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 of the most overlooked factors that an applicant actually 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.
When a college makes admissions decisions, they know how many spaces they have in their freshmen class. 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 based on predictions of how many will actually choose to attend if admitted. It’s a fine balance – if too many students accept, they overfill the class, and if not enough accept, they have empty seats. Given that admissions officers only have a limited number of acceptances, it follows naturally that they prefer to accept students that are more likely to attend. In other words, why “waste” an acceptance on a student who isn’t likely to actually 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 a few follow up emails, and called the office twice to ask thoughtful, well-informed questions. She also follows the school on Twitter and has mentioned her desire to attend in several of her Facebook posts. 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 about 2 hours away, and has never called or emailed the admissions office. While he has “liked” the colleges Facebook page, there is no mention of it anywhere else in his online presence. His response to “Why do you want to attend?” is mostly generic, and 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 seems as if he signed the mailing list to be polite, but has given no indication that 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 all of your admissions reps, note that not all colleges track or consider applicants’ interest. The quickest way to find out if a particular college considers demonstrated interest is by checking Big Future. Look up the college, click on the “Applying” page, and find the section titled “What’s Important?” If a college lists “Level of Applicant’s Interest” anywhere on this page, it means they keep track. Make note of where this item falls: “Very Important,” “Important” or “Considered.” If it appears under either of the first two categories, you’d best make a strong point of demonstrating your interest!
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 my programs, I’ll tell you exactly which of your colleges track demonstrated interest and help you use this strategy to your best advantage. Schedule your free 30 minute consultation to learn more!