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What is Demonstrated Interest in College Admissions?

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As you’ve been doing research into schools and creating your perfect school list, you’ve probably run across the phrase “demonstrated interest.” Some schools say that they consider your interest in the admissions process; but what does it mean, and how can you demonstrate interest? Let’s break down what demonstrated interest means and it might improve your chances of admission.


What is Demonstrated Interest?


Demonstrated interest is a soft quality that admissions officers consider during the application process. It can refer to a wide variety of actions on your part, but it all boils down to this: have you proven to be enthusiastic, or at least curious, about the school you’re applying to?


Unlike your grades, test scores, or even extracurriculars, demonstrated interest isn’t something you can explicitly put into your application. Instead, you have to show colleges that you’re interested in them by being engaged during the application process; this could mean participating in an alumni interview, visiting the campus, or attending college fairs.


Colleges use demonstrated interest to predict yield, which refers to the percent of admitted students who ultimately enroll in their school. Yield is important to colleges because they want to make sure that most of the students they admit actually attend their school, making them look more desirable. Using demonstrated interest is one of the strongest predictive tools that colleges have for whether or not you’ll enroll.


How Important is Demonstrated Interest?


There are two ways of looking at this question: from the college’s perspective and from the applicant’s perspective. When it comes to the college’s perspective, you might think that every college would jump to use demonstrated interest during admissions. But the answer is a little more complex than that.


According to a 2018 survey of schools conducted by the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), most schools consider demonstrated interest to some extent, but its importance is limited or nonexistent for 63.1% of colleges. Here’s how strongly those schools felt about demonstrated interest:


  • 15.5% said it was considerably important
  • 21.4% said it was moderately important
  • 34.5% said its importance was limited
  • 28.6% said it was not important


As you can see, how important demonstrated interest is depends on the school, and many of them will let you know on their admissions website if they consider it during the application process. For example, Case Western and Carnegie Mellon consider interest, whereas Princeton and Vanderbilt do not. For a list of popular colleges and how important interest is to them, read our post: Which Colleges Consider Demonstrated Interest?


One of the reasons that not all colleges use demonstrated interest is that it can be unfair. One of the classic ways of demonstrating interest to a college is through a college visit, which can be expensive and therefore prohibitive to students from low-income families. Although it’s an excellent predictive tool, some colleges want to be as fair as possible to all applicants, so they don’t consider interest during the admissions process.


From the student’s perspective, thoroughly investigating a school is beneficial even in cases where the school doesn’t consider demonstrated interest. The actions that show your enthusiasm to a school, as you’ll see in the list below, will help you get a sense as to whether that school is a good fit for you.


Even if a college takes demonstrated interest seriously, you can’t make up for weak parts of your application by showing a lot of zeal for the school. While they are more likely to admit a student who is invested in the school, colleges often admit students with no demonstrated interest because they feel they would be a good fit. On the flip side, they also won’t admit students who have demonstrated interest if they feel aren’t a good fit.


In sum, demonstrating interest to a school could help you feel confident in your school selection and strengthen your application chances, but how much it helps depends on the school.


How Can I Show Demonstrated Interest to Colleges?


Now that you hopefully understand how demonstrated interest fits into the larger puzzle of the admissions process, let’s look at some ways that you can demonstrate interest to colleges. With all of these, the most important thing you should know is that your actions should be genuine. If you are truly interested in a school, many of these behaviors will come naturally to you, and you’ll be on your way to making a favorable impression.


College visits. Although we mentioned that these can get expensive, college visits are a good way to see if a college is the right fit, if you have the time and resources. You’ll get to see what the campus is like, meet with an admissions representative, and even hear directly from current students. Luckily, this isn’t the only way to demonstrate interest, so if you can’t make it to a school, you can still show you’re interested through the other actions below. If you are from a low-income family or minority group though, many schools might actually pay for you to visit them. These are called diversity fly-in programs, where schools will cover transportation and meals for prospective students to visit. You’ll often be hosted by a current student, so housing will also be covered, and you’ll get to learn about life on-campus firsthand.


Attending high school visits or local college fairs. This is the perfect way to meet with someone face-to-face without having to make travel arrangements. Most high school counseling offices include not only upcoming visits to your high school, but also any college fairs at the local library or community centers. Mark these dates on your calendar and make a point to speak to the representative of the school you’re interested in. They often have a sign-up sheet for their email list, so be sure to sign up as concrete evidence that you were there.


Attending online events or webinars. Schools that take interest seriously are aware of the disadvantage it creates for low-income students, and they are finding solutions to help those students prove their interest in ways that make sense for them. If the college of your choice offers a webinar or some other online event, be sure to sign up for it. If it’s live and during the school day, ask your counselor if you can use the library or another quiet space to view the webinar.


Asking relevant questions. Whether you call or email your admissions office, being in communication is a good thing. You could ask for information about research, study abroad, or internship opportunities, or see if you can get connected with a current student or faculty member who’d be willing to share their perspective with you. That said, admissions officers are bombarded with questions, so err on the side of caution. Only ask questions that you really can’t find the answers to elsewhere.


Opening emails. Most schools use marketing software that tracks whether you open an email, read it, or click any links within the email. If you aren’t already receiving emails from the college of your choice, get on their mailing list as soon as possible, and start reading through their emails. Click on links that genuinely interest you, such as the department website of your intended major or a student blog post.


Applying by early deadlines. Although this isn’t the right move for every student, applying early can show that you are serious about attending. As a bonus, many school have a higher application acceptance rate than a regular decision rate. For more information about applying early, check out our post What Are the Differences Between Early Action and Early Decision?


By acting on your interest in a school, you’ll learn more about that school’s process, what they’re looking for, and if it’s the right school for you. It’s one great way to gauge your fit at a college, whether the school considers interest in admissions or not.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!


For more information about the admissions process, check out these posts below:


Which Colleges Consider Demonstrated Interest?

3 Mistakes to Avoid in the College Planning Process

Balancing the Start of Senior Year & College Applications

How College Applications Are Evaluated

Short Bio
Gianna Cifredo is a graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she majored in Philosophy. She has six years of higher education and test prep experience, and now works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and is a proud cat mom.