I don’t want you to think I put my clients’ business on the street. My client is very thoughtful and considerate, so when I asked her if I could share what happened, she urged me, “Please do.” She said, “I don’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone else.”

It was Tuesday, and it was a jubilant day. I got a call from a student I was working with in Connecticut and he informed me that he had been nominated for a scholarship that involved full tuition, room and board, and a $3000 stipend to a school with a cost of attendance of over $300,000. Better yet, the scholarship was from a school he and most other students hold in high regard. This young man, his parents, and I were jubilant.

After I got off the phone, I couldn’t help but think of another student that I was also expecting to be a finalist for this very same scholarship. At 9:30 p.m., my phone rang. This other student called me with both of her parents. Their effervescence was pulsating through the phone. I knew within seconds that they were calling with some very good news to share.

I wanted to blurt out, “Let me guess. You’re a finalist for the same college the boy in Connecticut called earlier about!” But before I could even share that, the student starting sharing with me how she’d received a full tuition scholarship from one school, and she was a finalist for a full room and board scholarship at another school. That was a great day. Two exhilarating calls on the same day.

Three weeks later I got another call from this same senior. This time I immediately heard the despair, the dejection, and the frustration. She proceeded to tell me that she had been going through her junk mail when she saw the same email indicating that she was a finalist for the same full tuition, room and board, and $3000 stipend scholarship the boy from Connecticut had received. But as she read the email further, it said she needed to reply by a date that had passed nine days ago. The four-year scholarship was valued at over $300,000, and with the inevitable tuition increases and the fact that the $75,000 cost of attendance is “net pay” and not “gross pay,” we are talking about over $400,000 before taxes.

She wrote two appeal letters. Each letter articulated why she loved the school and how she vowed this would never happen again. The first appeal was responded to with a polite letter saying that she will be “on the wait list if a spot opens up’. The second letter was more curt: the spots were full, but she was still eligible for smaller scholarships. We all felt bad. My client knew she should have been checking her junk mail. Her parents wished they had reminded her. I wished that I had reminded her.

When it comes to emails, I always give my clients four tidbits of advice:

  1. No unprofessional emails. No Bigbootygirl2002@gmail.com.
  2. Create a professional email that you explicitly use for college communication.
  3. Check the email at least twice a day.
  4. The email should have your name clearly in it so that when the colleges receive it, they will know who you are.
  5. I have to thank my college counseling colleague at KIPP (Dewona Bridges) for this one: Give your parents access to your special email so you have a safeguard in case you miss anything.

Now I have a sixth pointer: Check your junk mail at least once a day. I am determined to never let this debacle every happen again. This is why I am sharing this story. because I don’t want this to ever happen to you.