What is Demonstrated Interest?
In many ways, the college admissions process is a game. You need to understand all the rules of the game in order to maximize your chances for success, and “demonstrated interest,” or taking extra measures to show that you want to attend a particular school, is among the key aspects.
Colleges are always concerned with their rankings in sources such as U.S. News & World Report. One of the factors that goes into these rankings is a term called “yield rate,” meaning the percentage of accepted applicants that enrolls in a school. Colleges obviously want their yield rates to be as high as possible so that they can move up in the rankings.
What is “demonstrated interest?”
Enter demonstrated interest. If it’s lacking, a school won’t believe you’re serious about wanting to go there and will be less likely to offer you a spot, even if you qualify based on your GPA, your ACT and other factors. Last year at Partners For Achievement, there were students who were accepted by their reach schools, but not by some of their likelies and targets because they didn’t demonstrate interest.
One of these students asked me, “Why didn’t they take me?”
I responded, “Because they didn’t think you were going to come. You had better grades and test scores than their average, but you never did anything to show them that you were serious about going there. They didn’t want to blow a spot on you when they knew you were trying to go somewhere ‘better.’”
The statistics say essentially the same thing. A recent study conducted by Lehigh University concluded that all other things being equal (e.g., your GPA and ACT score are in line with the school’s requirements), demonstrating interest can increase your odds of being admitted by 20 to 40 percent.
Ways to start demonstrating interest
So, how exactly do you demonstrate interest? Two simple ways to start are to request information from colleges online or via email and to follow them on social media. Beyond that, it’s key to meet with representatives from your prospective schools. Colleges have reps who are responsible for an entire region, and their job is to convince kids to apply. College fairs offer ideal opportunities to begin establishing rapport with reps, or to just make your presence felt in general.
Campus visits also are of paramount importance. And by that, I don’t mean driving to the school, walking around the campus for a bit, eating Chipotle and then driving home. You want to do the official tour, sit in on a class and try to talk with a professor or department head.
The final piece of the puzzle is applying Early Decision, which is the ultimate demonstration of interest. You’re basically saying, “If you accept me, I’m coming.” Why is that important? Your odds of being accepted by a school are two to four times greater when you apply Early Decision. For example, at Northwestern as recently as the past three years, 30 percent of the kids who applied Early Decision were accepted; the acceptance rate dropped to 7 percent in the Regular-Decision pool.
My best advice is what I often tell PFA students: Go above and beyond.
My best advice is what I often tell PFA students: Go above and beyond. Not only will the extra effort enhance your odds of getting into a school, but it also will make you feel more confident about your ultimate decision. Go to the college fairs, meet with the reps (and don’t forget to send them thank-you notes afterward), visit the campuses—do as much as possible. By engaging vigorously in the application process, you’ll be able to better evaluate whether a college is the right fit for you.
PFA’s High School Program includes providing guidance for students on demonstrated interest. For more information about PFA’s High School Program click here.
Kevin Krebs is the founder and CEO of Partners For Achievement. Read more about Krebs and the rest of the Partners For Achievement team.