Demonstrated Interest and College Admissions

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Demonstrated Interest in College AdmissionsThe Dating Game: Letting Colleges Know You’re Really Ready to Commit

In this month’s newsletter, we highlight the importance of the college visit and how to prepare for and what students can expect during their tour. While the college visit is very important in deciding where you want to apply, it’s also a part of helping you get in.  

College visits are just one small piece of a pie that we, and admissions officers across the country, call “demonstrated interest,” and it has an impact on your chances of admission. You wouldn’t go on a date with someone who doesn’t want to get to know you, so why would a college admit a students who haven’t shown they are really inerested in the institution? 

What is demonstrated interest?

Simply, demonstrated interest is the university’s way of gauging how likely you are to attend if you’re admitted to the school. Colleges want to see that you’ve done your research, you’re excited about attending their school, and that you’ll make an impact on their campus. That’s why many schools track an applicant’s demonstrated interest; they want to offer places in the class to students who really, really want to be there!  

But I’m applying, isn’t that enough of a demonstration of my interest?  

Colleges know that most students are applying to multiple schools during admissions season, and that they have all these universities ranked as their “target,” “likely,” and “reach” schools. Since students can’t attend every school they are admitted to, unless of course they applied early and the offer of admission is binding, it’s expected that they will have a “top choice” college in mind and if they are admitted they will go there. The challenge for admissions officers is to determine if their school is near, or at the top, of the applicant’s list, and, if admitted, they will attend.  

This is where demonstrated interest comes in. If a student has shown that he or she knows the school well, has visited, and has spent time doing research on what the school has to offer and what the student thinks he or she can contribute to the campus, that student is more likely to be admitted if they meet the school’s other admission standards.  

Even though you will most likely be applying to “fallback” schools that are not at the top of your list, treat every application like it’s your first-choice. Admissions officers can tell from your writing if you are not that interested in attending and if you have not done your research.  

What counts as demonstrated interest?  

College visits are typically the most common way that students can demonstrate their interest in a particular school, but there are other ways, as well.  

  • Interviews – Some students decide to do interviews with the colleges that they are applying to. Interviews are a good way for the interviewer, typically someone from the admissions office or an alumnus, and the student, to determine if the college is a good fit. It’s a great opportunity to add a personal touch to your admissions profile, and gives you the chance to ask any questions you may have.

  • Contacting admissions officers – Admissions officers like to hear from applicants and answer any questions they may have. Reach out to the admissions officer who is in charge of reading and reviewing applications for your area. Bring any of you questions or concerns to their attention and even send them a thank you note if you were able to meet them during your campus visit or interview.

  • College fairs – For those students who may not be able to do an in-person visit to the schools they are applying to, college fairs are a great way to meet admissions representatives and demonstrate your interest in certain schools. Make sure to give your information to the representative so that the admissions office can document your interaction with their representative.

  • Supplements – Even if you apply through the Common Application, there are often school-specific supplements that ask, “Why this school?” Become an expert on the colleges you’re applying to and tailor each application accordingly.  Supplements are a great way to demonstrate your interest because it gives you the opportunity to be as specific as possible about certain aspects of the school and how you think you will fit into the institution.

At IvyWise, we recommend completing an “Imagining I’m There” exercise prior to writing your essays, where you picture your freshman year at that school. Consider the three Cs–classroom, campus, and community. What courses would you take and with which professors? Which organizations/activities would you join on campus? Which research and study abroad opportunities are of interest? Which school traditions do you want to maintain? How would you volunteer and get involved in the larger campus community? This information should also be reflected in each college application.  


  • Applying Early – Applying for Early Decision or Early Action lets a school know that their institution is your first-choice. And if the early application is binding, they know that you applied with the intention of attending if admitted.

  • Demonstrated interest is just one part of a student’s application that admissions officers take into consideration when deciding whom to admit to their college.  While it’s not as easy to quantify as GPA and test scores are, it is a factor in the admissions process. It never hurts to put in a little extra effort to let a school know you really want to be a part of their community!  

    Related Topics

    College Admissions Trends, College Application Tips, College Prep

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