The 360° on Demonstrated Interest

First, let’s define demonstrated interest; after that, we can explore how it can help you make an informed decision regarding your college choice.

“I thought demonstrated interest was me telling colleges that I am really interested in them?!”

Yes, this is true. You are the one reaching out to colleges, and demonstrated interest is an important factor in providing context to your application. Colleges want to admit informed students, those who are genuinely interested in and knowledgeable about their prospective school. Demonstrated interest is an opportunity to create a framework that makes your application personal.

In a normal year, you can chat at a college fair, email an admissions rep, follow social media pages and profiles, participate in on-campus interviews, spend a night in a dorm, attend a class, or register for a local alumni interview. During the pandemic, you can also chat with admissions staff online and schedule virtual interviews.

These are all ways to show your interest. Another is a school-specific supplemental essay: Why our college? What aspect of our mission or goals truly speaks to you? Why are we a good match for you? Colleges want you to express what it is about their school that you find so appealing.

On average, students are applying to more schools than they did in the past, so colleges are keen to know how much students know about their school when they hit the submit button. A strong statement of interest can certainly enhance your application because it demonstrates that you have done the research and are able to envision yourself on campus for four years.

About 20% of colleges track interest, and that trend is growing. Following the contact information helps colleges manage their enrollment, namely their yield: the number of admitted students who ultimately enroll, a key figure that is linked to a school’s budget, departmental strategies, rankings, and brand.

So, what is the flip side of demonstrated interest? This is the benefit you receive by digging deeper, making contact, and getting into the details of each school’s undergraduate program. In talking with admissions reps and alumni, you are able to form a clearer vision of the school — both the mission of the institution and the values of the student body. In getting to the root of what actually motivates and shapes a particular learning environment, you can make a decision about what is right for you.

Engagement can be inspirational. Developing a personal connection can be compelling. By interacting with a school’s admissions staff and website, you will gain first-hand knowledge, receive answers to specific questions, and develop a personal approach that will help you to create an individual framework for each college. The flip side is that you will learn a great deal about yourself as you are learning about each college. You will decide what you like and what you do not like, and you will learn how to reach out, advocate for yourself, and grow your network.

As you look for opportunities to engage and learn more about each of the colleges on your list, be open to meeting representatives and alumni — in person when conditions allow and virtually when needed — and learn how to talk with others about your interests and goals. Investigate, ask questions, and show some love to your schools — whether that’s by attending an admissions interview, writing a strong supplemental essay, or engaging other admissions events, live or virtual. Above all, however, keep in mind that informed, educated decisions are likely to yield the most positive results.