The Lowdown on Demonstrated Interest

The Lowdown on Demonstrated Interest

Jody Sweeney
Associate Director of College Counseling
William Penn Charter School

Spring in independent schools brings many alumni back to their alma maters. One of my former students was visiting me recently, telling me about his college experience. Seeing him reminded me of a conversation I had with an admissions officer over a decision on one of his college applications. The student had a solid academic profile for the institution and the institution’s acceptance rate was well into the double digits. In my mind, and supported by data, it was a “likely” or even “safety” school for him. So when he logged into his account to receive a waitlist you can imagine the surprise and disappointment – for both of us!

When I asked the admissions officer if he could help me understand the waitlist decision, he said that while the student had a competitive academic profile, strong leadership, and involvement outside of the classroom, he had not connected at all with the institution – no campus tour, no emails, no interview. In other words, my student was a “stealth applicant”; an applicant whose first contact with the institution was the application itself. The student learned the hard way that this lack of connection can disadvantage you in an admissions process.

To ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes my former student made, be sure your summer plans include visiting colleges and showing interest in other thoughtful ways. Not only is visiting beneficial to building your awareness around your college search priorities, it also helps leverage you in the admissions process. Don’t just drive through a campus! Check into the admissions office and stay for a tour.

Each year we find college admissions officers are looking more closely at the connections students have made with a campus admissions office and community – referred to as “demonstrated interest.” This contact history is considered along with the student’s application for admission. Statistics show that the more contacts that students have with a college community, the more likely they are to enroll at that college or university. Therefore, admissions officers may be more apt to admit the applicant who has connected with the institution than the one who has not, even if both students are admissible. Simply put, colleges where you express demonstrated interest may be more likely to admit you.

Colleges that track demonstrated interest will sometimes convey this information on their admissions web sites but some may not be as forthcoming. There are colleges that do not track this information; they are often the most highly selective institutions with the lowest acceptance rates and highest yield rates. This is a good question to ask admissions officers as you attend information sessions and venture out on tours.

With all of this in mind, connections can be made in the following ways, and I recommend you pursue one or more options:

On campus and scheduled through the Admissions Office

1) Spring, Summer and/or Fall Open Houses

2) Group Information Session

3) Campus Tour

4) Campus Interview (if offered)

5) Overnight Stay

6) Appointment with Coach

7) Appointment with faculty member 

Off campus touch points

1) Attending College Fairs and signing in at college tables

2) Admissions Office regional receptions in the local area (hotels, high schools)

3) High School Visits during the fall recruitment season

4) Alumni Interviews in the region

5) Skype Interviews with admissions officer; phone interview with admissions officer (if offered)

6) Opening and responding to emails sent by Admissions Office to student (colleges track email behavior!)

7) Participating in Admissions sponsored online chats

8) Belonging to a Facebook Group


So, have fun and play the admission game, and, most importantly, be open to learning about yourself as you learn about colleges. My former student ultimately landed on his feet and you will too.

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