Demonstrated Interest – Your Secret Weapon in College Admissions

Applying to College, Building Your College List

Colleges consider many factors when deciding which students to admit; grades, test scores and course work usually being the most important. But they also consider other factors to help decide between applicants of similar academic stature. One factor that an applicant has the most control over is DEMONSTRATED INTEREST. Many colleges consider it a major plus if a student has signaled that they are strongly interested in attending.

So why is this? The first reason is obvious – a student who is excited to attend is more likely to be successful and less likely to transfer to another college. But there is another more complex reason behind it.

Each year, an admissions office will have a specific number of seats to fill in their freshmen class, and it is critical that they do not end up with too many or too few new students. They also know that a certain percentage of the students who receive acceptance letters will choose to go elsewhere. So colleges always admit more students than they actually have space for. The number of students they admit each year is determined using data from previous years, indicating what percentage of admitted students actually enroll. It’s a fine balance – if too many students accept, they overfill the class, and if not enough accept, they have empty seats. It follows naturally that they prefer students that are more likely to attend. In other words, why “waste” an acceptance on a student who isn’t likely to come?

Let’s imagine a scenario where admissions officers are deciding between two applicants of equal academic and extracurricular qualifications. Applicant A has visited the campus and conducted an interview with an admissions officer, sent follow up emails, and called the office twice to ask thoughtful questions. She follows the school on Twitter and Instagram. In response to the supplemental question, “Why do you want to attend?” she reveals some impressive knowledge of the college and the academic program she’s applying to.

Applicant B, on the other hand, is on the college’s mailing list – he signed up when the representative visited his high school. But, he hasn’t come to campus in spite of the fact that he lives 2 hours away, and has never called or emailed the admissions office. He has not connected with the college on social media. His “Why Us? essay feels as if it could be written about another college.

Which student do you think would be more likely to attend if admitted? Applicant A, of course. She has done her due diligence in learning about the college and is undeniably interested in attending. Applicant B has given no indication that he really wants to attend. Maybe it’s his backup school, or one he added on a whim. It’s easy to understand why the college would be less interested in sending him an acceptance letter.

Before you rush to call your admissions reps, note that not all colleges track or consider applicants’ interest. Larger public universities rarely track interest, and the most selective institutions also do not. Demonstrated interest is typically most important for mid or less selective private colleges.

To look up whether a college tracks demonstrated interest, go to BigFuture, look up the college’s profile, then click on the “Applying” tab. Click on “What’s Important?” If the phrase “Level of Applicants Interest” shows up in the list, it means the college considers demonstrated interest in admissions.

Syracuse University is one example of a college that considers applicant interest to be “Very Important,” while Reed College, Rice University and Lehigh University consider it “Important.” The majority of colleges list this item under “Considered,” including NYU, Boston University, Northeastern and Swarthmore. The most selective colleges, like Duke, Stanford, Harvard, Yale and Johns Hopkins, don’t consider a student’s level of interest at all.

It’s also important to note that there’s a fine line between showing interest and harassing the admissions officers. These are busy people, juggling a huge number of prospective students, so they don’t want to be bothered with excessive emails and phone calls. Showing TOO much interest can get annoying and earn you a bad reputation, so be sure to keep it reasonable.

So go ahead – show your colleges some love!

If you decide to sign up for one of our programs, we will tell you exactly which of your colleges track demonstrated interest and help you use this strategy to your best advantage. Schedule your free 15 minute consultation to learn more!

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