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Demonstrated Interest

Learn the Role of "Demonstrated Interest" When Applying to College

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Demonstrated Interest is one of those nebulous criteria in the college admissions process that can cause great confusion among applicants. Whereas SAT scores, ACT scores, GPA, and extracurricular involvement are measurable in concrete ways, "interest" can mean something very different to different institutions. Also, some students have a hard time drawing the line between demonstrating interest and harrassing the admissions staff.

Many of the country's most selective colleges do not consider demonstrated interest in the application process. Here's what a few schools say on the subject:

  • Stanford: "We offer campus tours and information sessions to provide you with the information you need to make an informed college choice, not to evaluate you. And we welcome calls and emails for the same reason. Please do not feel compelled to contact us to demonstrate your interest in Stanford; we know by the very fact of your applying that you are seriously interested in Stanford. We don't keep records of prospective student contacts with our office."
  • Duke: "Duke does not take demonstrated interest into account when evaluating applications. Although we are glad that you may have visited our campus or asked us questions about the school, demonstrated interest is not an advantage in the admissions process."
  • Dartmouth: "Personal contact is not tracked during the admissions process. Demonstrated interest is not considered when making decisions."
For other colleges, demonstrated interest is an important part of the application even if there is no formal scoring of that interest. A study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that about half of all colleges and universities place either moderate or high importance on an applicant's demonstrated interest in attending the school. The way in which schools present the importance of demonstrated interest varies widely:
  • Baylor: "we seek those who can gain the most from a Baylor experience, for students with a demonstrated interest in becoming a 'Baylor Bear'."
  • Trinity University: "Visiting campus, emailing or calling an admissions counselor, attending a Trinity In Focus program, talking with a representative when they visit your high school, and stopping by our table at a college fair are some of the ways to show the Admissions Committee that you are genuinely interested in attending Trinity, and help us get to know you better."
  • Carnegie Mellon: "Admission Interviews are a great supplement to an information session and tour of campus, and allow a prospective student to get a personalized introduction to campus and the unique world-class education offered at Carnegie Mellon. An admission decision will not be based off of this interview; it is looked upon as demonstrated interest in the application process."
  • Rhodes College: "Your overall campus visit indicates demonstrated interest and will play a considerable role in the admissions decision-making process."
Colleges have good reason for taking demonstrated interest into account as they make their admissions decisions. For obvious reasons, schools want to enroll students who are eager to attend. Such students are likely to have a positive attitude toward the college, and they are less likely to transfer to a different institution.

Also, colleges have a much easier time predicting their yield if they extend offers of admission to students who have high levels of interest. When the admissions staff can predict the yield fairly accurately, they are able to enroll a class that is neither too big nor too small. They also have to rely far less on waitlists.

These questions of yield, class size, and waitlists translate into significant logistical and financial issues for a college. Thus, it isn't surprising that many colleges and universities take a student's demonstrated interest seriously. This also explains why schools like Stanford and Duke don't put much weight on demonstrated interest -- the most elite colleges are almost guaranteed a high yield on their offers of admission, so they have less uncertainty in the admissions process.

When you are applying to colleges, you'll need to do a little research to find out whether or not the colleges to which you are applying put much weight on demonstrated interest. If they do, here are 8 ways to demonstrate your interest in a college.

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