As Mad Jack pointed out, for students, Emailing faculty is not all that easy.
I'm a (relatively) new grad student and have been through the process more than once. At least for three of the PhD programs I got offers from, I responded very late and very minimally, even though a few faculty did reach out to me. I wish I was more responsive and honestly, I was quite displeased with myself for how I was handling those emails, but I was just going through a hard time (as many grad school applicants do when they're in decision making process) and responding to their emails was not easy. Two of those programs were those I knew I'm not going to choose, but one was actually one of my top choices. So, I can tell you, although probably "the cold shoulder" means the applicant is more likely to decline your offer than to accept it, it may very well be the case that you're their top choice. That being said, if they're seriously considering your program, I'd expect that they'll eventually send you a somewhat positive email, but perhaps with a delay.
Even out of application context, emailing faculty could take a substantial amount of energy from a student. Especially if they're emailing someone they don't know very well. I often feel quite anxious when writing an email to a professor. Sometimes the email rests for days in my Drafts folder and eventually when I'm fully convinced that further proof reading and editing does not lead to any meaningful changes, I'll send it. Just the burden of the unanswered emails in my inbox itself feels quite heavy on my shoulders and some significant amount of energy is required to get started with answering them. This is terrible, and I'm sure there are a lot of students out there who are a lot better at handling this, but I also know there are some who are struggling even more.
Some tips for making it easier for the students to respond, especially when dealing with new admits:
- Make sure you have a very friendly tone and avoid sounding so sophisticated. Make them feel like you may very well make a typo in your email, and would be totally cool with them having one.
- Sign with your first name ONLY! And even better, let them know in a very cool and friendly way how they should address you. For grad school recruiting, the best experience I've had was when a professor told me something along the line of them being my near future colleagues and asked me to go by their first name. The worst thing is if you receive an email with a full name signature! I wouldn't know for the life of me whether I should start my email with "Hi Grigori" or "Hi Professor Rasputin"!
- Write a short email and suggest to have a chat over a Skype call with them. Although this works very well for me, for some, it may even put more pressure on them, so it may be better if you write something like "I'd be happy to have a short Skype chat and discuss whatever you'd wish to discuss. We can also always discuss any questions/concerns via email". Make sure they would feel like it's totally fine to go with the email option.
- If there's any time constraints or some sort of "expiry date" for responding to your email, make sure to clarify that. Also, if there's none, try to communicate to them that you're ok with a delayed reply. Often a student may think it's already too late to respond to your email, and that makes them delay it even further once it's past when they perceive to be the "deadline" for a reply. I'd say it's important not to sound imperative or as if you're demanding a reply, but that you're helping them manage the timing of your email communication. You should always sound like you're on their side, not like someone who's assessing their performance.
Needless to say, these are my views and influenced by my personal experience and that of people around me that I know of. Obviously, there are differences between different people and a different remedy may work better for some students.