One factor in college admissions that many students and their families sometimes overlook is the impact of demonstrating interest. Although the bigger state schools and top-tier colleges often do not track demonstrating interest, many colleges and universities are increasingly monitoring the engagement levels of prospective students.
Colleges are trying to protect their most important statistic called “yield.” A university’s yield is the percentage of students who attend the college out of the number who were admitted to the college. In other words, what are the chances that a student attends if given the opportunity? Colleges like to boast higher yield percentages for obvious reasons: it makes the school seem more desirable and elite. With more high school students than ever before applying to colleges, admissions offices need to distinguish between those students who actually want to attend their institution and those who are just applying as a back-up option. Regardless of how much you want to attend any given school, it’s in your best interest to make each and every college on your list believe that you are seriously considering them as a great option if admitted. And the truth is, you should only apply to colleges that meet your needs. Why apply to a college if you wouldn’t consider attending? If you do get into a college you have no interest in attending, you are potentially taking a seat away from another student who has that school on his or her dream list. Additionally, it creates difficulty for admissions offices when they cannot discern who has their institution high on the list. If colleges think you are likely to attend if granted admission, they may be more likely to admit you.
Anecdotally, I have seen top applicants with straight As and super high standardized test scores get deferred, waitlisted, or even rejected at colleges where they should have been accepted because these students didn’t show such ‘likely’ colleges their interest. Whereas, some of my “B” level students with reasonable but not stellar scores, have gained admissions to these same schools by periodically expressing their interest to these colleges. This is not particularly hard to do but it does add another step to the college admissions process. When a college receives an application from a student after having zero prior contact with that student, many admission officers will call such an applicant a “stealth applicant.” Many colleges are wary of admitting such students.
Demonstrating interest assists colleges in determining prospective students’ likelihood to attend, and it can take on many forms. The most obvious ways of demonstrating interest are visiting the school, signing in with admissions, and taking part in an information session and tour of the campus; however, there are so many other ways to demonstrate interest that you may not have even considered. Once you get your contact information (name and email) onto a college’s “prospective student” list, the school may send you links and pamphlets as a means of helping you learn more about it. Although it may be hard to imagine, some colleges are actually tracking if you open each email, if you click on the links they provide, and how long you spend on the site. Even little, seemingly insignificant actions such as taking time to read a college’s course catalog may count as demonstrating your interest.
Other ways you can demonstrate interest include reaching out to professors within your area of intended major at each school and meeting with them if you are able to visit campus. You can also email admissions counselors merely to express your interest in the school – but you certainly want to take great care not to overdo it or annoy admissions or other college departments and offices. Be as specific as possible regarding why you would like to attend that school. Your email will likely be filed under your name within the prospective students at the college, and by the time you actually apply to the college, your file can be filled with all kinds of demonstrated interest.
It is important to remember that demonstrating interest can help distinguish you from thousands of other applicants if done the right way. Informing colleges of your interest in attending can improve your chances in admission; therefore, do not underestimate the significance of demonstrating interest.