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How to Show Demonstrated Interest - 8 Tips for College Admissions

In the current college admissions environment, every factor counts when it comes to strengthening your application. Demonstrating interest — showing proof of your interest in attending a given college — is one great method to add an extra edge to your application. 

Though it typically holds lower significance than your grades, essays, and test scores, it can be a way to distinguish yourself among similar candidates. As the methods for showing demonstrated interest can be quite simple and often require a minimal time commitment, this is always a good technique to enhance your application. In this blog, I’ll review eight essential things to know about demonstrated interest that will help you build a compelling profile for your college choices. 

8 tips on demonstrating interest to colleges

1. It doesn’t matter everywhere

Not all schools track demonstrated interest, and relevance can be limited. Generally, the motivation for considering this factor relates to maximizing yield rates, or the percentage of admitted students who decide to enroll. Colleges care about this factor for two main reasons. First, yield rate can affect a school’s ranking; if students are more excited to attend one college relative to its peers, it reflects favorably on the strength of the institution. Additionally, a high yield rate simplifies the admissions process. Colleges needn’t admit far more students than can actually attend to ensure a full class, or worry about the logistics of a highly active waitlist

However, the most competitive schools place far less — or no — emphasis on demonstrated interest, as they know that the vast majority of applicants would attend if admitted. But for schools with lower yield rates, demonstrated interest can be a significant boost to your application. 

You can check out a list of schools that consider demonstrated interest here

2. Importance can vary school-by-school

Even among schools that do consider demonstrated interest when evaluating applications, its importance relative to other factors is not consistent. (Broadly speaking, though most schools require and/or consider the same primary factors of grades, extracurriculars, test scores, recommendations, etc., colleges differ in terms of which components they deem most relevant to the admissions process.) 

If you’re wondering where to find the importance of demonstrated interest at a given college, the most reliable source is the school’s Common Data Set, a document released yearly by colleges and universities that documents statistics relating to admissions and other institutional data. This resource provides the admissions criteria used by the school and their weight, which can range from “Very Important” to “Not Considered.” For example, the level of applicant’s interest is ‘Not Considered’ at MIT, while it is ‘Considered’ at Tufts and ‘Important’ at Syracuse. The respective yield rates of these schools are 85% at MIT, 49% at Tufts, and 23% at Syracuse.    

Since admissions considerations are subject to change, and as secondary sources may misreport data, this is always the most accurate source to consult on admissions data. For more information on this resource, you can check out my blog on the Common Data Set here.  

3. Be aware of your regional admissions officer

When admissions officers (AOs) host events or visit your school, they’re not just random college representatives, they’re the main college representative evaluating applicants in your area. Typically, regional AOs will be the first person reading your application

If your regional AO visits your school, make sure to attend and make a good impression. Be on time, introduce yourself, look engaged, and ask solid questions. Avoid asking anything easily accessible on the website; rather, come prepared with specific questions on aspects of the school’s academic life, character, or details of the application. When you interact with your admissions officer, don’t be pushy or try to convince them to admit you before they can read your application. Showing interest and dedication is recommended, but excessive “networking” can be seen as frustrating or impolite. Here are some other tips on effective strategies during an admissions officer visit. 

Even if you can’t meet your regional AO, their contact information is available online at colleges’ admissions websites. You’re open to get in contact with them, though only do so if you have actual questions to ask — unsolicited emails introducing yourself or asking basic questions can be non-impactful at best and irksome at worst. 

4. Apply in the early round

Even among the most competitive colleges, showing commitment to the school by applying under an Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA) can significantly increase your chances. Both plans mean you’ll submit your application and receive your decision early, but Early Decision is a binding commitment to attend if admitted, while Early Action bears no obligation. 

Since Early Decision demonstrates that you’re 100% committed to the school, it typically has a higher acceptance rate, sometimes up to double the Regular Decision rate. 

Applying EA can also be helpful in demonstrating interest to colleges. Even though it lacks the ‘first-choice’ designation of ED, its status as a ‘priority round’ shows you want to maximize your chance of acceptance. And since the vast majority of schools do not offer both EA and ED applications, you usually won’t need to worry about choosing between the two admissions plans for a given school. (Note that a handful of schools offer both, such as UChicago and Northeastern; in these instances ED is markedly more advantageous). 

You can check out my full article on Early Decision and Regular decision here

5. Supplemental essays count

Derived from the other paths to show your interest in a college, application essays showing that you’re knowledgeable about a school can make a massive impact on your application. Essays that are carefully tailored to a college demonstrate that you’ve done careful research and potentially attended informational events. 

For some essays this is particularly important. A large percentage of colleges require a supplemental essay asking “Why us?” on their applications, and vague or broadly applicable answers can be the kiss of death to an otherwise strong application — even for schools that might not otherwise track demonstrated interest. 

6. Sign up for — and read — emails

Most schools have an option for you to sign up for their mailing list, which often includes information about the school’s academics, ECs, and admissions process. Even if you prefer to do your research independently, it’s worth signing up for these emails — many colleges take note of which students are on their mailing list. 

Beyond just signing up, you should also make an effort to open every email you receive; many schools also track if you open their emails as well as if you click the links included! Even if you don’t spend much time browsing the page, spending a few minutes a day opening any correspondence from colleges can ultimately help you out

7. Attend college tours and visits

Touring colleges can additionally be a strong marker of interest, though make sure you sign up for an official visit, as this can be another way that demonstrated interest can be tracked. AOs will take note of who formally visits their school, so walking around campus independently can cause you to miss a strategic opportunity. 

These visits typically include an information session and Q&A with admissions officers followed by a student-led tour, where you’ll learn more details about the campus and student life. So, beyond the benefit of demonstrating your interest in the school, you’ll also get to hear from both the admissions office and current students, providing dual perspectives that will both help you discern your top-choice schools and aid you in writing a compelling application.

8. Online info sessions and webinars

If you’re unable to visit the school or lack nearby college fairs or AO visits, online admissions events can be a good replacement. Since you’ll need to register for these events, you’ll also make admissions officers aware of your interest. In many of these sessions, you’ll also have time to ask questions and engage directly with the admissions officers. While it may not be as impactful as introducing yourself in person, this is the next-best way to indicate your dedication to the school. Make sure to keep an eye out for any online info sessions hosted by your regional AO in particular! 

If you’d like to participate in a rigorous research program open to high schoolers, you may want to consider the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here

Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!

Alexej is a graduate of Princeton University, where he studied Linguistics, Cognitive Science, and Humanities & Sciences. Alexej works in college admissions consulting, and is passionate about pursuing research at the intersection of humanities, linguistics, and psychology. He enjoys creative writing, hiking, and playing the piano.


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