Parents will often ask a question about which part of the application is the most important, but the truth is that there is no single important element. Grades at school, GPA, extra-curricular activities and letters of recommendation are important but there are many, seemingly insignificant, elements that can turn a maybe decision into a yes! Here, I’m going to focus on just one of those aspects, demonstrated interest.
What is demonstrated interest?
As the words suggest, demonstrated interest in college applications refers to how the applicant has indicated that they are interested in the college or university that is considering their application. The very fact that an application to attend has been received is a demonstration of interest but consider these two scenarios.
Applicant one is what colleges sometimes refer to as a ‘stealth applicant’. The first interaction with the prospective student that the college is aware of is when the completed application is received in their mailbox.
Applicant two has had a number of recorded interactions with the college prior to submitting their application.
If you put yourself into the college admissions professional’s perspective, if everything else is equal between the two applicants you are going to be more likely to say yes to applicant two, while applicant one might be placed on the waitlist.
Why demonstrated interest matters to colleges
Colleges use demonstrated interest to try and predict if a student is likely to actually accept an offer from the college. Colleges want to make themselves appear desirable to future students and having a high percentage of students accept the places they are offered helps them achieve this. Colleges know that students will be applying to multiple institutions and if they believe that the student will probably accept an offer from another college, they would choose to offer a place to another student. This process of trying to manage the offers colleges make to produce the greatest take up is called ‘yield protection’. Colleges such as Tufts and Washington University in St Louis have a reputation for paying close attention to it
How to demonstrate interest?
Demonstrating interest should not be considered an additional chore required by the admissions process. Most of the following ways to demonstrate interest are good habits to develop as part of the research you should undertake when building your college list.
College Visits and Campus Tours
Visiting a college is a great way to see if a particular college is a good fit for you, sometimes just walking around a campus can provide a positive or negative impression. Currently, college visits are difficult due to COVID but even if visits become possible later in the year, it is rarely possible for prospective students to visit all of the colleges and universities on their list. Fortunately, we have seen a big increase in the use of virtual tours and online sessions where you can meet admissions professionals and students. When you register to attend such a session or book a campus tour, the college can record your interest.
Say ‘Yes’ to emails
Nearly all colleges and universities will send out newsletters to prospective students, requesting to receive them is another way of demonstrating interest. The newsletters normally contain information about how to apply, updates on courses or case studies of current students, all good information to help students decide if they are going to apply. Institutions use marketing software to track what you do with the emails received, so it is important that you open any emails and click through, to gain more relevant information.
Asking relevant questions, whether it be to an admissions representative visiting school or an email to the admissions inquiries address can be used by institutions to record demonstrated interest. Often a college will have a specific person that covers a particular geographic area who will read applications from their area, finding out who they are and directing questions through them will help when decisions are being made about who to accept. Be careful about the questions asked, asking a question that can easily be answered by reading the website will not reflect well on the person asking.
Not all colleges and universities will require or offer interviews but if a college that a student is applying to does, then ask for an interview. If you are visiting in person you can often arrange an interview at the same time, if not then it will probably be an alumni interview, in person or online. Whichever it is, making a favourable impression will stand you in good stead when your application is read.
Consider using early application deadlines
Applying early to colleges and universities that a student wants to attend is a very strong indication to a college that a student is serious about attending. For this reason, colleges accept a greater percentage of early applicants than those applying in the regular round. Perhaps the ultimate way to demonstrate interest is to apply ‘Early Decision’ if the college offers it. Early decision (or ED) is a commitment by the student to attend the college if offered a place. Students are only allowed to apply ED to one college so it should not be done lightly.
Not all colleges and universities use demonstrated interest when making decisions on who to accept and reject, but even if you know that a particular college does not consider it, you should still follow the actions above. By acting on your interest in a college or university, you’ll learn more about their process, what they’re looking for, and if it’s the right school for you. It’s one great way to gauge your fit at a college, whether they consider interest in admissions or not.