address for all of your college communications, including Common App, scholarship search engines and direct contact with schools. 

Keeping track of important messages -- as well as potentially beneficial opportunities -- will be a cinch, and you won't miss a thing that might otherwise go astray in your general email account.

And while you're online, create, enhance and, by all means, clean up your online presence. Have a Facebook account? LinkedinTwitter? By all means, you should. Just watch what you post or Tweet. Imagine that you will be followed (dare we say, stalked?) by every college admissions officer [They don't often look, but post as if they spy on you daily]. If you put it out there -- and do put it out there -- make absolutely sure that they will "Like" what they see!

The key is to maximize what you already use every single day -- the Internet, email and, though concededly less often, the United States Postal Service. Turn what many consider an annoyance into an advantage -- or, in terms of that which will prove invaluable in your college quest and your search for the money that's out there to pay for your college education, an annuity. In other words, when it comes to looking for colleges (or narrowing down the list), applying to colleges and even paying for colleges, leave no stone unturned!
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Plan. Prepare. Prevail!
Got College Questions? Ask The College Whisperer™. Write us at info@CollegeConnect.info.
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