What is Demonstrated Interest in College Admissions?

In recent years, admissions offices have begun tracking prospective students’ engagement with recruiting materials. They do this to track something called demonstrated interest, but what is demonstrated interest in college admissions? And more importantly, how do you make sure you are meeting the admissions office’s expectations?

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By NOELLE COMPTON

In the age of the internet, admissions offices have many tools at their disposal when it comes to deciding who gets in and who gets rejected. Among these tools are automated algorithms and other functions to determine who is most likely to attend if admitted. For some schools, measuring a student’s engagement with the admissions office is a powerful determiner of interest and, therefore, admission. Schools that measure this sort of engagement track what we call “demonstrated interest” in college admissions. In doing so, they are seeking to answer the question, “how much do you want to go to our school?” Or, “If we let you in, what is the likelihood that you actually attend?”

How much do you want to go to our school?

Why do colleges measure demonstrated interest?

Colleges are protective of something called “yield”, which refers to the ratio of students who are offered admission to students who actually end up attending. In a perfect world, every single student that a college admits would choose to attend that college. However, this is obviously not the case. Most students will apply to many schools and be admitted to several of those schools, but they can only attend one. 

This is tricky for colleges because every student who is admitted will be calculated into the school’s acceptance rate, whether they choose to attend or not. If a school admits many more students than will actually attend, then they can appear to be less selective or competitive. Selectiveness is a significant factor in terms of college rankings, which schools depend on for marketing and prestige, among other things. It is therefore in their interest to only admit students who are likely to attend. 

In order to calculate this likelihood of attendance, colleges are not only asking “does the student have the grades and test scores we’re looking for,” but also, “If we let you in, will you come here? Or do you represent an empty statistic for our admissions?” Part of this calculation is based on values like geographic proximity; the nearer a student is to a campus, the more likely they are to attend. But for some schools, demonstrated interest represents the other factor in this calculation.

How do colleges measure demonstrated interest?

Computers and the internet have made it not only possible but very easy for admissions offices to track students’ engagement with different marketing materials. In the mind of the admissions officer, a student who is heavily engaged in researching a school is more likely to attend. As such, many admissions offices may be running a ‘tally’ system on how many times a student engaged with these materials. The more a student engages, the higher their demonstrated interest score may be. 

Here are some of the ways that a college might measure demonstrated interest:

Opening emails from the school:

Schools have software that allows them to see if you open their emails and how long you spend reading the message. It is in your interest to open emails from schools that you are very interested in attending and to spend some time clicking the links therein. Again, this is an automated process. Marketing funnels allow “likely to attend” students to be categorized in favorable ways to admission. 

Attending events in-person or virtually:

For each event that you attend, a note may be added to your file. In-person events tend to have greater value than virtual events, but both are helpful for demonstrated interest. This means that if you see that a school’s representative is coming to your counseling office, go meet them! This is also an excellent opportunity to gather information and meet a helpful contact. Virtual events are also helpful but remember: If you sign up, make sure you attend.

Reaching out to the admissions office, regional admissions officers, professors, departments, or coaches:

Each point of contact may count as a separate demonstration of interest. Even if a school is not actively measuring demonstrated interest, reaching out will help the right people recognize your name.

Visiting the campus:

The best thing you can do to demonstrate interest is to visit the campus in person. If you do this and you apply to the school, the school can reasonably believe that you’re serious about attending, if admitted. A note: In-person campus tours can fill up quickly, so make sure that you are on top of registering. Generally, a note will only go in your file if you attend an official tour, rather than a self-guided walk around campus. After all, how else will the college know that you’re there? However, if you are unable to secure an official tour, reach out to the admissions office while you’re on campus to see if you can arrange a one-on-one meeting, sneak onto a tour last minute, or make sure that the office knows you’re there in some other way.

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How do I know if a school is measuring demonstrated interest?

Not all colleges measure demonstrated interest. In general, the more competitive a school is, the less likely they are to measure demonstrated interest because students are less likely to reject admission to great schools. However, for some colleges, demonstrated interest is really important, and it is helpful to know when this is true. 

To determine if a school is measuring demonstrated interest, we can rely on the Common Data Set, a standardized record of admissions data that most American colleges use. 

Here is how you locate a school’s Common Data Set:

  1. Google “(name of college) Common Data (Example: Boston University Common Data Set)
  2. Find the search result ending with .edu, so that you know the source is legitimate
  3. Locate section C-7 in the Common Data Set
  4. Refer to the last line of data, Level of applicant’s interest

Colleges categorize metrics for admission into ‘Very Important’, ‘Important’, ‘Considered’, and ‘Not Considered’. Regarding demonstrated interest, here are some examples from different colleges:

From these examples, it is clear that each school has its own protocol and policy regarding demonstrated interest in college admissions. Knowing which schools strongly consider your level of interest should absolutely factor into your behavior and decision-making. 

What’s the bottom line on demonstrated interest in college admissions?

Whether or not a school purports to measure demonstrated interest, it is best practice to engage with their marketing materials and demonstrate sincere enthusiasm for a school. At worst, you will be collecting useful information for your essays and meeting helpful contacts along the way. However, for schools that consider demonstrated interest to be considered, important, or very important, it is critical that you generate as many touch points as possible.

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