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 prohibited travel, cancelled college fairs, nixed high school visits and college campus tours, and physically distanced college reps. Colleges are working harder than ever to connect virtually 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.
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. 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. 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; see the Dartmouth links below to see what I mean (toward the bottom of page 8).
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:
Washington University in St. Louis
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 is a remote experience these days. In-person campus tours are happening on a limited basis, so check individual college websites for the latest updates on those. Interviews are taking place via Zoom and other remote platforms. 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:
- Social media followers on Twitter and Instagram
- Website visits: Fill out an interest form to register your email.
- Open your emails from this school! It supports their data analytics.
- Register for online info sessions and tours.
- One-on-one interviews with a student, admissions rep, or alumnus
- The supplemental essay: demonstrating interest and being an informed applicant go hand-in-hand. For example: “Which aspects of the Tufts undergraduate experience prompt your application? In short, ‘Why Tufts?” Or “Why do you wish to attend Colorado College and how would you contribute to the community?” Be specific and personal. Speak to the unique qualities of the schools that stand out to you.
- The Early Decision application, the strongest interest that a student can express
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 webinar. 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.