How to Use Demonstrated Interest to Your Advantage
Applying to college is like dating. Throughout the application process, you may question, “Do I like them? Do I love them? How do I let them know I like them?” Similar to how we indicate interest in a potential relationship, we also must engage with colleges to communicate our potential interest in them. In college admissions, this term is called demonstrated interest, or the amount of meaningful engagement you have with a college you want to attend.
The only way to let a school know you’re interested in them is to show them! Of course, the interest will not always be mutual, and you won’t always be accepted, but demonstrated interest can be a factor in your admissions decision. NOTE: Not every college tracks demonstrated interest. For example, most large, public schools don’t have the bandwidth to track every applicant who visits, emails, attends an info session, etc. Similarly, uber-selective colleges like the Ivies, MIT, Stanford, et al. do not track interest. However! While participating in such events doesn’t give you any bonus points, it can help YOU as an applicant learn more about the college to determine if it is a good fit and to give you more content to demonstrate interest in your application essays! With the rise of algorithms and tracking embedded into the college application process, demonstrated interest is one of the many factors considered in the admissions process. That means it's essential to use it to your advantage. Here are some ways you can show colleges that your interest is highly vested: 1. Decide what admission type to use First and foremost, consider the admissions options offered at your school of interest and decide if you will apply Early Decision, Early Action, or Regular Decision/Rolling. Right off the bat, you can use your application type to display your level of interest to admissions at some school.
Early Decision (ED) = LOVE! This is a binding agreement. You are in love with this college, and if accepted, you will attend. You can only apply Early Decision to one college, so when a school sees you applied ED, they know you’re serious.
Early Action (EA) = Like! When you apply for EA, you’re saying, “I like you, but I am not ready to commit yet, but I am serious about you.” You can apply to multiple schools via Early Action, except colleges that employ a Restrictive or Single-Choice Early Action policy. Do your homework on the EA policies at your colleges of interest.
2. Attend a college fair College fairs are a helpful step in narrowing down your favorite schools. They’re excellent for learning about more than one college at a time. Take time to research each school in-depth, discover new schools, and chat with various admissions representatives. Connections are key, so speaking with an admissions rep is a great way to show your initial interest. Make sure to bring a folder to organize handouts and brochures, and take notes! Many college fairs require you to pre-register, allowing colleges at the fair to scan your contact information at each table. If pre-registration is not an option, be sure to complete contact cards at each table to let them know you were there. 3. Scour college websites and social media Visit school websites to learn about academics, study abroad opportunities, housing, extracurriculars, dining, and (almost) everything else! If you’re interested in learning more, subscribe for updates. Also, check out each school’s social media, where specific events and student accomplishments are often highlighted. Using details from your research in their essays is a huge way to demonstrate interest and communicate your understanding of that institution. 4. Visit campus and take a tour If possible, visit campus and take a campus tour! College tours are one of the best ways to get the (literal) dirt on campus, whether exploring the lab spaces, seeing the dorms, or even eating in the dining hall. You’ll be able to see students in action all across campus, ask the tour guide questions, and most importantly, get a feel to know if the campus is where you can see yourself for the next four years. Getting on campus can communicate to a college that you’re confident in your application. Post-COVID perk! Virtual college tours and info sessions are also convenient ways to research a college and demonstrate interest, often from the comfort of your own couch. So when an on-campus tour is not possible, don’t fret. Hop online and register for one of the many virtual opportunities to learn more. 5. Meet with an admissions representative at your high school Many high schools schedule visits with admissions representatives. Ask your school counselor for more information about which schools are visiting and how you can sign up. These visits are another way to make an impression on admissions if you do your research ahead of time. During the admissions visit, avoid asking representatives questions you can easily find answers to. Instead, come prepared with a list of thoughtful questions that will help you better understand your fit with that college. 6. Request an interview (if offered) If you feel your personality shines in interviews, consider requesting an interview if offered by your schools of interest. These interviews allow admissions to get to know you through someone else's eyes beyond your application and to assess your academic and social fit with their institution. Interviews can be hosted by various people linked to admissions, most commonly an alum, an admissions counselor, or a senior intern. You should come prepared to talk about yourself and discuss your specific interests in that school. If you meet with an alum, ask questions based on their experience as a student, such as, “What’s an underrated part of going to this school?” or “How did going to this college impact your life?” 7. The “Why Our School” essay One popular essay question for some colleges is “Why our School?” If you get a prompt like this, the college is sending you a blatant message that they take your interest seriously! They want to know what makes their school stand out to you and what makes you a good fit. So be specific, authentic, and honest in your answer, and take time to craft a well-written supplemental essay. Tufts University Dean of Admissions, JT Duck, says that besides applying Early Decision, the “Why Tufts?” essay is the best way to demonstrate interest in the school. 8. Check your email & set up your applicant portal! I’m sure you hear this ALL the time, but that’s because it matters!! With technologies that can track your email behavior, what social media pages you frequent, and how long you spend on a college’s website, be sure to check and take action on emails from your colleges of interest. Most importantly, once you apply to a college, be sure to set up your student applicant portal and follow up with any requested information, like first marking period grades, official test scores, or completion of a self-reported academic record (SRAR/SSAR). Failure to complete requested tasks could result in the cancellation of your application and sends the wrong message to a college about your level of interest. 9. Follow up with genuine thanks! If you spend any significant amount of time with a representative from a given college, either at a rep visit, during an interview, or on campus, remember to thank them! Showing gratitude through a personalized thank you card or email is not only a kind gesture but one more chance for them to remember you and think of you fondly. While demonstrated interest is yet another way to show admissions you’re ready to attend, it’s still not the most important factor in your admissions decision. Regardless of your demonstrated interest, it’s vital to get good grades, take academically-rigorous classes, and complement your academics with extracurriculars you’re passionate about. Demonstrating interest is a bonus to your application, so don’t forget to implement these tips in your college search! Authors - Melanie Talesnick and Alison Grill, Admit U Consulting