Demonstrated Interest and its Role in College Admissions


What is demonstrated interest? Why is it Important?

College Counseling Advice: Here are some top tips for students —

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) released results of its survey of nearly 500 colleges. NACAC reported that 16% of universities said demonstrated interest was of “considerable importance”,  24% considered it to be of “moderate importance,” 28% said it was of “limited importance” and only 32% of schools said it was of “no importance.”

What is demonstrated interest?

In college admissions, the term ‘demonstrated interest’ is used to describe a potential candidate’s interest in attending a university. It is a way for colleges to track the likelihood that a student will attend that college if they are offered admission. Given that it is now so easy for students to apply to multiple colleges and universities using the Common Application and the Coalition Application, universities have no idea if they are your first, second, or tenth choice.

Universities have resorted to purchasing software and using other methods to estimate the likelihood that a prospective student will accept their offer of admission based on how the student responds to the university and how much that student has in common with the current student body.

Prospective students can definitely ask a college whether demonstrated interest is something it considers for admissions purposes. Not all universities consider it or deem it a necessary part of the college admissions process.

How do they do it?

The colleges that track demonstrated interest will record data about whether the student clicks on an email s/he has been sent, how long they read the email, if they click on the links in the email, fill out the contact form on the college’s website, if the student registers for online or in-person events sponsored by the university. The university can track if the student attends the events that s/he signed up to attend. If a student does all of these things, it apparently signals to the university that the student is likely to enroll if offered admission.

Why do universities want to track demonstrated interest?

Universities want to improve their yield rate — that is the percentage of students accepting their offers of admission. Some colleges believe that tracking a student’s interest in their school allows them to predict the likelihood of students accepting their offers. A student can apply to 5, 8, or 10 schools but can attend only one – colleges want to make sure they are offering admissions to the students who are most likely going to accept their offers of admission.

How important is demonstrated interest?

The most important part of a student’s application is their grades, academic rigor, test scores. Demonstrated interest will not make up for other aspects of a student’s transcript. Remember no matter how many emails you open, links you click on, and webinars you attend demonstrated interest is just one aspect of your application that is considered. Demonstrated interest can be one of the ways that a student can stand out from their peers and show the university their interest in enrolling if they are offered admission.

How Can A Student Demonstrate Their Interest in a University?

  1. Apply early

Universities allow students to apply early by offering students the choice of Restricted Early Action, Early Decision and/or Early Action. There are consequences to applying Restrictive Early Action or Early Decision, but both of these avenues clearly demonstrate that if a student is admitted to the university they will attend it. Remember that if you commit to applying using Restrictive Early Action or Early Decision, you are required to commit to that university if you are admitted. It will also impact any merit-based aid you can get from the institution. However, the admission rate for students is higher through early decision than regular decision at most universities. Early Action is another way to establish your interest in an institution but it allows you to consider offers from other institutions.

  1. Visit the school or Sign up for a virtual tour

Attending an on-campus tour is a great way to demonstrate that you are interested in attending a school. While it is not always possible to meet the admissions representative assigned to your region, at least attempt to meet them while you are on campus. A campus visit, be it in person or virtual, allows you to get first-hand information about a university, the academic and social atmosphere on campus, and how you see yourself there. The act of signing up and participating in the tour conveys your interest in the university. The added advantage is that you have valuable information needed for your supplemental essays for the university (if they have them on the application.)

  1. Attend a local informational session at your school or in the area or college fairs

It is not possible to visit the campus and it is an expensive venture. Please understand that admission officers will not hold it against you if you are unable to go to campus. Admission representatives assigned to work with your school routinely hold information sessions at local schools or in local venues to present about their institution. They also participate in local college fairs. Meeting the college representative at these local events is a great way to meet the person(s) who will be reading your application.

One easy way to establish a connection is to draft a quick email, after your encounter with the representative, thanking them for the presentation (or for answering any specific questions you had) and expressing your interest in attending the university.

