Understanding Demonstrated Interest

college admissions demonstrated interest strategy
By Psalm

At some point in your college application journey, you may have heard the term “demonstrated interest.” But what does it mean? And does it matter? 

Demonstrated interest is when you show a specific college that you are interested in going to their institution. For example, students may demonstrate interest by attending information sessions, visiting campus, and doing interviews. It’s important to note that only some colleges consider demonstrated interest as a factor when making admissions decisions. 

Why Does Demonstrated Interest Matter?

Essentially, colleges want to know how likely you are to enroll if you are admitted. Many colleges are under pressure to meet their enrollment goals by May 1, aka “Decision Day,” when entering freshmen are required to make a final decision on where to attend. Colleges use demonstrated interest to gauge how likely you are to commit.

When I worked as an admissions officer at Claremont McKenna College, I noticed that students who had done their research on our college and seemed genuinely excited about attending were often the more compelling applicants. It was easier to imagine what they might study on campus, how they would be involved in extracurriculars and student life, and ultimately how our school is a good fit for them. While only some colleges consider demonstrated interest, taking the time to learn about the colleges that interest you will help you get a better sense of what you are looking for and stand out in the admissions process for anywhere you apply to.

How Can I Show Demonstrated Interest to Colleges?

Request information

An easy first step is to visit a college’s website and sign up for their mailing list. Once on the mailing list, you will receive college brochures, information on academic programs you are interested in, and notifications about admissions events in your area. Be sure to click open any emails they send you (yes, this is tracked). 

Connect with your admission officer

Colleges typically have admission officers assigned to specific geographic regions or states. You can find the contact info for your admission officer on the college’s website. Send them an email to introduce yourself, express your interest in attending their institution, and ask thoughtful questions about the college’s academics, extracurricular opportunities, or anything else on your mind!

Attend local or online events

During the Fall, admission officers visit high schools and participate in college fairs in their assigned regions. These can be great ways to learn more about the college. If there are no upcoming events in your area, don’t worry! Since the COVID-19 pandemic, most colleges also hold online information sessions.

Visit campus

Visiting campus is perhaps the best way to know if you could see yourself at a college. When planning your visit, be sure to sign up for a tour, information session, and an interview, if available. Once on campus, try to talk with current students and learn about their experiences. For prospective students who live close by, colleges that track demonstrated interest may expect a visit. 

Many colleges also offer subsidized visits and fly-in programs (typically in the Fall or Spring) for prospective students from lower-income backgrounds. So, if cost is an issue, find out what options your college may have!

Do an interview

If a school you are interested in offers interviews, go for it! Interviews may be done with admission officers, alumni or current students. Not only can interviews help you stand out in the admissions process, but they also give you the chance to ask questions and learn more about the college from different perspectives.

Write optional essays

As a rule of thumb, if a college offers ‘optional’ materials, you should do them! Some schools allow you to write a “Why X College” essay. This is a great place to demonstrate the thought you’ve put into applying to their school – majors or classes you’re excited about, extracurriculars you’d like to pursue, highlights from your visit to campus, etc.

Psalm attended the University of Chicago as a QuestBridge scholar, graduating with an honors BA in Anthropology. Now a student at Yale Law School, he focuses on civil rights law and is committed to making a positive impact in the world.


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