How demonstrated interest can help you get accepted

By Maya Juman

Demonstrated interest is becoming an increasingly important factor in college admissions decisions. Find out what it is and how it can help you get accepted.

What is demonstrated interest?

Colleges look for students who go out of their way to show interest in their programs, not only in their college applications, but also additional outreach. This could be anything from submitting a contact form to a campus visit to a strong interview, and it’s something students should keep in mind as admission to selective colleges gets tougher every year.

Why is demonstrated interest important to colleges?

Like any relationship, colleges don’t want to admit students who aren’t excited about them. On paper, an applicant who truly loves a college could look the same as one who only considers the college a safety school or back-up. They also want to increase their yield rate. Colleges want as many students as possible to accept an offer of admission. The perceived desirability of a school has an effect on its reputation.

How to demonstrate your interest

So what can you do to prove to a college that you’re truly interested in attending? Here are six ways you can step up your demonstrated interest game and stand out as an enthusiastic applicant.

1. Visit the school

Most colleges keep track of who visited, and many applications include a question about your familiarity with campus. This is a great way to learn more about the school and let them know you’re interested. If possible, a more intensive overnight program (especially those that are selective and require applications) can also add to your application.

2. Attend a local information session

If a school admissions officer is visiting your city at a college fair or offering a presentation, attend the meeting and bring lots of informed, specific questions about the school (try to do some research beforehand!). Be sure to introduce yourself personally and ask to fill out a contact card requesting more information about the college.

3. Contact a college admissions officer with any questions

This could be about filling out the application, specific programs you are interested in, or getting in touch with current students. Taking the time to write a simple email lets the college admissions committee know that you care about the school enough to learn more about it.

4. Write strong supplemental essays

If a school’s application includes a question about why you applied, take the opportunity to be very specific about your interest in the school. If you have had the opportunity to visit, describe your experience on campus and why it appealed to you. What made you decide to apply? Mention specific study abroad programs, extracurricular opportunities, or faculty members you would want to conduct research with or take classes from (by name!). Don’t write an essay that could apply to any school on your list. If you think you can copy and paste the essay into another application and just change the name of the college, it’s way too general.

5. Interviews, interviews, interviews

Even if the interview is optional and non-evaluative, which it often is, request one. This could be with a current student, an alumnus, or an admissions officer. If possible, try to interview on campus, especially if you have not visited before. Sign up for interviews early to ensure you get a spot. Come prepared with lots of school-specific questions and do your research ahead of time. If your interviewer asks you about your interest in the school, have a specific response and sound excited about the prospect of attending! Of course, always send a thank-you card or email to your interviewer afterwards. An excellent interview experience is one of the best ways of demonstrating interest.

6. Apply early

This is a personal decision and depends on financial aid, the availability of test scores, and other factors that may be out of your control. However, if you are confident enough in your interest in a school to apply Early Action or Early Decision, this is a clear way of letting the college know that if you get in, you are highly likely or literally bound to attend — the ultimate display of interest.

Demonstrate interest for every school on your list

Be sure to follow these steps for every school on your list — even the schools you may be less interested in. Often your “safety” or “match” schools want to see demonstrated interest because they may sense their rank on your list and decline to admit you for this reason. Consistently demonstrating interest also increases your chances at winning school-specific merit scholarships and grants.

Remember that colleges want you to like them as much as you want them to like you. Use this to your advantage!

Find colleges and scholarships that are right for you with our College Match and Scholarship Match.

About the author

Maya JumanMaya is our most recent Top Ten List Scholarship winner. She is a high school senior from New York City who will be attending Yale University this fall. She plans to major in ecology and evolutionary biology, and is a fan of whales, baseball, and classic rock.