Five Tips for Wooing Your Colleges

So, Valentine’s Day isn’t far off, and that prompts the eternal question: does absence make the heart grow fonder? I must respond with a wholehearted yes — at least with regard to those colleges and universities that track demonstrated interest, or DI.

When separated from those we care about, we often reach out to them in new ways to strengthen those bonds. So for this year’s junior class, you will need to connect to those colleges that value demonstrated interest and, as you get ready to apply, show your love to the schools that interest you.

The pandemic has added more robust opportunities for connecting remotely, so head to the website to take a virtual tour or participate in a webinar for prospective students. And when you are ready to hit the road for college campus tours, make sure you are clear on the instructions for visitors. Each of your schools have set specific registration details that include mask guidelines, distancing, and possibly health screening forms. Make sure to do your homework on policies for visiting, because colleges are working harder than ever to connect with you, their prospective students.

So, a bit of advice: respond accordingly. If you know that a school tracks student interest, invest in greater engagement with that college. Great! But how do I do that?, you may be asking. What does that even mean? Let’s walk through how to tell the who, what, where, ways, and when of demonstrating interest – and you might want to keep handy our cheat sheet guide to DI.


When it comes to identifying colleges that consider demonstrated interest in admissions, discovery is not an exact science. However, I’ll draw you a bit of a sketch. The very large public schools are less likely to document interest, given the large numbers of applicants and the broad spectrum of reasons that students choose a large state school. Meanwhile, top-tier schools, such as members of the Ivy League, MIT, and Stanford, don’t track interest because they know that students hold them as a top choice.

It is the mid-sized and smaller colleges that are more likely to track student interest and look for informed applicants. That’s because they realize that informed applicants have done their research and can express the qualities that make the college a good match for them. Make sure to check each school on your college list to make sure you don’t miss an opportunity to show them that you are a student they are interested in.

Check college admissions sites for clues about a school’s position on DI. You are likely to find this information under the how-to-apply or FAQ section. If those sections don’t make it immediately clear if your school tracks DI, try looking for the admissions criteria section of the school’s Common Data — just Google “Common Data Set” plus the full name of the school. Find the First Year Admission section, locate the evaluation criteria chart, and check the demonstrated interest section. Use your search results to determine if the college considers demonstrated interest as very important, moderately important, or of little-to-no importance for the application.

If you still can’t find the information you need on a school’s website, just send an email to the school’s admissions office or local representative asking them if they track DI.

Here are a few examples of what you’re looking for:

Skidmore College

The best way is to join our mailing list by submitting the Information Request Form. We will send you publications and emails to keep you informed about key events and application deadlines. Shortly after you send us the form you will receive an email from the Admissions counselor who is your primary point of contact. Feel free also to reach out to us. (Answers to Common Questions)

Syracuse University

What We Look for in Applicants

Dickinson College

Primary consideration for admission is always given to your academic and extracurricular achievement in high school, as Dickinson seeks to enroll a bright and talented first-year class. However, one of the best ways you can make yourself stand out in an applicant pool, other things being equal, is to make contact with your regional admissions counselor. Your regional admissions counselor is most familiar with high schools in your area and can be an advocate for you during the admissions process. So make an effort to email, call or write your regional admissions counselor. (Applying: Frequently Asked Questions)


Let’s consider what it even means to demonstrate interest. To demonstrate interest, one reaches out, connects with colleges, and interacts with their admissions team. Through a formal interview, a chat with an admissions rep, or a “Why Us” essay, colleges can learn why you think they are captivating to you. Colleges like eager, enthusiastic applicants. Their goal is to find out more about you and decide if you are a good match for them.

The benefit of doing the research on what makes any particular college unique, you will find out more about the school and decide if it is a good match for you. Demonstrating interest makes the matching game personal. It adds context to an application and, hopefully, makes your application come alive. Overall, your goal is to connect, share info, make a good impression, and ensure that you and your school make a good match and a good four-year fit.


Generally, demonstrating interest can happen as a campus visit or a virtual visit. Interviews are taking place via Zoom and other remote platforms these days, but keep an eye out for updates on in-person meetings. There are also many other online options, including virtual college fairs, interactive college tours, and chat features on college websites.


In what way do you show your love? Colleges will decide what specific method they will use for learning more about you. Most often, they identify several factors and track interest through multiple means. How do I love thee? Through:


This spring: As you build your college list, check the application details for each school. For schools that track interest, register online as a prospective applicant, take a tour, and participate in an info session. Open emails and, if invited, attend a special online seminar. Watch for special invitations from your school’s regional representative. And finally, follow schools of interest on social media.

Later this spring and summer: Reach out for a chat with a current student or admissions rep, begin to make personal contacts, and find out about an optional interview. Prep for the interview and check in advance whether it is an informative or evaluative interview. Follow up on any offer to engage with a school, such as an invitation to sit in on a class.

Late summer & fall: Engage in interviews, whether optional or required. Decide whether you will apply Early Decision/Early Action. Review and begin writing your supplemental essays, paying particular attention to the “Why Us” essay?

I hope that as you start putting together your college list, you’ll choose colleges that inspire you and dig deep into research that will help you express why a school is compelling to you. If you discover that a school is not a great match for you, do well to remember that the flip side to “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is “out of sight, out of mind!” Even though you may choose to “lose sight” of certain colleges, this maxim applies to colleges just as much as it does to you! If you don’t show your interest to those you care about, you may not be putting your best foot forward. If they take note, they may conclude you’ve moved on, and they too made decide to move on. So, let Valentine’s Day be a reminder to show colleges your love in any way you can.