College Admissions Talk: What Is Demonstrated Interest?

college admissions fairs

If you’re new to the college admissions world, whether as a student, parent, or professional, sometimes the lingo alone might make you feel like you need access to a glossary. Early action v. early decision, Common App v. Coalition, rolling notification, legacy consideration, score optional, need blind, etc. It’s enough to make your head spin. One term you may hear thrown around on occasion is “demonstrated interest.”

I came across a Twitter exchange between colleagues this week about demonstrated interest. It began with a tweet from David Graves, Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Georgia, and ended up being responded to by Rich Clark, Director of Admissions at Georgia Tech and Dean J from the University of Virginia. When three admissions professionals from these schools are all talking, you should listen!

If the Twitter embed isn’t working for you, Graves began with stating, “If someone tells you that UGA looks at demonstrated interested please let them know they are clueless. Seriously. Actions showing “demonstrated interest” in UGA are not a part of our admission process. Not how we do things.”

Rich Clark countered with “Vast majority of colleges operate this way. But nothing wrong with straight up asking on campus visit or w/admissions officer: “do you use demonstrated interest” and Dean J at UVA with “YES! And if they say “yes,” it’s fair game to ask what actions they consider demonstrating interest.”

So What Is Demonstrated Interest?

What is this demonstrated interest, you ask? Simply, some colleges actually try to track student contact with the school. There’s some complex reasoning behind why this might be important, but I’ll try to condense the explanation.

One factor that influences college rankings is the offer rate. The lower your offer rate, the more competitive you look. Schools trying to move up in popular rankings might try to make as few offers as possible to yield their target number of students. In other words, schools might try to offer admission to only those most likely to accept the offer of admission. One way to do that is to only extend offers to applicants who seem really interested in your school.

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How do you guess which students are most interested in your school? You track which ones have had the most contact. Specifically, students who’ve demonstrated the most interest. If the applicant never attended a campus tour, never called the admissions office, never emailed a counselor with a question, never stopped by the table at a college fair, or never spoke to a representative from the college during a high school visit, it doesn’t appear that the student is actually very interested. Conversely, students who have checked these boxes (or at least some of them) have demonstrated they have some interest in that college.

Different institutions will have vastly different means of tracking student interest. There are companies that produce and sell complex technology packages to assist with tracking an applicant through the search, application and enrollment process (commonly referred to as the “enrollment funnel”). Some institutions spend big bucks on this; others don’t even bother.

Small Schools and Demonstrated Interest

In general, smaller institutions tend to be more likely to use demonstrated interest in their admission process. That’s not to say that there aren’t some large institutions who use it and some very small institutions who don’t. That’s why my colleagues’ tweets are so relevant. There’s no harm in simply asking any institution whether or not demonstrated interest is considered in their admission process. I promise you: admissions officers won’t be offended. There’s nothing wrong with tracking student interest. Additionally, you being familiar with the term could actually impress them, too! You’re doing your homework and research, and that’s never a bad thing.

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So show interest in your top choice schools. Attend a tour. Call and talk with an admissions counselor if you have questions. Send a thank you note to an exceptional tour guide. Stop by their table at the college fair and fill out an interest card. A lot of the admissions process is out of your control but these little actions are completely within your control! Stopping by that table or emailing with a question could be the difference in whether or not you end up with an offer of admission!

On the flip side, don’t overdo it. I once had a student mail a shoe (one shoe) to our admissions office. The shoe’s accompanying card stated he “just wanted to get a foot in the door.” That’s a little too much interest!

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