Demonstrated interest is the measurement of how much a student has shown their desire to attend a particular college.
In other words, one of the things that colleges look for is how excited you are about their school and, if this were a dating app, whether or not you’d be likely to swipe right and say yes if they were to offer you a spot in their incoming freshman class.
Demonstrated interest is measured by:
- The amount of contact between the school and prospective student
- The quality of contact between the school and prospective student
And lean in close, because we’re going to tell you a secret:
Demonstrated interest is one of the most useful and underutilized tools in any student’s college admissions process arsenal!
Think about it: let’s say you’re going to ask someone to your senior prom. You have it narrowed down to two appealing choices. Do you:
- Ask the person who has been flirting with you and you have a lot in common with (so they’re likely to say yes)?
- Ask the person you’ve never spoken to before and have no idea if they would like you or be fun to hang out with (so it’s a complete shot in the dark)?
This is a question we can safely call a no-brainer.
It’s the same for college admissions officers.
You become a more appealing candidate when you express to them that you are gung-ho to make a nice addition to their student body.
So by saying hello to them at your local college fair, emailing them for specific information that you can’t find online, applying early, visiting them on campus, or liking something they posted on social media, you are signaling to them that you are a safe and solid bet to send an offer letter to. You have demonstrated your interest in them.
Make sure to read to the end of the article to learn more about which schools use this as an admissions factor, why it should matter to every college applicant regardless of where they’re applying, and, very importantly, the pitfalls to avoid when it comes to demonstrating interest in your dream school.
Does Every College Track Demonstrated Interest?
No, demonstrated interest is not a criterion used for admittance by every school.
However, it has greatly increased in importance over the last decade.
According to the college admissions trends survey done by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 68% of colleges now place some level of importance on demonstrated interest.
Furthermore, this survey shows that it is considerably more important to a greater number of schools than recommendations, class rank, and extracurriculars are.
Take a look for yourself.
Remember, these statistics are not absolute. They change every year. This is just the most recent information available when this article was published.
But since we don’t know in advance precisely how important it’s going to be for you, why not play it on the safe side and employ this awesome tool that not everyone knows about yet?
You can see from the chart above that although many schools do gauge a student’s demonstrated interest, some of those schools only see it as mildly important.
Since every school handles it differently, we have compiled a demonstrated interest school list for you of over 250 colleges and universities. This list notes whether each institution scores students’ demonstrated interest and how important that score is to ultimately offering admittance or not.
By understanding this element of the college admissions process, you’re going to be way ahead of the curve.
Use it to your advantage and keep on reading for even more insider information.
Why Does Demonstrated Interest Matter?
From the college admissions officer’s perspective:
- College admissions officers are smart and hardworking. They don’t want to waste energy and resources on a prospective student that is not likely to pan out. For example, Tulane offered admittance to 9.73% of applicants for their Class of 2025. If we do some fancy math, that means there are over 45,500 applicants for only approximately 4,400 seats. Most students are only applying to schools they're well suited for, so the metrics alone (GPA, test scores, etc.) aren't enough to drop a large number of applicants over into the “definitely make an offer” pile. To cut through the noise and ensure a smooth admissions season, demonstrated interest provides another metric that helps Tulane winnow the list.
- They also want their school’s stats to look good (this is part of their job). For example, the US News & World Report is one way that students and parents choose schools (aka, where to spend their money and support), and one way that colleges are ranked is by their yield. Yield is the percentage of students who accept an offer of admission (in other words, if Tufts University has a yield of 45%, that means for every 100 offers they make, about 45 students decide to attend; meanwhile, the Harvard yield is above 80%, so if Tufts is trying to look as attractive as Harvard to some students, they want to be able to say “hey, a lot of people want to come here too!”). So admissions offices endeavor to find the best AND the most interested candidates, reserving their right to offer a seat in their freshman class to the candidates who are most likely to say yes.
- Each school has specific goals in terms of enrollment and attendance. They have a certain number of openings in their incoming class that they are charged with filling. Now, if they get too many acceptances, that’s a problem because they could run out of space. If they get too few acceptances, that’s a problem because they won’t be making enough money or getting grants they’ve applied for or filling their programs enough to be successful. So being able to guess how many offers will turn into commitments from students becomes an important part of the process for admissions officers.
