What is Demonstrated Interest in College Admissions?

December 27, 2023

demonstrated interest

At their core, college admissions officers have a good deal in common with 7th graders. While they may not share the same hygiene issues, burgeoning rebellious spirit, or general awkwardness, thirteen-year-olds’ minds are often dominated by one critical question—the same exact question that keeps college admissions officers up at night—do they “like me” or do they “like me-like me”? This leads us to the question guiding this blog — do colleges track demonstrated interest?

Admissions officers are under enormous pressure to meet their enrollment goals by May 1st of each year. Shockingly, in 2021, admissions directors at 91% of schools were either “concerned” or “very concerned” about meeting their enrollment target; only 2-4% had zero concerns in this area. The best way to meet enrollment is to have a high yield rate, which refers to the percentage of admitted applicants that go on to enroll in the institution. The best way to have a high yield rate is to admit students whom you suspect are highly motivated to actually enroll at your college over all of their other prospective schools. The measure that admissions officers use to hone in on candidates who are likely to enroll is something called demonstrated interest.

The evidence that “demonstrated interest” matters

According to the most recent National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) survey, 16% of colleges and universities consider demonstrated interest as having “considerable importance” in the admissions process; another 28% of institutions rated it as being of “moderate importance.” Add these two groups together and the percentage of schools who strongly value a little attention from applicants is 44%. Amazingly, this is a higher figure than colleges report placing on the college interview (13%) or class rank (28%), and just below extracurricular activities and teacher recommendations (both 51%).

How can I demonstrate interest to colleges?

Hopefully we’ve convinced you that this whole “demonstrated interest” thing is worth your time. Now, comes the answer to the question: How exactly do I go about convincing a college that I “like them-like them”? Below, we highlight seven simple ways to show your prospective colleges some much-desired affection. We’ll start with the least labor-intensive and progress from there.

1. Complete an online information request form

Just about every college in the world features a page on its admission website where prospective students can request general information, subscribe to the college’s newsletter, and/or indicate academic programs/activities that are especially appealing. They’ll likely send you piles of printed materials through snail mail which, whether you carefully peruse or toss directly into the recycle bin, will serve the purpose of communicating interest.

You can complete this short task by visiting the admissions website for each of your prospective colleges. Alternatively, you can simply Google the college’s name and the terms “request information” or “join mailing list.” Check out these examples below:

Amherst College – Request Information

Georgia Institute of Technology – Request Information

Pomona College – Request Information

2. Click on emails

When you complete an information request form, you’ll typically receive scores of emails in addition to piles of snail mail. Since some colleges track demonstrated interest through email clicks, use the emails you’ve received from a college as a springboard for your college research rather than navigating to the college’s website through a Google search. The programs and offerings you click on in each email are yet another way colleges track demonstrated interest.

3. Connect on social media

The majority of schools offer applicants the chance to create an online admissions profile where they can submit and track their online application, schedule a campus tour, and interact with college staff via Facebook, X, Instagram, YouTube, and other social media. Believe it or not, 60% of applicants report liking or following a school on one of the platforms listed above. Thus, clicking the like button won’t single-handedly separate you from the pack, but it will succeed in “checking a box” when admissions committees ultimately sit down to review your application. However, following a school on social media also exposes your social media, which you should make sure is squeaky clean.

4. Email your admissions counselor

Colleges typically have admissions officers assigned to recruit and evaluate applicants from specific regions of the country/state. Finding the correct counselor for your home state or county should be easy to locate on the school’s admissions website.

What is Demonstrated Interest? (Continued)

Once you find your counselor, send a brief email introducing yourself and describing your interests in the institution. An introductory email also presents a great opportunity to ask questions related to—for example—a particular academic program. It is also an ideal time to show that you’ve done your research on their school. This can be accomplished by asking targeted questions about unique aspects of their campus or academic programs. Avoid asking things that can easily be found online like, “What are the average SAT scores for admitted applicants?” Such contact provides another way for colleges to track demonstrated interest.

5. Attend admissions events in your area

Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic significantly hampered the ability of admissions officers to travel and meet face-to-face with prospective applicants. As that type of activity resumes, if an admissions representative from a prospective college visits your high school or another nearby location for an information session or college fair, make it a point to be there. Moreover, be sure to introduce yourself. If you are interested enough in a school to apply, you should definitely be interested enough to meet a rep who has traveled (sometimes across the country) right into your backyard. Afterward, send a brief email thanking them for their time and expressing the enthusiasm you feel for applying to their school. Again, nothing earth-shattering—just another small step in demonstrating that you are serious about their school.

6. Visit campus

Anyone can click on a website but only the truly interested will make the effort to travel. A campus visit is viewed by admissions committees as one of the strongest indicators of interest. Of course, there is inequity at play here, as not everyone can afford to take off work and trek all over the country visiting schools. Fortunately, many colleges now offer subsidized campus visits for lower-income students. However you get to campus, while there, make every effort to schedule an interview or informal meeting with your admissions counselor. Connecting in-person with an admissions officer provides you the opportunity to show your counselor that you are more than just your grades and test scores and of course, gets you brownie points when they calculate your so-called interest quotient.

What is Demonstrated Interest? (Continued)

As with #4, this was, of course, made very difficult, if not impossible by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the rise of virtual visits, campus tours, and information sessions offered by colleges. At the very least, be sure to engage with such virtual offerings for all the schools on your list.

7. Spend time on your “Why this College?” essay

Our previous five tips can all be executed before actually applying. However, this one involves demonstrating interest during the process itself. Many schools require applicants to compose an essay about why their school appeals to you. Take this invitation as a serious opportunity to show an admissions committee that you’ve done your homework on their school. This serves the purpose of conveying that you are genuinely excited about enrolling. For more tips on mastering the “Why this college?” essay, check out our previous blog on the subject.

8. Apply early

It goes without saying that this is the most extreme and, if you are applying early decision, irrevocable, way that you can demonstrate interest. To go back to our 7th grade love example, it’s the equivalent of skipping the “I like you” phase and going right into publicly declaring your undying love. Of course, colleges like ED applicants because they can count on them as automatic members of their freshman class. If you are considering applying ED, first revisit our blog on the subject. Then, check out our Dataverse page which shows EA/ED admissions rates at hundreds of top schools.

Do Colleges Track Demonstrated Interest? – Key Takeaways

  • Colleges want to know that you genuinely want them.
  • If you convince a school that you are likely to enroll, it can be an advantage in the admissions process.
  • Connect with your school through social media, fill out an online form requesting more info, and click on emails from the school.
  • Make personal contact with the admissions officer for your region.
  • Attend a formal admissions event on campus and/or locally, if available.
  • Demonstrating interest doesn’t involve a significant investment of time or money on your part. However, the return on this minimal investment will be high.
  • Use the “Why this College?” essay as an opportunity to write a love letter to a prospective school.
  • Lastly, carefully consider the ultimate act of demonstrated interest—applying early decision.

Check out our YouTube video below to learn more!