Demonstrated Interest: Ten Ways to Get Yourself Noticed by Colleges

Many of you would have heard the term ‘Yield’ but may not be aware of how much value colleges place on it. Yield is the percentage of admitted students who finally enrol in the college. As you can imagine, a high yield percentage shows the college is more popular, and may often be a factor in helping them boost their rankings. Colleges track yield over the years to shape their freshman class, and to understand how many students to admit given the projected yield figures.

Many colleges therefore, place a considerable emphasis on how interested the applicants are in attending. They track the efforts made by the students to develop a relationship with the college. This effort is termed as Demonstrated Interest, and is the way many colleges and universities track how much prospective students like their school and, how likely they are to enrol if admitted.

Demonstrated interest can represent a critical factor for an otherwise qualified applicant, and is assuming an increasing role in admission decisions. According to NACAC surveys and reports, about half of American colleges place moderate to considerable importance on demonstrated interest as a factor in their admission decision.

So what are the ways in which colleges track this interest from applicants, and more importantly, how can you demonstrate your interest in them.

First things first – how do these colleges track your interest. Well, this can be done in a variety of ways:

  • Campus visits
  • Meeting/Interview with Admission Representatives when they visit your town/school
  • Connecting with their admissions office by email
  • Contact with alumni and current students that may be reported back to the college
  • Early application plans like ED and EA
  • Your response to their outreach emails to you

Let us now come to the question of what you can do to show your interest in a college. But before that, make sure you shortlist the colleges you are more interested in. It is easier to demonstrate interest at a deeper level to a few colleges than to scores of them (remember there are more than 4000 colleges in the US). Secondly, find out if the colleges you have finalised actually care about the interest you show. Many of the more popular colleges do not track your interest so it may be a waste of your already stretched time and resources to reach out to them (unless you have questions you need answered of course).

Once you have your college shortlist ready, here are a few things you can start with:

  1. Register with the college admissions office. It’s simple – visit the college’s website, find the Admissions page, and submit a request for information on a form they will probably have there.
  2. Colleges occasionally send marketing emails. Please ensure you open these and scan through them. Colleges use software which tracks who has opened their emails, how much time they have spent on it and which links they have clicked. Sounds scary, but there is software that allows them to do it. More importantly, do it since you will learn something more about the college.
  3. Initiate an email conversation with the rep who is in charge of your part of the world. Be careful that you do not ask inane questions whose answers are clearly available on the website. Please do your research and be smart about what information you seek. Also remember not to drag this on for ever – you don’t want to become a pain that they wish to avoid.
  4. Follow the college on social media. Find out which media they are present on and follow them. Even better, share posts from colleges that you really love.
  5. Visit the college campus – I know this is very difficult for international students but should you happen to be visiting USA, make sure you tour some colleges. If you do manage to visit, ensure they have you on record in their admissions office.
  6. Attend college fairs in your town and register your name with the colleges you are interested in. Or if the college is visiting your school, make sure you meet the rep and leave your details with them.
  7. Sign up for an interview if the college offers one. This could be one with a visiting rep, an alum, or a current student designated by the admissions office. Please please please remember to email a thank you note to the person who has interviewed you. Basic life skills and courtesy go a long way.
  8. And make sure you write a great ‘Why’ essay. Many colleges will want to know why you wish to be there – this is your opportunity to be the research genie and dig deep into what you love about them. Convince them why you are such a great fit for their campus and half your job is done! Also complete the optional parts of their application. If you are lazy and do not submit the optional sections, the college may assume you are not that keen on getting in.
  9. Submit your applications early. And I don’t mean the plans like Early Action or Early Decision, although we will come to that later. Applying early enough in the process shows you are eager, focussed, and serious; and if the college is reading applications in a rolling manner, it may mean that your chances of getting in are higher since a greater number of seats are still available.
  10. Early Admissions Plans like Early Decision and Early Action are another way that underline your interest. ED is in fact akin to proposing marriage to your boyfriend or girlfriend – it shows you are ready for committing to one college. The difference in ED and RD acceptance rates at colleges will be proof enough that you will stand a better chance to get in if you apply ED (Example: For the fall 2018 intake, Bates College took in 71% of its freshman class under the ED plan, accepting 48% of ED applicants as opposed to only 18% of regular applicants, while Dartmouth accepted 28% under ED and only 8% under RD). Please remember though that the applicants applying ED are usually stronger and more focussed, so you will be competing in a stronger pool.

I know what most of you are thinking – “How will I ever get the time to do all these for all my colleges?!” No worries. You don’t need to. Your most important components of the application are still your grades, etc. However, if you can do a few of these with a handful of colleges that you are genuinely interested in, it will go a long way and may mean the difference between admission or denial.

If nothing else, make sure you express interest in the colleges that are on your likely list – they are the ones most keen to know if you will end up enrolling with them.

So get back to your research now, shortlist your colleges, and start the process of wooing them!

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