Colleges want to admit students who will accept their offer of admission. Doing so increases their yield (the percentage of admitted students who enroll). A high yield is not just a marker of popularity for the college and a way to boost its rankings; it also strengthens a college’s ability to shape its freshmen class, because a greater number of admitted students can be counted on to attend.
But colleges don’t just rely on yield averages to predict how many students will accept an offer of admission — they also consider an individual applicant’s efforts to forge a relationship with the college. This effort by the student is known as demonstrated interest. Be certain not to underestimate its significance. Demonstrated interest can represent a critical factor for an otherwise qualified applicant, with an increasing role in admissions decisions.
Colleges know that to some extent, substantial demonstrated interest signals a student’s intentions to enroll if admitted. After all, it’s difficult to dedicate the time and genuine interest it takes to make an impact at more than a handful of colleges. Think carefully about which few schools will receive your greatest time and attention.
To enhance your application efforts, look for opportunities to demonstrate your interest by developing your connection with the college and the people who represent it. Here are ten ways to help you get started:
1. Visit the college’s website, find the Admissions page, and submit a request for information. Open — and at least scan — any subsequent email the school sends you. (Yes, the college can track whether or not you opened the email!)
2. While you are on the website, visit the college’s official social media page. Some schools may simply provide a link to, for example, their Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, and/or iTunes University page. Others may have a more robust social media presence.
Amherst College, for example, provides a grid with social media options for not only the College, but also academic departments, athletic teams, services, and even Amherst’s president. Syracuse University boasts a Social Media Directory with more than 100 listings — you can follow their study abroad programs, residence life, recreation services, sustainability efforts, bookstore, honors program, Greek Life, and much more.
At a minimum, follow the colleges you will be applying to on your favorite social media sites. But also consider more specific selections when they are available — you can share a lot about yourself with the college, and help them to get to know you, by following programs and activities that reflect your interests.
3. Contact your school counselor early in the year to find out when representatives from colleges you are interested in will be visiting your high school. Register for and attend the visit. Before the visit, do some investigating online so you can ask a good question or two.
(A good question is one that is not readily found online and is pertinent to you. Examples are: “I’m planning to major in Computer Science but I’d also like to continue my interest in theatre — are non-majors able to audition for performances?” and “I’m planning to apply for the nursing program. What test scores would make me a strong applicant?”)
Finally, be sure to get the representative’s business card during the visit so you can ask additional questions later. The goal here is to establish a relationship so the representative can get to know you and will recognize the depth of your interest.
4. Register for and attend a college fair. You can find out when and where at NACAC, CTCL, by doing a search for college fairs in your area, by asking your school counselor, and/or by following the college’s social media (number 2 above). At the fair, you’ll speak to the college representative (who may also have visited your school already), ask a good question or two, and pick up their business card if you don’t already have it.
5. Drop a note (email is best) to your regional representative. If you haven’t had a chance to meet them yet, you can often find their contact information on the college website. (If not, call the admissions office and ask them.) In your note, introduce yourself — some basic information would include your name, hometown, high school, and fields of interest. Ask the rep to look for your application in the fall.
The summer before senior year is a great time to do this. You can then ask questions such as if the rep plans to visit your school in the fall; or if you should alter your senior course selections to make you a stronger applicant for admission. Another good time is a few weeks before your campus visit — you can ask if your rep will be on campus and if you can meet with them.
Other good opportunities to send a note are after meeting them (you can thank them for their time and reference something you discussed with them) or after a campus visit (you can tell them how much you enjoyed it and why).
6. Visit the college’s campus if at all possible. This effort is absolutely crucial for students who live within a 3-4 hour drive of the campus. Since a visit could be accomplished in one day, it will be very noticeable if you do not make this effort, especially if it does not present a financial hardship. If you can’t visit, use the online tour feature on the college’s website.
7. If you are able to visit, make the most of it by planning ahead. Request to meet with faculty of the department you are interested in, get a department tour, and/or sit in on a class; eat in the dining hall; chat with current students; and if available, register for an interview or even an overnight visit, where you can stay in a residence hall with a current student. Also check the college’s website for open house days or special tours for specific majors. (If you’re unable to visit, you can still email faculty to ask questions and/or ask your school counselor if they can connect you with a current student.)
8. Visit campus again, if you can, during the fall of senior year.
9. Write a well-considered supplemental essay that highlights what a good fit you are for the school. If you’ve done most of the things listed above, this will be much easier to do.
10. Submit your application for admission well before the deadline. An early application shows you are organized, eager, and most important, a more serious applicant.