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Teenagers hate getting mail.

Now, maybe there are teens living with no Internet connection (unrealistic, but humor me) in places like Nebraska (incredibly unrealistic) who have to resort to playing “I Spy” with furniture catalogs to pass the time (more unrealistic than expecting the Jamba Juice by New Seasons Market to ever reopen).

Realistically, most teens don’t care for mail — especially college mail.

According to the Department of Education, 2,870 four-year institutions existed in 2011. Using a complex algorithm based on stock market trends, housing prices, annual rainfall — in cubits — in northwestern Kansas, standardized test results and what I ate for lunch (cubits) on Tuesday, I think it’s safe to say that number has only gone up.

The point is, of those 2,800-plus institutions, approximately 87,000 of them send the average applicant mail.

I assure you that I’m not joking. In fact, to quantify just how much mail colleges send, I began collecting it. Since July 2013, I have received 35 pounds’ worth — the equivalent weight of nine Calculus textbooks. In other words, that’s a lot of cubits.

It’s a bit concerning, especially considering our polar icecaps have adopted “You only live once” as their life philosophy. Entire rainforests have been lost just so colleges can print glossy books promoting their environmental programs.

That concern could be partially overlooked if these mailings were useful for anything other than bonfire parties and unimaginative student columnists. Unfortunately, most of it is more useless than Miley Cyrus.

One mailing assures you of the university’s “diverse, supportive academic community,” as opposed to another’s claim of a “supportive, diverse academic community.” Every school apparently has the resources of a large research university and the community feel of a small liberal arts college, including schools that are neither of those things.

Personally, I just want to know if the mailings from Franklin College in Switzerland ever convinced anyone to drop everything and leave the Western Hemisphere. (The answer, unsurprisingly, is yes; that’s exactly what happened to the population of Detroit.)

Others are ridiculously earnest. Though I appreciated the sparkly invitation to attend a November dinner in Orlando, Fla., I regretfully declined, as I was in Lake Oswego that week — which is, coincidentally, where I usually eat dinner.

Another college got the crazy idea that not only did Mr. Joel Kwartler live at my address, but so did a Mr. Joel K, who proceeded to receive a second copy of each piece of mail, in case Joel Kwartler was unwilling to share his copies with Joel K.

Why do colleges send all of this? Those pesky college rankings may be the culprit. Advertising supposedly increases application numbers, decreases the acceptance rate and boosts the selectivity rank.

Even high schoolers don’t realize just how large this epidemic is. Colleges don’t just send you mail — they send it to other colleges, too. Presumably, this is just in case their deans want to go back to school and need help picking between a “vibrant intellectual community” (in Pennsylvania) or a “tremendous intellectual community” (in North Carolina). The hidden reason is again those rankings: U.S. News asks colleges to rank all of their “peer” universities, and boastful mail theoretically boosts one’s perception.

In addition to environmental concerns, let’s not forget printing costs. It’s no secret that tuition is so high that many university presidents simply try to convince their children that they’re actually some advanced species of canary and don’t need to attend college. Printing seven trillion copies makes any “vibrant campus community” a touch less vibrant.

Heck, I’d bet if you put the sum spent annually on college mail into single dollar bills, it could stretch around the entire waistline of Honey Boo Boo, eight times.

The solution seems simple: Colleges should stop sending this mail. But it’s unreasonable to expect the simple solution from anyone who still likes using snail mail. I would then suggest turning to email, but any teen can tell you that colleges already do that, too. We get more college emails per day than hours of sleep per night.

This means we have only one hope. As the old saying goes, “When life throws you a curveball, make lemonade before the chickens hatch,” and that is precisely what we need to do. We need to send the colleges mail.

Think about it. We already have all their addresses. All that’s left is to get our most diverse friends together, snap a few photos, and then throw on short, attention-getting captions. If you’re strapped for ideas, try these: “Scholar. Athlete. Mammal.” Or “No. 17 globally-ranked ‘best value’ student, Wikipedia.com.” Or “The resources of a genius but the size of a small bookcase.”

Furthermore, if college types I never considered — trade schools, community farms, Petri dishes — are allowed to send me mail, then the students who colleges don’t court are certainly allowed to mail them. After all, there are more than 300 million of us, and only a few thousand of them. So, without further ado, I think we all need to go lick some stamps.

Joel Kwartler graduated from Lake Oswego High School in June, and he writes a guest column for The Review. He plans to attend Harvard University this fall. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



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