  1. Sign up for webinars

Universities offer webinars throughout the application and admissions cycle. Sign up for the webinars and participate in them. The webinars could cover any number of topics, including professors and students from the school you are applying to. It is important that you join these webinars since universities will track who is participating.

  1. Email the college admissions officer

While I advise students to email their college representative, please do not abuse this privilege. Do not send emails about the information that you can readily find on the university’s website. Do not send emails too often. They do not need to be updated about your grades or achievements. They have your application in front of them. Many universities have strict policies that they will not look at and do not want you to send them any information that goes beyond the scope of your application.

Having given you those caveats, I will say that you should reach out to the college representative assigned to your school if you have intelligent questions you can ask. You can also ask the admissions representative to connect you with a current student from whom you can learn more information.

  1. Use your supplemental essays

A lot of universities have Supplemental Essay questions that ask students to answer in their application. Even if it is labeled “Optional”, understand it is not optional. Answer the supplemental essay questions, especially the “Why Us?” question.  This gives you the perfect opportunity to show why you are interested in applying to the school, why you belong on their campus and why that university is the right choice for you. This means that you will have to write an individualized essay for each school that asks the question. You have to do the necessary research about the university, its programs, campus life, etc. to be able to draft the answer to the “Why Us” question.  No cut and paste job will suffice.

  1. Participate in interviews

Some universities offer students the opportunity to interview with their admissions officers or alumni. Take advantage of the opportunity to participate in such an interview. It allows you to build rapport, show the interviewer who you are and why you are a perfect person for their campus.  You can also use the interview as a chance to ask specific questions about university life, and other programmatic information. After the interview, please send a note thanking the interviewer for taking time to interview you.

  1. Interact with the school on social media

Students are always on social media platforms. This is yet another way to connect with a college. Follow them on the platform and interact intelligently on it. You can learn about current events taking place on campus, learn about various departments on campus, and show your interest in the university by liking various posts.

  1. Spend time on the school’s website

Remember cookies? Colleges have them and can track who is on their website. Colleges can see what pages you have seen and what you are trying to learn about on their website. This is yet another measure that colleges love since the kind of interest you show on their website gives them some indication about how likely you are to accept their offer of admission.

  1. Open emails

Definitely sign up with the college to receive emails from them. When you sign up, you will start receiving emails from them about upcoming area visits, on-campus programs they are offering for prospective freshmen, newsletters about the university itself. Make sure that you open the emails and take time to read them. If there are links embedded in the email that interest you, follow through and read the information. Universities are tracking what you click on and whether you are opening the emails.

Tulane’s Director of Admission, Jeff Schiffman, told Forbes, “we use demonstrated interest as one tool in the application review to get a better sense of a student’s likelihood of enrolling at Tulane, their ability to graduate from Tulane and to get a sense if they ultimately will be happy here.” He tells students who plan to apply to Tulane to reach out to the admissions officers, attend local admissions events, ask to speak to current students, and to conduct in-depth research about Tulane before writing their “Why Tulane” essay. Schiffman says  “What Tulane is looking for is authentic engagement in the process. Has the student taken the time to research if they will be a good fit here? Have they interacted with Tulane at some point in the process, either when our counselors visited their high school or at a regional event we attended? Did the student interview a Tulane alumnus? Have they done their research when writing the ‘Why Tulane’ essay?” Schiffman explains that Tulane considers the “student’s financial resources when determining if they have shown demonstrated interest. For instance, if a student does not have the means to visit us in New Orleans, we would never hold that against them as a lack of demonstrated interest.”

On the other side of the spectrum is Carnegie Mellon. Their policy is quite clear: “We do not consider demonstrated interest in our admission paradigm . . . we do not consider a campus visit or communication with the Office of Admission or other members of the Carnegie Mellon community when making admission decisions.”

Demonstrated Interest is but one factor in the entire admissions portfolio that a student presents. It is not the be-all or end-all factor. There are plenty of ways that a student can engage a college they are interested in attending. The most important factors for any student is their GPA, rigor of their curriculum, and standardized test scores.

@Copyright 2020 The Summit College Counseling, LLC


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