Demonstrate Your Interest to Colleges on Your List

August 15, 2018

Grade point average, strength of curriculum, standardized test scores, essays, activities, recommendation letters. These are many of the criteria that are used to measure a student’s academic strengths and personal qualifications for college admissions. But there is another important factor that colleges often use as an additional important reference point: demonstrated interest.

What is demonstrated interest?

It consists of actions that a prospective student (and the prospective student alone) takes to engage with a college, often to learn about academic offerings, campus life, and the admission process. Examples of demonstrated interest include a campus visit, attendance at a college admission presentation in one’s hometown, or participation in an admission interview.

Why does demonstrated interest matter?

Consider the application evaluation process from the perspective of an admission committee. Each year, the admission committee is responsible for building a class of students, and that class must be in place by August (ideally, by June). The committee must feel confident that some of the students who are admitted to the college will ultimately enroll. This percentage of students who move from “admitted” to “enrolled” is called “yield.” Managing yield is top of mind for admission committees because it is essential to building a balanced and diverse class, as well as ensuring that the target number of students for a class year ultimately enroll. In addition, yield influences college rankings, and a lower yield relative to peer institutions may have a negative impact on future rankings.

A key benefit of using demonstrated interest in admission decisions is that students who are sincerely interested in the college are more likely to be a good fit. Thousands of applicants apply for a limited number of spaces in a college’s first year class. Many of these applicants have the baseline grades and scores to qualify for admission, as well as appealing personal qualities. Demonstrated interest is a critical additional measurement that admission committees can reference to select a pool of qualified applicants and ultimately yield a strong class.

How can you, the applicant, demonstrate your interest?

Stay engaged from the point of joining a mailing list to the point of applying. Your engagement is most important during your senior year because it signals to a college that your interest remains high even as you have narrowed your college list. Below are some ways to demonstrate interest:

  • Sign up for mailing lists. Early on in your search, sign up for mailing lists for each of the colleges that interest you. You will likely be inundated by emails, so it may be wise to set up a separate email account for collecting these messages. Many of these messages will include helpful information about the college and about the application process.
  • Schedule a campus visit. This is a prime way to demonstrate your interest. If you enjoy your visit, send a follow-up email to the admission office to thank them for the visit and to highlight what you value in the college. If visiting campus is not possible due to distance or financial constraints, there are many other ways to demonstrate interest.
  • Attend events in your area hosted by admission representatives or local alumni. Be sure to sign in so there is a record of your attendance.
  • Participate in an online admission chat hosted by the college.
  • Register for an admission interview in your area or at the college.
  • Send a select and limited number of emails to your admission officer with relevant questions.

A word of caution:

Do not take this too far. Colleges are not quantifying the number of times you contact them, and you will make a negative impression if you hound the admission office. Be thoughtful about when and how you contact the college.

While some colleges use demonstrated interest as a factor in the evaluation process, some do not (and it is often impossible to know). Regardless of the admission committee’s policy regarding demonstrated interest, it never hurts to engage with colleges throughout your search. Admission committees devote a lot of time and energy to finding the right students for their colleges. They will appreciate that you too are willing to put forth the extra effort to make a good match.

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