- Admissions officers are often the kindest of humans. They want you to succeed. They want to match each student to the optimal school for that specific student. It doesn’t do them any good to put you where you aren’t a good fit, aren’t going to be happy, aren’t going to thrive. So they use demonstrated interest to help ensure that happens for both your sakes.
From the student’s perspective:
- You’ll understand the school better. Regardless of whether or not your first-choice college tracks demonstrated interest, if you endeavor to connect with them you are going to benefit big time. You’ll get more information about the school, its students, its campus life, etc., and be able to make the most informed decision about where to apply, where you want to attend, and what you need to do to get admitted there. Sometimes in connecting with a school you might discover that it’s not the right fit for you. That’s still awesome because that’s new information that you didn’t have before - and you can save that application fee (and your brainpower) to apply to a college you’re the perfect fit for!
- You’ll be able to write a better essay for your application. The more you know about the school, the more clarity you’ll have when writing the “Why Our School” essay. After all, how else will you know what they’re looking for and why you want to go there? It looks good on paper, or your sister’s boyfriend’s cousin’s dentist would be impressed… these are not great reasons. Find the specifics that ignite your passion and get you excited for the future.
- You can make personal connections with other future students or current students, staff, and alumni. Connections both help you to get into the school and also allow you to gauge whether you’ll be a good fit once you get there. Remember, just like a job interview, you are testing them out every bit as much as they’re testing you out. Will you be able to find common ground? Does it feel like an environment where you can succeed? Do the people there actually pique your interest?
- Your enthusiasm can sometimes fill in the gaps in your application. Be careful not to take it too far, of course (see the possible pitfalls listed below), but it can move the needle on whether or not you’re more seriously considered. If in terms of other data, it’s a tie between you and another applicant, your enthusiasm could very well be the differentiating factor that ultimately lands you the admittance offer.
Essentially, this is a win-win type scenario. With demonstrated interest in the picture, both you and the admissions office benefit from the admissions process - and potentially enjoy it more too!
Pitfalls To Avoid:
A gentle word of caution is to always do your homework on your target schools and follow these simple rules when seeking to demonstrate your interest. Think of them as bumper rails in bowling lanes helping you roll toward victory. Put up these guards and you’ll be sure to put a great score on the demonstrated interest board.
- Do not assume it’s a guarantee. Many other factors contribute to college admissions decisions on both sides. Make sure you have a solid plan, and solid backup plans as well, because life is fond of throwing us curve balls and it will feel good for you to have multiple options.
- Do not assume it’s a substitute for the rest of the application process. Take a look at the chart above again if you need a reminder of where to focus your energy throughout the college application process. If you need help crafting your personal essay or raising your standardized test scores, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
- Do not assume it’s not worth trying if your school doesn’t mention that they track demonstrated interest. It can still help give you important information throughout your college admissions process.
- Do not assume it’s something to just go through the motions on. Don’t ask questions that are easily Googled or clearly laid out on a college’s homepage and pretend like you’re making a solid attempt to appear interested. Colleges will notice and it won’t appear favorably to the admissions office.
- Do not assume it’s an open-ended invitation to send cookies, pictures of your new puppy, or emails every other day. Don’t drive admissions officers crazy. Taking it too far and showing too much interest can have the same effect as signaling no interest at all… and right to the top of the rejection pile you’ll go.
- Do not stress over this. It’s just one piece of the puzzle. It’s also a nebulous, strange concept that you may never have heard about before and may never hear about again after this. So don’t overthink it. Take a deep breath and know that if your interest in a college is genuine and you take trackable action on it, they will be able to see and consider that.
The Next Best Step:
To demonstrate your interest, you have to, ya know, have a list of colleges you’re actually interested in.
Then, once you have that list figured out, you can choose how to demonstrate your interest.
Schedule a College Comparison Data Dive consultation with us to either get started with your list or to expand and get feedback on your existing college list.
Every student is different, so we start each one with our signature, personalized data dive comparing the best school options specifically for you. Then you can start to put this info to good use ASAP.
We know that the college admissions process is an intricate, involved endeavor that can feel intimidating. We are here to know the ins and outs of it all so that you don’t have to.
Let us help you in whatever way and however much is best for you, all the way from “OMG I don’t even know what I don’t know!” to “Congratulations! We would like to offer you a spot in our incoming class…”
With March Consulting on your side, you could easily be transformed from a prospective student into a college freshman- faster than a Hogwarts student can manage a transfiguration spell such as “Vera Verto!”- and that, of course, is the exciting goal.