Harassment is a Thing Colleges Do

High school students are bombarded with ads from colleges and it’s too much


Advertisement for Hanover College during a screening of The Menu at Regal United Artists Galaxy.

Recently, I ventured out into the cold to go see a movie entitled The Menu starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult. Now, imagine my surprise as I am sitting there watching previews for the upcoming Marvel movies when I see an ad for Hanover College sandwiched in between them!

I should let you know that just a week before this occurred, I had sat down to write a story on the emails that colleges send to prospective students and how it could be viewed as harassment, so I was a bit sensitive to this issue; however, this ad has completely changed my perspective because the problem is larger than I previously thought. 

Let’s begin with my original topic: emails. Students are bombarded with a never ending sea of emails from colleges they either haven’t heard of or don’t care about. Senior Abby Plummer said, “I get anywhere from thirty to fifty (emails) a day.” While fellow senior Emmerie Stump said, “For me, it depends, but it is anywhere from fifteen to twenty a day.” 

You might be sitting there thinking to yourself ‘all you have to do is unsubscribe from them if you want them to stop’ but unfortunately, that’s not the case. Plummer said that she has attempted to unsubscribe from college emails but they just email back with a “sorry you got removed, we added you back!” The implied “you’re welcome” after the typical exclamation point says to students that it doesn’t matter if you unsubscribe, we will still email you. 

And once again, you guessed it, the problem doesn’t end there. Stump said, “I feel like I have to check (my email) more because I am trying to get to my application portals but there are so many from colleges I haven’t even applied to in the way and it makes it harder to see what I actually need.”

It might seem dramatic to say that emails can be considered harassment but when it leads to students having to obsessively check their emails and read through them just to make sure they aren’t deleting anything important, it becomes just that. Students shouldn’t have to spend their limited free time emptying their inboxes because colleges won’t leave them alone despite being asked to and isn’t that the very definition of harassment? 

I get anywhere from thirty to fifty (emails) a day.

— Senior Abby Plummer

The next topic that needs to be addressed is billboards. We’ve all seen them. They typically sit on the side of the highway or next to your local McDonald’s. Now at the moment, it might not mean much to you but these billboards are put there for a reason. They want you to remember the name of that school so when you are sitting in your room, applying to colleges, you think to yourself, ‘why don’t I apply there?’ 

Honestly though, who has looked at a billboard and thought to themselves ‘yeah, I’ll make a major life decision based on that.’ How effective can this form of subliminal advertising truly be? At the end of the day, it is just a billboard but is it possible that it can seep into your subconscious enough to make you decide to attend that university? Maybe I should just stay in my lane since I am just a high school student who does not take psychology, but, if you do want a lesson on subliminal advertising then go talk to Mr. John O’Hara or Mr. Eric Bruns. 

Finally, we have to circle back to tv and movies. On Thanksgiving weekend, most Americans sat down to celebrate the only way they know how and that is with good old fashioned football. If you watched college football, in particular, then you definitely saw an ad or two for a college.  This makes sense because their viewers are watching college football but using the same logic, is it appropriate to have an ad before a movie such as Spiderman? No, it’s nonsensical and unnecessary. 

This connects back to billboards because it begs the same question: How effective is this form of advertising? Personally, I know about one minute into the ads I’m already halfway through my large bucket of popcorn and while I am technically watching the ads, I’m mostly thinking about how I will get to spend the next two and a half hours watching Tom Holland fight crime while falling in love with Zendaya. What colleges fail to understand is that targeting unsuspecting students during a movie doesn’t make them think about their future but rather about clearing their inbox. 

At the end of the day, whether it be emails, billboards or ads during movies, there is no escape from the bombardment of college ads. Honestly, the only thing it probably does is drive high school students crazy especially the seniors who are already stressed enough without the constant reminder of deadlines and possible rejection. I really wish I could leave you with a positive message or a glimmer of hope but all I have left to say is never decide to attend a college based on an ad you see during a Nicholas Hoult and Anya Taylor- Joy movie.