Demonstrated Interest – An Important Part of College Admissions

Applying to College, Building Your College List

Colleges consider many factors when deciding who to admit. GPA, extracurriculars and test scores are typically the most important. However, most colleges consider many additional factors, including something called DEMONSTRATED INTEREST. This is essentially considered the likelihood that a student will attend, if they are admitted. Many private 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. But there is another more complex reason behind it.

Each year, an admissions office will have a specific number of seats to fill, and it’s critical that they don’t end up with too many or too few students. It’s understood that a certain percentage of students who receive acceptance letters will enroll elsewhere. So colleges admit more students than they actually have space for. It’s a fine balance – if too many students enroll, they overfill the class, and if not enough enroll, they have empty seats and lost revenue. Each colleges crunches the data to determine how many and which students to admit in order to hit their target enrollment. This is referred to as “yield,” and it can play a BIG role in admissions decisions at certain colleges. Bottom line: colleges 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 emailed the office twice to ask questions. She follows the school on Instagram. In response to the supplemental question, “Why do you want to attend?” she reveals some deep 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. He has never called or emailed the admissions office, nor connected with the college in any other way. His “Why Us?” essay is pretty generic and could have been 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 – like the UC and CSU systems here in California – rarely track interest. The most highly selective private colleges (the ones with admit rates under 20%) usually do not track or use demonstrated interest when making admissions decisions. Demonstrated interest is typically most important for mid or less selective private colleges. College Kickstart maintains a list of colleges that deem Demonstrated Interest to be “Important” or “Very Important” in their Common Data Set reporting.

It’s also important to note that there’s a fine line between showing interest and harassing the admissions officers. These are busy people, so bothering them with excessive emails and phone calls can earn you a bad reputation. Keep your contact reasonable though, and it can help your case for admissions.

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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