Updated: Aug 4, 2021
One of the lesser-known truths about college admissions is that colleges often track the interest level of students applying to their program. This is called ‘Demonstrated Interest’.
Why is DI important?
Demonstrated interest gives colleges the confidence that if accepted, the student is likely to enroll in their program. This helps them to:
Meet their enrollment target more efficiently; and
Determine which students are genuinely interested in them and are likely to commit to their program for the next 4 years. Publications like the US News and World Report factor in this ‘retention rate’ while determining a college’s ranking – implying that all other things being equal, the higher a college’s ‘average retention rate’, the higher will be their ranking.
In fact, a 2019 National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) report highlighted that 16% of colleges gave a student’s demonstrated interest ‘considerable importance’ while making an admission decision and almost 24% of the colleges regarded it as ‘moderately important’.
How can students demonstrate interest?
Applying Early Decision to a college is the ultimate way to demonstrate interest. But beyond that, here are a few other things you can do:
Visit colleges in person or virtually. Remember to ‘sign in’ with your contact details whenever you get a chance.
Subscribe to the college’s email list.
Open these emails when you receive them and click on interesting links. (Yes, some colleges will even track how much time you spend on these links.)
Accept interviews, if offered. (So many students shy away from this incredible opportunity!)
Take the time to carefully research and write your supplemental essays, especially the ‘Why Us?’ essay. Include information about specific professors you want to work with and titles of courses you would like to take. Admission Officers can immediately tell if you are genuinely interested in their college by reading your essay.
Follow colleges on social media. You don’t need to stalk them but ‘liking’ or ‘following’ them helps to demonstrate interest.
Reach out to the Admissions team, Student Ambassador or Regional Representative.
Attend college fairs. Introduce yourself. Ask good questions.
The upside to demonstrating interest is that while exploring a college in-depth, you will simultaneously learn whether it is truly a good fit for you. Further, demonstrating interest will help you build an important life skill – the power to advocate for yourself.
Which colleges track DI?
This is an important question because not all colleges track demonstrated interest. And you don’t want to spend time on a college that does not care about this. The Ivy Leagues and top tier schools (for example: MIT, Stanford) have way more interest than they can handle. But here are a few popular colleges that do track DI:
Boston University (DI is important)
Bentley University (DI is important)
Case Western Reserve University (DI is considered)
DePaul University (DI is important)
Reed College (DI is important)
Seattle University (DI is important)
Skidmore College (DI is important)
Trinity College (DI is considered)
University of Arizona (DI is important)
University of Washington – Bothell (DI is important)
When should students make an effort to demonstrate interest?
Most students will start in the summer before their senior year but if you are genuinely interested in a college or university in your junior year, you can begin the process then.
Where can students highlight this on their college application?
While there is no formal location, you can ‘sneak’ these into your supplemental ‘Why Us’ essay, the additional information section and/or even in the interview.
Unlike other components of your application that demand a considerable investment of time and effort (maintaining good grades, excelling at standardized tests, perfecting the essays and resume etc.), DI is a relatively low hanging fruit. You don’t need to go overboard, but you can certainly use it wisely to help tilt the admissions decision in your favor.