In recent years, “demonstrated interest” has become an increasingly important part of the college admissions process. Most valued by colleges that are private, smaller, and more selective, this “informed” interest allows you to reveal your knowledge of the college and make a stronger case as to why the school is a good fit for you.
Demonstrated interest helps colleges assess the likelihood that students will:
- Attend if admitted
- Be a good fit and engage in activities on campus
- Be loyal to the school as an alum, and donate money or time
Citing the 2014 NACAC (National Association of College Admissions Counseling) State of College Admissions Report, Money notes that about 20% of colleges say they place considerable importance on the admissions factor of a student’s demonstrated interest, 34% of colleges claim it’s of moderate importance, and about 20% of colleges state it has no importance at all. About a decade ago, only 7% of colleges assigned heavy importance to demonstrated interest.
One reason for this change is that as the numbers of applicants increases, college admissions has been more selective, and demonstrated interest helps colleges narrow the field. In addition, the US News & World Report college rankings include “yield,” or the percentage of accepted students who choose to attend the college, as one factor, so increasing yield boosts colleges’ rankings.
Inside Higher Ed points out that students who have high SAT scores can be impacted by this admissions factor the most. Colleges do not want to be considered a “safety school,” and may avoid high-scoring applicants who demonstrate little interest beyond applying.
So how do you go about demonstrating informed interest in a school? Below, we’ve developed a 10-point plan, outlining the many different ways you can communicate the strength and depth of your genuine interest to your best-fit colleges.
Collegiate Gateway’s 10-point plan:
VISIT the college and register in the admissions office. Many colleges track campus visits as a key measure of demonstrated interest. The University of Rochester tracks all student contacts with the school. Colleges may offer many different kinds of visit opportunities. For example, many colleges, such as Cornell, Northwestern and University of Michigan, offer tours and information sessions for their specialized schools in fields such as business, engineering, or communications. Some colleges offer organized visit days for students; Lehigh offers a Junior Open House in the spring and Senior Open House in the fall. However, there are other colleges, like Stanford and Brown, that do not track visits or interest.
But keep in mind that regardless of whether the college tracks your visit, being on campus still has enormous value for you in helping you understand the features that are a good fit for you, and in determining whether you wish to apply to the school.
ATTEND info sessions at your high school or local college fairs. Even if you have visited the college campus, it is still worthwhile to attend local sessions where your regional admissions officer visits your high school or participates on a panel or college fair in your community.
APPLY EARLY! Applying Early Decision shows the most interest, as the binding decision is a clear demonstration of your commitment to the school. However, only apply ED if you are sure that the college is an excellent fit for you, and is within reach. Applying Early Action (non-binding) also shows interest because you are sufficiently motivated to prepare and submit your application early.
REGISTER on the undergraduate admissions website to receive information.
FOLLOW colleges on social media, including Twitter, blogs, and Facebook. Often, the information posted will be more informal, and will give you a more “inside” look at the school. And some colleges do track your engagement with their social media.
INTERVIEW on-campus or with an alumni in your area. Colleges are reducing the availability of on-campus interviews, due to the increased numbers of students applying and the lack of available staff. Alumni interviews are an excellent option; take advantage of all opportunities.
RESEARCH the college thoroughly when you write your supplemental essays. Many colleges have a “Match Essay” asking why you want to attend the college. Write as specifically as possible about the programs and culture of the college, and about the strengths and interests you would bring to campus.
THANK college officials after college visits and interviews. Email a thank-you note to the admissions officer who conducted your information session or interview, and include specifics regarding what you learned and the features of the college that most appealed to you. In addition, if you interview with an alum in your local area, send a thank-you note including specific discussion topics that were meaningful to you.
CONTACT the regional admissions officer after you apply by sending an occasional email if you have substantive news to report (e.g. honors, awards, completion of a major school project, a special accomplishment in an activity) or a genuine question that is not answered on the website.
CHECK your online portal for your application status, once you’ve applied, as some colleges interpret this as a sign of interest.
As more and more schools rely on demonstrated interest to help them achieve their enrollment goals, it is increasingly important to show your preference for schools in an authentic way. Here at Collegiate Gateway, we are always happy to answer your questions and discuss this topic further. Feel free to contact us!