How to Show Demonstrated Interest in College Admissions

July 28, 2023
College Admissions

How do colleges gauge that you are seriously interested in them? The answer is demonstrated interest, and this factor can have a major impact on your application. A survey conducted by the National Association of College Admission Counseling found that nearly half of all colleges consider demonstrated interest to be of “considerable importance” or “moderate importance.” With the rise in the number of college applications over the last several years, especially to the most competitive institutions, it is likely that demonstrated interest will become increasingly important. Read on to learn why this is the case, what exactly demonstrated interest is, and how you can achieve it, both virtually and in person.

What Is Demonstrated Interest?

Demonstrated interest refers to the various behaviors in which a student engages that reveal to colleges the extent to which they are interested in attending their school. The opposite of the applicant who is clearly demonstrating interest is the “stealth applicant”—an applicant whose application is the first and only form of contact with a college. Students who have demonstrated interest in a specific school will instead have already taken advantage of multiple opportunities to prove to college admissions offices that they are sincerely interested in their school.

How Can You Demonstrate Interest?

The following are ways you can demonstrate interest in a college, both virtually and in person.

  • Complete an Information Request Form

The first way to exhibit interest is to fill out an online information request form via the admissions section of a college’s website. This allows you to establish initial contact with the school and prompts them to send you application information, both digitally and physically.

  • Follow a College on Social Media and Subscribe to Their Email Newsletter

Universities are aware of the increasingly important role of social media platforms in reaching prospective students. More and more schools have active Instagram, TikTok, and other social media accounts. If you are interested in a school, you should definitely follow it on social media. Subscribing to a college’s email newsletter is another effective method of engaging with them. Schools will often share useful and interesting information through social media posts and email newsletters. So connecting with colleges this way will not only help you demonstrate interest but will also keep you up to date on a school’s deadlines and other vital information.

  • Reach Out to Admissions Counselors

Most schools have admissions counselors dedicated to specific regions of the country. You can easily find their contact information on the school’s admissions website. Go ahead and send them a brief email introducing yourself. In the email, you can share your interest in the school, discuss how the school’s programs relate to your future goals, and even ask a pointed question or two. Establishing this type of direct communication with someone within the admissions department is a meaningful way to reaffirm your enthusiasm for a school.

  • Visit the Campus

Another effective way you can demonstrate interest in a school is by visiting its campus. When you do, however, make sure it counts as an “official visit,” which usually requires filling out a form from the admissions office. You can make your visit even more strategic by reaching out to the appropriate contacts at departments of interest to schedule a meeting. If you want to major in history at Columbia, for example, consider writing an email to that department or to a particular history professor expressing your interest as a prospective student. Make sure to ask a few questions as well to indicate just how serious you are. In fact, it’s likely the department staff will be pleased to hear from you and to have a chance to promote their program!

  • Interview Alumni

An interview with an alumnus or alumna of a school is a great opportunity for you to gain a first-hand perspective of a school while showing admissions offices how genuine your interest is. You can ask someone from the admissions office to refer you to a former student. Alternatively, if you have your own contacts, make sure to let the admissions committee know about your interview.

  • Apply Early Decision, Early Action, or Restrictive Early Action

Finally, the most meaningful way you can demonstrate interest in a school is by applying Early Decision (ED), Early Action (EA), or Restrictive Early Action (REA). Applying ED creates a binding agreement with a school, so that, if accepted, you are required to accept their offer of admission and attend. Clearly, applying ED indicates to a school just how serious your interest is. While applying EA entails no obligation to attend, it does demonstrate interest to colleges. This is because, historically, students who apply EA enroll at higher rates than those applying Regular Decision (RD). In general, students applying ED have a significantly higher rate of acceptance than those applying RD because colleges can plan on your enrollment with a high degree of certainty.

It is important to bear in mind that you can only apply Early Decision to one school at a time during the ED or EDII rounds. A few select schools, mainly in the Ivy League plus Stanford, offer REA admission, which falls somewhere between ED and EA. Applying REA means that you can only apply early to one private university (public schools are excluded from this restriction). Most importantly, the decision as to whether to apply ED or REA to a school depends on several factors. These include: whether committing to the school will actually put you into acceptance range, whether you are really ready to commit to the school, your tolerance for risk, and having a solid backup plan in case you don’t get into the target schools.

Reasons Why Colleges Consider Demonstrated Interest

As mentioned above, college applications have increased significantly over the past several years, and this trend shows no signs of abating. The number of applications submitted through the Common App rose by 7.5 percent between the 2021-22 admission cycle and the 2022-23 admission cycle. Dartmouth and Yale both reported record-low acceptance rates: 6 percent and 4.35 percent, respectively. As a result, the entire college application process has become more competitive not just for students but also for colleges. In response to evolving dynamics within the realm of college admissions, schools often adapt the ways in which they evaluate applicants. Colleges are concerned not just with acceptance rates but also with their yield rates, which reflect the percentage of accepted applicants who formally enroll in the school. Admissions offices want to offer letters of acceptance to students who are most likely to attend. This allows them to accept fewer students which, of course, keeps their acceptance rates lower.

Today, many selective schools are filling close to half their spots—and sometimes more—with ED applicants, leaving fewer spots for regular decision applicants. Measuring demonstrated interest—whether through online engagement, direct letters, campus visits, connecting with alumni, or applying Early Decision, Early Action, or Restrictive Early Action—is an important way for colleges to assess which applicants are most likely to enroll if accepted. Just like applicants, colleges do not want to be rejected!