top of page

How Critical is “Demonstrated Interest” for College Admissions?

Like most things, it depends ...

While “Demonstrated Interest” (DI) may not carry significant weight for many colleges…it will be important if the school is highly selective with a competitive admissions process.

One session at the Independent Educational Consultants Association’s (IECA) 2018 Spring Conference in Austin, TX last April focused on DI, including how schools track it – and, thus, how students can best express it. Here’s our summary.

Colleges track DI in multiple ways, including by embedding links on their website that capture what a student visitor accessed, how long that student stayed on the site, and from where it was being accessed. They can also log phone calls, text messages, emails, letters, visits to the school’s table during colleges fairs, interviews on campus and/or with off campus with alumni, campus tours and/or overnight visits, and feedback that let them know if their emails to students have been opened. And that’s aside from actual applications, but more on that later. All these interactions can be considered “touch points” to which schools may give varying “weights” that are summed for a numerical DI total that can then be compared among applicants.

So which “touch points” should a student consider in order to demonstrate interest in his/her desired schools? The answer is “all of them” – and as many times as possible – in order to obtain a high DI score, without, of course, becoming a pest. Dozens of meaningless texts or emails to admissions won’t hack it.

But which of them is the most important way to demonstrate interest to a school? With the understanding that DI is far more important to some schools than to others as they weigh applicants, there’s pretty good evidence that the more costly the act is to the student, the greater will be the effect on his/her chance of admission.

An article in Volume 3 (2018) of the Lehigh Research Review summarized the findings of a study titled “Demonstrated Interest: Signaling Behavior in College Admissions” that was published in the journal Contemporary Economic Policy. In that study, the research team examined unique and comprehensive administrative data from the admissions office of a medium-sized, highly selective university during two admission cycles. Data used in the final analysis included the types of contact each of 12,501 applicants made with the admissions office. The researchers found that costlier signals of interest that prospective students send, such as in-person campus visits, have a greater impact on a university’s admission decision than attendance at a high-school-based information session. These on-site types of contact can increase an applicant’s likelihood of admission by approximately 30 percent, and the effect becomes stronger when the contact is costlier. In other words, the more it costs a student to contact the university in time and money, the more likely he or she is to get in, all else [being] equal.

So while it’s costly to travel by air for a college visit and tour, and then stay overnight to attend a class or two the next day, there’s data to support the common sense idea that colleges give greater weight to that type of DI when they’re comparing candidates for admission — and that’s not to mention the terrific benefits that campus visits – which we consider nearly mandatory – offer to students.

We stated that actual applications demonstrate interest, and – everything else being equal – nothing demonstrates it more than does applying Early Decision (ED), a form of application that commits a student to attending that school if he/she is accepted. Other ways to demonstrate interest including applying Early Action (EA) and restricted/single choice EA (rEA), with the latter meaning that if a student applies to a school rEA, he/she can’t apply EA to any other schools. ED, EA, and rEA are filling increasingly large percentages of available early slots at many schools, and for schools that don’t offer ED, EA, or rEA, a letter from a student saying that he/she will enroll if admitted would clearly demonstrate interest and might make a difference in the chance of admission.

There are several reasons that colleges are interested in demonstrated interest, the most important of which is money: Recruiting students to fill available slots, making admissions decisions, and then extending offers are costly exercises, and students that demonstrate interest are those most likely to enroll if they’re accepted. From the total number of students accepted, a school wants the greatest possible number of students who actually commit to attending. That’s a “yield” from any admissions cycle, a vital statistic for every college and university.

We encourage all students that want to enhance their chances of admission to let their most desired colleges know that they’re likely to enroll by using the information in this blog to demonstrate interest to those colleges – and we’re here to help you develop and execute a plan to do that.

So call us today so we can get started!!!

bottom of page