What Is Demonstrated Interest in the college admissions process?

Have you heard the term "demonstrated interest" but don't know what role it plays in the college admissions process? Read more to demystify the purpose of demonstrated interest and how you can use it to your advantage.



What is demonstrated interest?


Demonstrated interest is the process of showing a school that you are invested in their programs and offerings. Some schools are concerned about how much the student has already researched about the college. Not all schools track demonstrated interest, and some track demonstrated interest but do not consider it as part of the application evaluation process. If you have visited schools or engaged virtually with the admissions offices’ information sessions and tours, you have already started demonstrating interest.


The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) polled 218 colleges in 2019 and 16.1% of them placed considerable importance on demonstrated interest. Moderate importance claimed 23.9%, limited importance 28%, and none 32.1%. Over one hundred private schools track demonstrated interest. Public schools normally do not consider this factor. Schools also often state on their admissions website whether or not they track applicants' demonstrated interest.


Why does demonstrated interest matter to some admissions officers?


In order to understand the concept of demonstrated interest, it's important to also understand the term "yield." Yield is the percentage of students who accept an offer of admission relative to all those that were admitted. High yield is important to many colleges. They will turn to the waitlist if this number is not as high as they expected. Yield is part of how college ratings are evaluated. Admissions offices will hold events on campus for admitted students in order to drive yield rates higher.


Former Amherst admissions officer Willard Dix describes “the concepts of ‘match’ and ‘fit,’ which refer to how well students meet the requirements of admission and how well they would integrate into the academic, social, and communal life of the campus.” Many applicants are denied even though their transcript, class rank, and test scores match a university while demonstrated interest can signal that the student fits the campus culture of their top-choice schools.


How can I demonstrate interest in a college virtually?


Online Events


It is helpful to search the admissions office sites on your targeted college website for online events. You will often find information about demonstrated interest on these pages. Admissions officers are often concerned with innovating unique online experiences for prospective students.


Some schools like Stanford have student forums. These events allow prospective students to ask questions of current students. They may host current student panels as well. Remember to check if they track demonstrated interest, Stanford explains that they do not track interest on the same webpage of their online events.


Webinars & Information Sessions


Boston University admissions, which does track interest, offers live guided virtual tours and information sessions. Kenyon college offers online open houses with panels from faculty members and the opportunity to sit in on a class. Some schools like Syracuse University even offer virtual interviews with admissions staff.


Subscribe to mailing lists, and open emails. Communicate with the admissions office via email with any questions (but be careful not to overdo it). Reach out to specific departments you hope to explore if admitted.


How do I demonstrate interest in a college in person?


Information Sessions


Pay close attention to the language admissions officers use to describe their university and recruit applicants. They contain the values that a school prizes most.


For example, if a college boasts of student engagement, citing their number of student organizations, you should think strategically about your own high school activities. They may use an example of a stand-out current student. What details do they emphasize? Leadership? Innovation? Collaboration? Take notes and retell your story based on what you learn in the session. Oftentimes you can speak directly to students and/or student tour guides, so ask them for more inside information to help you understand these values on a deeper level.


School Visits by College Recruiters


Attend college visits at your high school. The visiting staff will often come prepared to give a shortened version of an informational session. Many hope to make genuine connections with students. Make sure you have questions for the visiting admissions officer.


Programs Hosted by Admissions Departments


Some colleges host programs for promising high school students. These programs can include case studies of previous applications, meeting faculty, connecting to a current student mentor, and more.


Programs like Ithaca Colleges’s summer college are also excellent for demonstrating interest as well as confirming a student’s competitiveness. Once you determine that one of your top choice colleges has a high school summer program, you should apply early. The connections you forge with current students, staff, and faculty will be invaluable evidence to the admissions officers that their school is a top choice for you.


How do I demonstrate interest in my application?


"Why This College?" Essays


Doing your research is extremely important to answer "Why *this college*?" essay prompts. Admissions officers anticipate reading about how their school’s unique offerings suit the student’s personal goals. It is important not to be vague in these essays. If your sentences can apply to multiple different colleges you probably do not need it. You want to talk about academic and social resources, features of their alumni network or career services, specific organizations not found at other schools, or any unique cultural factors at the university. And then, you can connect these offerings to your interests and experiences.


Letters of Continued Interest


If you are waitlisted, letters of continued interest will become very important in the latter stages of the admissions cycle. Normally, you will be given access to a system that allows you to submit updated grades and your continued interest letter. You should stay on top of college emails to make sure that you submit your letter quickly after being asked for updates. If you learn about new resources that would enrich your college experience, you may also include those.


Letters of Recommendation


Speak to your recommenders about the reasons each school is appealing to you. Make them aware of the ways the school academics and residential life fit your interests. Unless you are using a school-specific application system, your letters of recommendation are usually sent to multiple schools. For recommendations being sent on Common App or similar systems, your teachers should not explicitly name Universities, but speaking about the ways you exemplify the specific values of your top schools will be important.


Be sure to check which of your chosen colleges track interest. One of the fastest ways to determine this is to google search the name of the college with “demonstrated interest site:.edu." This will lead you to pages like Ithaca College’s “What we consider” admissions page. On your college checklist, denote which colleges track interest and pay special attention to their supplemental questions.


Remember, at the end of the day, you are more selective than your colleges. You have nearly 6,000 options in the United States and applying to even 1% of them would be entirely unrealistic. Getting to know the colleges on your list is imperative for your success, so regard demonstrating interest as a useful approach in your strategy.


If you’re looking for help with demonstrated interest or general guidance during the college admissions process, don’t hesitate to set up a free consultation today.