Why Demonstrated Interest in College Admissions Matters
Recently I had a conversation with Maddie Brodeur, Admissions Counselor at Simmons University, on the topic of "demonstrated interest" in the college admissions process. This term has been thrown around a lot lately in admissions circles, so I thought it would be good to hear from an expert about what it is and why it's important for students to understand as they begin the process of researching and applying to college.
Demonstrated interest is a term that refers to a measure that colleges can use in the admissions process to determine a student's level of interest in that particular institution. In recent years, students overall have been applying to an increasing number of colleges. The challenge for a college admissions office is to enroll the correct number of students who will be a great fit for the institution. To do that, the admissions office wants to offer admission to students who are likely to attend. Assessing a student's "demonstrated interest" has become one gauge colleges use in deciding whom to admit. If a student demonstrates interest, this gives a college a stronger level of certainty that the student will attend if admitted. Here is a snippet of my conversation with Maddie.
Julie: Can you give students an understanding of what it means to show demonstrated interest?
Maddie: Students can show demonstrated interest in a variety of ways. At Simmons, it is rare that a student applies without having contact with the college ahead of time. Visiting campus, attending an admissions presentation, and taking a tour are all strongly encouraged. Once on campus students meet administrators and faculty and are sometimes able to make a connection. At the very least they can fill out a card requesting additional information. The college keeps track of students who attend these events. Students who cannot make it to campus can visit the college website, request more information, or call with a question. Some calls are noted in the admissions file.
Julie: So students should basically make themselves known to the admissions office?
Maddie: Yes. Make some outreach to the school whether you visit one time or 10. Admissions representatives travel across the country as well so students who don't live in the Boston area can make arrangements to meet an admissions representative on the road. Contact with Simmons will keep them informed of this travel and availability. I love meeting students on the road and if we have a conversation, I remember them. On a trip to Florida last year, I had a nice conversation with a young woman at an Open House. She sent me a thank you note and said she'd look forward to seeing me again next year. I'll be happy to see her when I go back to hear more about how her college search is going!
Julie: Why is demonstrated interest important in the college admissions process?
Maddie: Contact with the college can be very important for students, especially students who may be on the borderline for admissions, perhaps with an academic record below the school's profile. In an in-person encounter a student may be able to show positive characteristics in an additional way. I have heard many discussions in admissions committee meetings that begin with questions such as, "Has she visited? Have you met the student?" Most times, a personal encounter benefits a student.
Julie: What are your recommendations to students as the best ways to demonstrate interest?
Maddie: Here are a few:
- Apply Early Decision or Early Action if that makes sense for you (see MEFA's information on early admission).
- Take advantage of an interview if the college offers it, either in person or on the phone. Some colleges even use Skype.
- Connect with college representatives who visit your high school or at a college fair.
- Complete a contact card with your information when visiting a college.
- If you have a significant conversation with a college representative, send a short thank you note to follow up.
Julie: What about social media?
Maddie: We don't track social media contacts as much as a rule but we definitely notice if someone is very active. It's nice to be able to connect with students this way and we hope they will be connected to our page and like some of our posts.
Julie: Does every school measure demonstrated interest?
Maddie: How colleges use this information varies significantly from college to college. Some colleges come right out and say on their website that demonstrated interest is not a factor in the admissions process. That is true in some cases and, if so, you should follow the stated guidelines. However, for more and more institutions, demonstrated interest is a factor in the admissions process.
Julie: Any parting advice?
Maddie: Be authentic. Don't fake interest. On the other hand, if you are interested in a school, show you are interested! You don't have to say it is your top choice (unless it is!).