By Krista, IvyWise College Admissions Counselor and Former and Former Assistant Director of Admissions at Johns Hopkins University
Demonstrated interest is an important part of the college application process, and there are a lot of ways for students to show their interest in colleges throughout the school year.
What is Demonstrated Interest?
Demonstrated interest is the amount of interaction and interest a student has shown in a particular college or university. This includes how they’ve interacted online, in person, and how they show they’ve done their research when applying (or informed interest.) Many colleges track demonstrated interest to see how applicants have engaged with them. They will look for how long and how deeply the student has been making an effort to connect with and learn more about the college
Why Does Demonstrated Interest Matter to Admissions Officers?
Demonstrated interest helps colleges predict their yield, or the percentage of students who were admitted that enroll. Admissions officers know that students apply to many colleges and ultimately are likely to have more than one offer of admission but can only choose one college for enrollment. Statistics show that students who are actively engaged with a college are more likely to attend, or as we call it in the admissions world, yield.
No college has a 100% yield rate, as colleges must always admit more students than they yield. The institutions have a specific enrollment number to meet that matches how many new students they can accommodate that year. Understanding how likely a student is to yield can aid the admissions office in hitting this goal. Applicant pools are larger now than ever before and yield rates are falling, many colleges are going into “yield protection” mode. This means that even students with very strong GPAs and SAT/ACT test scores are often waitlisted–or even denied–if they didn’t demonstrate much interest.
Admissions officers see lack of interest as a sign that the student won’t yield if they are accepted to a more prestigious institution. Colleges not only want the best and brightest students, but they also want the ones who are most likely to enroll.
How Does Demonstrated Interest Benefit Applicants?
Demonstrated interest can help you stand out in a crowded applicant pool, as well as help you make more informed decisions about which colleges to apply to.
Look at it this way. You just started at a new high school where you don’t know anyone coming in. Both Sally and Jack are in your science class and they both seem like really awesome, smart people. Sally has made an effort to get to know you. She has texted you and asked you to hang out. Jack, on the other hand, hasn’t made any effort to get to know you outside of class. Who are you more likely to choose as your lab partner? Most people would say Sally because she has “demonstrated interest” in getting to know you better. Colleges operate similarly, where those students that have engaged and shown interest have a better chance of admission.
Demonstrated interest also helps you learn about the school and if it’s a good-fit for you or not. Eventually you will have to narrow down your college list. If all you know about a school is the name brand, how will you make good choices about whether to apply or not? You want to do your research and get to know the schools to ensure it’s a good fit for your needs and goals and that you’ll be happy there for the next four years.
Not only will researching a college benefit your decision-making, but it will also help you write better answers to your supplemental essays. Most universities ask a question along the lines of, “why us?” in their applications. Your response should provide reasons that are unique to both you and that institution so that your essay response is more compelling than that of the next applicant. To achieve this, you must do your homework in getting to know what sets it apart in a way that is important to you.
How Can Students Demonstrate Interest This Fall?
As the school year starts up and you find yourself doing more research to build your balanced college list, consider some ways you can begin to demonstrate interest to colleges to which you may want to apply:
Join the College’s Mailing List
Sign up to receive marketing materials from colleges if you haven’t already. This is a great way to be looped into events and other opportunities to engage and learn more. Typically, admissions offices will have a spot on their webpage to sign up to receive more information. Doing this will identify you as a prospective applicant.
As creepy as it may sound, colleges can also see if you open their emails. You don’t need to open every single one, but instead just open the ones that genuinely are of interest to you—a major you may be interested in pursuing, an announcement for an open house, etc. If there’s a link in the email, follow the link.
Attend Information Sessions and Campus Tours
Campus tours and information sessions, whether in-person or virtual, are a great way to learn more about a school before you decide if you want to apply. This is where you can see the campus, learn about the school and its offerings from an admissions officer, and get your questions about applying answered by school representatives. This is one of the best ways to demonstrate your interest, as registering for these tours and sessions records your visit to the school. A virtual tour and information session can also help you decide if you want to make the investment to visit the campus in person. Colleges track your participation for these, too.
Attend Open Houses and Other Specialty Events Hosted by the College
Colleges track attendance at open houses or other specialty events. These types of events often have more specialized offerings than a typical information sessions—such as mock classes, Q&A with current students, etc. During the pandemic, many colleges switched to offering online open houses. If you are a senior, consider signing up as early as you can for any fall events the college may be conducting specifically for your class year.
Follow Colleges on Social Media
Many colleges are hosting live sessions on social media to show the unique aspects of their school and to offer a live Q&A with students, faculty, and alumni. Visiting a college’s social media page also offers a glimpse into campus social life as well as fun extracurricular and organized activities that may be offered. For example, Hamilton College frequently hosts Silent Discos on the Quad. Checking out their pictures and videos can give you a good idea whether this is your cup of tea–or not!
Contact Your Regional Admissions Officer
Your regional admissions officer is a great resource! Students can email their regional admissions officer to ask questions that are not easily found online. Admissions officers can also connect you with professors and faculty to answer more specific questions about their departments, class sizes, teaching preferences, etc., or even other students, if you want to learn more about campus life or student lifestyle! Connecting with your regional rep will not only demonstrate interest for when it comes time to apply, but can also set you up for success, should you choose to enroll at that institution.
Watch for Admissions Officer Visits
Late in the summer, your high school may start posting dates an admissions officer is coming to your high school. Sign up early for an admissions officer school visit and be sure to let your teacher know ahead of time if you are missing a class for the visit. Not only is this a great opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions officer and chat with them one-on-one, but colleges also track attendance to these visits.
Attend College Fairs
Attend virtual or in-person college fairs and stop by the college’s booth. Colleges typically gather attendee information for the students they interacted with and track attendance. It is also a great opportunity to introduce yourself to your regional admissions representative, ask questions, and chat with them one-on-one. This allows them to become familiar with you and put a face to your name.
Consider an Admission Interview
If you are a senior, sign up for an admission interview, if offered. Interviews not only help you learn more about a prospective college or university, but also helps them learn more about you, too. Think of it as an opportunity to tell them about anything you may not have been able to include in your personal statement Common App essay.
Look at Detailed College Webpages
Start researching the majors they offer, their general education requirements, honors programs/college, and aspects about student life, such as residence halls/living learning centers, clubs and organizations, etc. Take notes about what you like, don’t like, or have questions about.
One of the best (and last!) ways to demonstrate interest when applying is to apply Early Decision or Early Action if the school is your top-choice. Early Decision applications are binding, meaning you commit to attending if admitted, so that tells the college you are very serious about that school. This helps colleges better predict their yield, and admit rates in the early rounds tend to be higher.
Just like the experience of picking a lab partner in high school, many colleges want to admit students who are more likely to pick them. Simultaneously, doing your research will also help you better determine best-fit colleges for you and craft stronger applications. Now is the time to get started on or dive further into your college research process!
At IvyWise, our team of expert counselors can help you identify the best-fit schools to apply to and develop a strategic application strategy that will maximize your outcomes. From help with demonstrating interest to strategizing how to use application rounds, your IvyWise counselor will help you with every facet of the college application process. Contact us today for your free College Prep Analysis and to learn how our team can help you reach your admissions goals.