How to Understand and Show Demonstrated Interest
Abstract: As colleges begin to change their admission requirements post-COVID, less obvious criteria will become factored into considering a student’s application. We all know that grades, recommendation letters and activities are critical but one variable that has repeatedly come up in the advent of technology is demonstrated interest. This short essay will discuss what this is, and how students can show this to their top choice schools.
What is Demonstrated Interest?
When colleges and universities accept a student, it is always with the hope that the student will enroll at their institution. For a number of schools, demonstrated interest is a less quantifiable part of the college application which students are not always aware of. Per Inside Higher Ed: “Demonstrated interest is one of the admissions criteria used by many competitive colleges — even though it may not have anything to do with an applicant’s intelligence or character. The term refers to ways that an applicant shows he or she is serious about enrolling at a given college.” Enrollment professionals at colleges and universities will therefore use data to predict whether a student will choose to attend their school, helping to refine their enrollment data.
How do I show Demonstrated Interest?
The most evident way in which students show demonstrated interest is applying early decision. Because admission is binding if a student is accepted early decision, it is positively correlated with an institution being a student’s top choice.
Another way a school may gauge demonstrated interest is by tracking a potential student’s engagement with the admissions process. Campus visits, interviews with admissions staff (if offered as an option; schools like Case Western University offer this opportunity even prior to applying), outreach to admissions with questions, meeting with admissions counselors at college fairs and attending online webinars are all thought to indicate real, genuine interest in a school.
With modern technology, it becomes easier for colleges to track a student’s online presence and behaviors as well: school website visits can be tracked and additionally, there is discussion about schools that may also track how quickly a potential student opens an email from an institution.
How do you know if Demonstrated Interest Matters?
Not every school considers demonstrated interest. For example, a school like Harvard need not worry about enrolling students – for them, admissions is about separating some of the best from the other best. However, other schools that are larger, which may be more reliant on less ‘certain’ enrollments, may use demonstrated interest in order to make more accurate predictions for their incoming class.
A number of schools will clearly state if they consider demonstrated interest on their admissions website. For example, Rice University, Syracuse University and Seton Hall University indicate demonstrated interest is a variable in considering applications. When applying, it is important to carefully consider all the admissions criteria at your schools of choice.
One should never assume that just because this is not mentioned on the admissions website, a school does not consider this. Especially as U.S. institutions value a student ‘fit’ for a school, demonstrating specific knowledge and interest in an institution will highlight your understanding of the school and why you have chosen to apply.
Thus, in summary, visit campus (when the pandemic subsides) and make sure that you officially join in a tour so that they have your contact information (do not just walk around on your own). As the pandemic continues, though, take virtual tours on campus, sign up for webinars, and reach out to admissions with ‘real’ questions (don’t reach out with questions whose answers are easily found on their website–that would only show you are being lazy). Reading the school paper will give you a feel of the campus climate, and also may be useful to you later when you write your supplemental essays. Do whatever you can to enhance your understanding of a school by directly engaging with the institution itself. Good luck!