“Make sure you email a question to the admissions office to so you get ‘demonstrated interest’ points in their records! You have to do a college tour. I strongly encourage you to do the college’s summer camp. College admissions officers track if you’re interested in them, so you need to ask a question at the college’s info session!”
If you’re a high school junior or senior, it’s likely that you’ve received this type of advice already. In the world of college admissions, this is called “demonstrated interest.” And whether it’s a requirement or not is complicated.
The reality of the situation is that some colleges do track ‘demonstrated interest’ and others don’t. Before you dedicate time trying to demonstrate interest in a college, figure out which colleges actually care about it.
To do that, research whether the college tracks demonstrated interest (you can just Google this for each school). Some colleges place importance on it, but others don’t care at all. Brown, for instance, does not.
You can also find the level of weight that they give to Demonstrated Interest. This information can be found in the Common Data Set (CDS) which most colleges self-report; they’ll mark it as either Very Important, Important, Considered, or Not Considered in the form. Here’s an example of Amherst’s CDS for 2017. You’ll see in the last part of section C7 (and in the image below) that they have officially declared it to be “Not Considered”. To save you time, we’ve pulled this data for all top US colleges into our College Full List (along with a lot of other very useful college information). You can download it for free by clicking here.
If you find out that interest is considered and you decide you want to signal it to colleges, there are a few ways we recommend doing so.
- Attend college fairs. Find the colleges you’re interested in at fairs, talk to the representatives and ask good questions that show you already know some stuff about the college and have questions that only that rep can answer. Be sure to give your full name and sign any attendance sheet that they have.
- Email Lists and Social Media. Sign up for email lists (using the same email that you’ll apply with). Be sure to open emails they send and click on the links in those emails. Follow them on social media as well (but be sure that your account that you follow them with isn’t too informal or immature — that can count against you).
- Visit Campus. Visit their campus, sign up for an info session/campus tour/interview (if offered) and get your name in their logs. Ask good questions when you’re there — ones that aren’t answered on the website and are specific to the college you’re visiting. Check out our campus visit post for more information on this.
- Meet Non-Admissions Staff. Develop relationships with non-admissions staff. Try to find professors (or other relevant staff members) to talk to (ideally when you visit campus, but it could be by email too) who are doing research relevant to your interests. Ask good questions about them and the college. If you make an impression on them, they may reach out to admissions on your behalf (but regardless, you can include them and what you’ve talked to them about in your supplemental essay).
- Meet the Regional Representative. Reach out to the regional rep. It’s better not to bother the admissions office as a whole, but if you have a specific, genuine question about the school, reach out to the rep who oversees your region and ask them. Then, if they come to a fair near you, attend it and introduce yourself to them in-person!
- Consistent Communication. Create a record of consistent communication. This means doing all these things above, but in addition doing little things like sending thank you notes to professors, admissions officers, and other representatives of the college and developing a track record that shows you care.
- Apply Early. Submit your application earlier. This can mean formally applying early (sending an early application through Early Decision, Restrictive Early Action, or Early Action does a lot to signal your interest) but it can also simply mean submitting before the deadline. This is something that some schools appreciate and for many it can get you higher up on the pile, which means your application could be read before other applicants from your country/region.
Part of what makes the question of interest complicated is that it makes sense for colleges to care: applicants’ level of interest can directly impact a school’s ranking (interest can be seen as representing someone’s chances of choosing to attend that college over another, which determines the college’s yield rate, which impacts their acceptance rate, which in turn affects their ranking). However, the majority of colleges self-report as not considering applicant interest. Most schools prioritize getting the best students over getting the ones who are most likely to attend (or at least want to signal to applicants that they do). That said, every school is different in their priorities.