Demonstrated interest

Demonstrated Interest: Why it matters and the importance of being genuine

Today’s world of college admissions can feel like a moving target. What are colleges really looking for in applicants? GPA, standardized test scores, and course rigor have historically been the big three factors for determining whether or not students get into their college of choice because these elements can indicate academic readiness. Along came COVID, and what started as a small test optional movement years ago blossomed into a more widespread tendency by colleges to make one of those key criteria optional (although test scores are still around). With these changes comes increased chatter in the industry about another factor cited by some schools as being influential in their admissions decisions – demonstrated interest.

Demonstrated interest is quite simply the interest a student has shown in a college.

  • Did you visit campus for an official tour?
  • Did you subscribe to their email list?
  • Open and read those emails? Click on a link in them? (Yep – this email usage data is tracked and accessible. Perhaps this is a teachable moment about the importance of checking your email.)
  • How about social media? Do you follow their Twitter, Instagram, etc.?
  • Did you fill out an interest card at your local college fair? Visit with the college’s rep when they came to your high school? Did you communicate with that representative when you had questions?
  • How did you answer their “why this college” essay question?
  • Did you apply early?

All of these are ways of showing your interest in a college.

Do all schools track this information?

No. In a college’s Common Data Set, they list the factors that they base their decisions on and how relatively important those factors are (very important, important, considered, and not considered.)

Let’s look at two examples. Ohio State University does not consider demonstrated interest or “level of applicant’s interest” in their decision. On the flip side, Case Western University does consider it in their factors. It isn’t ranked as important when compared to the other factors like rigor, class rank, GPA, and extracurriculars, but it is a consideration.

When is demonstrated interest most important?

Demonstrated interest on its own will not determine whether or not you are offered a spot at a certain university. However, with the number of applications received each year at colleges sky-rocketing, multiple students could have very similar profiles. The yield (or how many of the students who were offered acceptance actually decided to attend) is very important to universities. They want to know if they make you an offer, will you say “yes?”

How will a college choose between Taylor with a 3.7 GPA and 28 ACT score and Katie who also has a 3.7 GPA and 28 ACT? Demonstrated interest might be part of that decision. Taylor visited campus, sent an email to the admission counselor with a good question, and met someone from the school of business to talk about their majors. Meanwhile, Katie submitted an application without ever making a connection.

The university wants to make offers to students who will accept them. The university could reasonable assume (whether rightly or wrongly) that Taylor’s desire to be part of their campus is greater than Katie’s. When all other things are equal, Taylor might get the offer.

Demonstrated interest is not gaming the system: if you are interested in a college, your natural actions will be demonstrating interest!

We aren’t talking about playing some kind of admissions game. Demonstrated interest should be an ordinary result of your interest and research. As part of a student’s research about any particular college, they should make connections with that college.

Talk to someone in your intended major. (We always come back to that major program. It is so important.) Take a campus tour if you are able. If you aren’t, have a video meeting with the admissions representative. Draft specific questions (your REAL questions) that you can’t find answers to on their website. The most powerful way to demonstrate interest is to initiate and maintain contact in a genuine fashion.

These steps not only clearly show you have interest in this college, but it will also help you gather the information you need to make a strong and informed decision when the time comes.


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