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Informed Interest: Why College Application Supplements Are Important

Demonstrated interest is one of the “soft factors” in the holistic admissions process that has gained a lot of popularity over the past few years. However, demonstrated interest isn’t just visiting and talking to admissions officers. It also includes informed interest – which can be gleaned from students’ college application supplements.

Why Interest Matters
Colleges want to admit students who are going to enroll. It’s important for colleges to manage their yield, or the percentage of admitted students who matriculate, and one way to gauge whether a student is going to enroll is by tracking his or her interest in the institution. Have you visited? Have you conversed with admissions reps? And, most importantly, are your supplements strong?

Often, what surprises students the most when applying to college is when they don’t get into their target or likely schools because they didn’t do the research. This is what is called the “Tufts effect” – when colleges reject highly qualified applicants because they think they’re unlikely to enroll. The name comes from anecdotes of students who applied to Tufts (or any other school) as a “backup” to Harvard or another Ivy, and were rejected from that “backup” but were still accepted to more prestigious/Ivy League schools. If a highly qualified applicant applies, and didn’t put much effort into his or her application, that signals to admissions officers that the student probably has a different top-choice college – that is likely to admit them – so why waste an admission on a student who isn’t likely to enroll?

Every school you apply to, whether it’s a reach or a likely on your balanced college list, should be treated like a first-choice. Meaning that you’ve put time and consideration into researching, visiting, and applying into every school on your list – all facets of demonstrating interest ­­ – not just your top-choices.

Demonstrated Interest vs. Informed Interest
Quite simply, informed interest is just another facet of demonstrated interest. Colleges want to see that students have done their research and know why a particular school is a good fit for their needs and goals. Demonstrated interest includes more concrete examples of showing your investment in a school, like applying early decision or early action, communicating with admissions officers, interviewing, and visiting. Informed interest, on the other hand, is an even “softer” element of demonstrated interest. Colleges will look to see that students can show they’re “informed” on the institution and genuine in their interest to attend. This can include making sure that, not only are your supplements strong, but that they’re also tailored to the school to which you’re applying and have specific examples and details about the school that you’ve learned through your research and visits. Informed interest is demonstrated through the information you provide in your supplements.

How to Show Informed Interest In Your Supplements
If college application supplements are the way to demonstrate informed interest, then what should you keep in mind while working on your college application supplements this summer and fall?

  • Do your research! This can’t be stressed enough. Research is critical when building your balanced college list, and it’s even more important to reference when writing your supplemental essays. Learn everything you can about the schools to which you are applying and be sure to take thorough notes when visiting, meeting with admissions reps, and more. Organize your notes so they’re easy to reference when working on your supplements.
  • Don’t recycle “Why This College?” essays: One of the most common supplemental essays is the infamous “Why This College?” Whether it’s simply “Why XX University?” or a more specific question about how a student plans to contribute to the campus, colleges are looking for detailed and well-researched responses. Don’t write a generic essay that can be used across multiple applications (and don’t copy your Brown essay into your Harvard supplement – spell check won’t catch the wrong school name!)
  • Be specific. So you already know to tailor your essays for each supplement, but what does that mean? Use specific details. Mention courses and professors of interest. Students should elaborate on campus organizations or programs that fit certain goals, and specific aspects of the campus community that make it a good social and academic fit. When evaluating these responses, colleges want to see that you’ve done your homework on the institution and you have deeply considered how you will fit into the campus community.

Showing your interest in your college application essays is critical in order to have the best chance of admission at your top-choice colleges. At IvyWise, we provide research services in order to help students become experts in all the schools on their list and, in turn, demonstrate their interest when it comes time to apply. We also work with students to help them put together the best and most compelling applications possible that accurately represent who they are as students and people. For more information on how IvyWise can help you with your applications this fall, contact us today for more information on our college counseling services for high school seniors, as well as our research services.