There's been a new term floating around the college admissions hemisphere in the last five years: Demonstrated Interest. To completely understand this concept, you must first accept the undeniable fact that the higher educational institution you are vying for is, in fact, a business. It may be a not-for-profit, but it runs like a business, nonetheless.
College as a Business Conceptualized
Undeniably, if you work in college admissions, there is a love/hate relationship with U.S. News and World Report's annual college ranking report. Colleges whose names fall at the middle or bottom of the list loathe the report and colleges whose names reside at the top of the list "pretend" to loathe the report, secretly high-fiving one another in that oak-paneled conference room in the admissions building all the while professing how "wrong" the report is to even exist. Some colleges, like Colorado College, have gotten so fed up with the popular annual ranking, they've picked up their ball and have gone home, choosing to not even participate by withholding their own data for the report.
One way a college is able to work its way up the ladder of this schizophrenic-inducing report is by improving its yield. What is yield in terms of college admissions? It's the ratio between the number of students who got accepted and ARE attending over the number of students who were accepted in total. Now, there are a whole lot of other considerations the report utilizes including retention rate (how many students stayed after their first year), but for our purposes, you must only understand yield.
Colleges like sure bets, it helps their yield. If an applicant can demonstrate a certain level of interest that they have in the college, then the college gambles that the student, if admitted and based on their high level of interest, will probably attend. Winner, winner, chicken dinner! This improves the college's yield! And, who knows what that could do to their U.S. News ranking?!
Some Care, Some Don't
Not all colleges see Demonstrated Interest in the same way. The categories are: Important, Somewhat Important, Very Important, Not Considered. Although not always the case, the more highly selective colleges typically see Demonstrated Interest in the Not Considered category. Why? They don't need you to want them. They have so many fans wanting them, they don't need your interest in them, so it's not a data point in the application process. Always check with the college to see their policy on Demonstrated Interest. Quite possibly in today's competitive admissions climate that is more narrow than the distance between the ground and a pregnant ant, showing Demonstrated Interest if recorded by the college can be your way to acceptance over another applicant. Why? YIELD!
How Do I Demonstrate My Interest
To make you a more competitive applicant, it's important to show your interest in the college, so you become a "sure bet", at least by your actions. The only way they'll hold you to it is if you apply Early Decision. That's the surest of sure bets since you're saying, "Hey, here's my application. If you accept me, I'm contractually obligated to attend." But there are other ways that are certainly less drastic and more flexible.
Officially sign up for those college campus tours. Get on record that you are visiting. I see so many families just "passing through" and wandering aimlessly on campus because it was on the way to a vacation spot. Although, it happens out of convenience, if you are serious about the school, get the official tour to get into their system.
Take advantage of their virtual events. There's no excuse for not attending an info session or virtual tour remotely, from the comfort of your bedroom! This shows you're interested, even if this takes the most minimal of effort.
Check to see if they'll be at a local college fair. Go and introduce yourself to the college representative at the table. Pick up a brochure and some swag. Better yet, hand them your high school resume, and give them a firm goodbye handshake. They'll be taking note of your visit!
Open those emails and dig deep. You'll get bombarded by emails from colleges. Your Inbox will never be more full than during your Junior and Senior years. If you are interested in the college, open that email. Click the links. Spend time exploring what you find from that clicked link. Visit often through the link you got from that specific email. They are watching and noting if you do, and for how long!!!
Reach out to the local representative of your college of interest. Do this ONLY if you feel you present well, have had some interview training (offered by College Driven), or are confident you give a great first impression.
Once you understand the importance of yield to the college, the importance of the annual ranking, and the importance of a college's business objectives, then you can accept that showing Demonstrated Interest is a move you could do to make your application stronger. The colleges record all of this if they deem it important, and it becomes part of your application data. Do yourself a favor and show some interest!