#College Essays and Applications

You know the difference between the SAT and the ACT. You know when to ask for teacher recommendation letters. You have chosen courses that will challenge you without overwhelming you. What more could you do to strengthen your chances of acceptance at your dream school?  

For some colleges, the answer is demonstrated interest. 

Demonstrated Interest

When you demonstrate your interest in a particular university, you are expressing that, if accepted, you are likely to attend. Colleges select applicants carefully in order to ensure an incoming class of the appropriate size and to increase their yield rate—the percentage of accepted students who choose to accept admissions offers. So, beyond the five factors within your control in the college admissions process, demonstrating your interest is another way to impact your chances of acceptance. 

According to a 2019 report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 16.1% of participating colleges said that demonstrated interest was a considerably important factor in their admissions decisions. Of those colleges, 23.9% indicated that it was of moderate importance to them. To find out whether a school factors demonstrated interest into their selection process, check out the school’s admissions website or contact an admissions counselor—or, do a Google search for the name of the school and “common data set.” While smaller schools tend to consider demonstrated interest more than larger universities, we anticipate that more schools will begin considering demonstrated interest following the unusual admissions season of 2021. At Ivy Experience, we will be tracking these trends moving forward.

A Two-Way Street

Interest should go both ways. Whether you are visiting a college, attending an alumni interview, or reading an email blast from the engineering department, this process should be about forming meaningful connections. Ultimately, it is about deciding whether a school is the right fit for you. You are choosing them as much as they are choosing you. 

So, what are some ways to show demonstrated interest?

  • Beyond applying Early Decision, a campus visit is the clearest way to show your demonstrated interest. Depending on the location, school, and any health and safety protocols in place, you may be able to visit in person, or virtually.
  • Either way, make sure that the school is aware of your visit. In most cases, you can do this by signing up for a tour with the admissions department (for example, here with Tulane). However, if you drive through or do an informal visit with family or friends, it’s still worthwhile to send an email to an admissions officer. 
  • When visiting in person, email your admissions officer ahead of time. They may be able to arrange an opportunity for you to chat with a professor or student, or to visit a class or club that interests you. 
  • No matter how you visit, make sure that you are getting the insights you need to find a university that makes you happy. Check out our tips for both in-person and virtual tours to see how.
  • Take detailed notes to help create the perfect supplemental essay.
  • After your visit, send a polite and thoughtful thank-you note to your admissions officer. 
Think Local (or Digital)
  • Is your dream school too far away? What if you’ve already visited? Consider local or virtual ways of showing demonstrated interest. 
  • Many schools offer virtual or local interviews with alumni in your field. 
  • For schools holding virtual classes, reach out to a professor or your admissions officer. You may be able to sit in on those classes from any location.
  • Check with your guidance counselor to find out whether any recruiters may be visiting your high school, or whether a school you’re interested in is participating in a local or digital college fair. 
  • Even if you only connect with someone from campus virtually, be sure to send a polite and thoughtful thank-you email a few days later!
Reach Out Directly
  • If you have a question that isn’t already answered by the website or marketing material, then email your admissions counselor. Their contact information is likely available on the website, and you can find the correct counselor based on your location. 
  • Is there a professor whose research fascinates you? Send an email to see whether they’d be willing to chat. If you do this before a campus visit, then you might even be able to meet with them in person or sit in on a class. 
  • Who better to tell you about a college than current students? The admissions office may be able to put you in touch with a student willing to speak with you, but you can also reach out to student organizations on social media to find out more about the clubs or groups you might want to join. Getting a sense of the school from potential future classmates, roommates, or fellow club members can give you a more accurate picture of what your life may look like than a polished campus tour.
  • Not sure how to do this? We have a whole article about it.
Digital Footprint
  • Some colleges track your engagement with their digital presence: emails opened, time spent on their website, and who follows them on social media. 
  • Once again, your college search is about finding a place where you will be happy. For schools that do track your digital information, remember that your online research will not only help you visualize your potential experience there and produce valuable details for your supplemental essays, but it will also send the school a direct message about how interested you truly are in attending. 

Still have questions? We’re here to help!