High School Senior Collects Record Number of College Letters

Neal Chan

The date October 1st will go down in history. This past Sunday high school senior John Christianson broke the previous record of college letters collected, a total of 4,310 over three years. And the letters, according to Christianson, will likely keep coming. Curious about the student who has attracted the interest of 4,310 schools, our reporters reached out to him. Here is his story.

Q: How did you ever manage to collect so many college letters? And why have you kept all of them?

A: One fateful day freshman year I checked off the box on my PSAT that allowed College Board to send my address and email to colleges. That same day I scored a perfect 1520. The same exact thing happened sophomore and junior year, and from there it never stopped. I don’t really know why I kept all of them. I guess I just like the feeling that 4,310 different colleges—somehow more than the number of colleges in America—took the time and money to send me letters that they probably assume I won’t read.

Q: And do you read them?

A: I opened the first ten or so letters, but gave up after finding the same spiel about top research opportunities, small class sizes, and perfect locations in each one. Now I only open the letters from Ivies.”

Q: Have any of the letters convinced you to visit their college?

A: Yes. Junior year I visited every college that sent me a letter; I got very good at filling out that College Visit Excused Absence form. I just didn’t want to eliminate any options by not visiting, you know? At every college when I got there they gave me a colorful pamphlet made of thick paper that displayed cool infographics and data in fancy fonts, and I realized that colleges will go to every length to impress students. I think they think that students subconsciously choose their favorite colleges based on the quality of the paper and color scheme of the letters and brochures they get.

Q: And where do you keep your special collection?

A: I have a large box where I dump all the letters I get. However, I keep the letters from Ivies, MIT, and Stanford in a special display case. I plan to apply to those ten colleges this fall.

Experts recommend students open every college email received, since colleges can find out whether you have actually opened their emails. There have been reported cases of tendonitis and carpal tunnel from all that mouse-clicking. Colleges have also successfully made interviews critical in the decision process. Students now routinely fly out to their top school choices in order to interview with a disinterested and sometimes totally unqualified alumni. The good news is, unless colleges have gone so far as to install detectors in their envelopes, it is safe to throw out college letters as soon as you get them—unless you plan on breaking Christianson’s record. If you want to break the record, you better start collecting now!