Demonstrated interest -- the term that describes how interested a student appears to be in a particular college -- is one of those mystery components in the application process. When it comes to a college making your admission decision, does your interest in attending matter or not? The answer to this question, as with most questions regarding the application process, is “it depends.”
Some colleges do not factor in how interested you seem to be in their school at all. Some colleges give it a small amount of consideration, although it will never be as important as your grades or high school coursework. And other schools use sophisticated analytics to track various measures of interest, using it as one component of many in the admissions review process.
Can you tell if a college on your list uses demonstrated interest in making their decision? The answer is (you guessed it!): “it depends.”
Letting a school know that you want to be there can play a role in the evaluation of your application. But more importantly, the steps that you can take to do this are part of the important process of researching colleges and determining if the school is a good fit.
Here are 8 ways you can show your college list some love:
1. Attend a college fair
College fairs are a great way to gather information on multiple colleges at one time. Collect brochures that you can browse through later, sign up to receive information, and ask a well thought out question of an admissions representative.
2. Spend time on the college’s website
There is a vast amount of information on a college’s website, so use it to learn (almost) everything you need to know about colleges on your list. You can find information on your major, study abroad programs, athletics, student clubs, housing, dining, and so much more! Enter your email address to request information, and the college will keep you updated on application happenings.
3. Ask your admissions rep a question
Admissions representatives are delighted to answer questions by prospective students IF those questions are thoughtful and well researched. They are not there to be your personal Google. Ask a question like “What is your application deadline?” and you clearly demonstrate that you have not done your homework. But if you ask to be connected with a faculty member that could discuss the availability of research opportunities for undergraduate neuroscience majors -- IF that information is not available on the department website -- then this is a wonderful way to learn more about the college.
4. Visit the college for an official admissions presentation and tour
If you are able to visit, this is hands-down the best way to learn about the school and decide if this is a place that you can live at for the next four years. Attend the presentation, take the tour (it’s super fun to watch student tour guides walk backwards), see the dorms, have lunch in the dining hall, and buy a cool t-shirt in the bookstore.
5. Attend a regional admissions event
Admissions representatives travel a lot and make an effort to get to multiple regions of the country to meet prospective students. If you aren’t able to travel to a college on your list for a tour, then take advantage of a regional event in your area to learn more about the college. There will be an admissions presentation, and you may have the opportunity to introduce yourself and ask a question or two. Information about these events can generally be found on the college’s website, under the Admissions tab.
6. Sign up to meet an admissions representative at your high school
Many high schools offer their students the opportunity to meet with admissions representatives during scheduled visits. Check with your school counselor's office for the list of colleges that plan to visit and sign up for those in which you have an interest. Come to the visit prepared to introduce yourself and ask thoughtful questions (see #3 above!).
7. If available, request an alumni or admissions interview
Some colleges offer prospective students the opportunity to meet with alumni or an admissions representative for an informational interview. In these interviews, the student is given the opportunity to learn more about the school than what would typically be available in an admissions presentation. If this kind of interview is available and you are serious about the school, consider taking advantage of the opportunity. If this kind of interview is required, well then, definitely do it.
8. Make time to say thank you
Finally, when anyone from the college spends a considerable amount of time with you or goes out of their way to get you information, please make the time to say thank you. A hand-written note or an email can go a long way in letting admissions representatives know that you are grateful for their assistance.
Will demonstrated interest get you into college? No. Working hard in class, challenging yourself in your academics, preparing for standardized tests, and rounding out your schedule with a few activities of your choice will make you a great college applicant. But doing your homework with regard to the colleges on your list and letting the colleges know throughout the process that you really want to be there is a win-win for everyone, and will be the icing on your application cake.