Demonstrated Interest

Posted on 30th July 2021

Colleges want you to show that that you really care about going there. How can students do this?

What is Demonstrated Interest?

Demonstrated Interest is an example of one of those nuanced areas of US college admissions that is really important, but very few students know about or understand. Put simply, it’s the process of showing a university that you are very keen on attending, which gives the college confidence that you will actually go if you’re admitted!

This is such an important topic that it was mentioned in at least four sessions at the recent International ACAC Annual Conference, during which our Director Jason Smith led a talk dedicated to that topic, and some colleges explained that they regularly admit students who might be weaker academically if they demonstrate interest!

How do you show Demonstrated Interest?

Demonstrated Interest falls into two broad categories:

  • Traditional Demonstrated Interest
  • Modern/Digital Demonstrated Interest

Traditional Demonstrated Interest means making contact with people in the admissions office by methods such as:

  • Contact form
  • Emails
  • Phone calls
  • Meetings at fairs
  • In-person talks or information sessions
  • Campus visits

If you have a question (that can’t be answered easily by checking the website), contact the admissions office. They will reply, and they will take note that you were interested enough to get in touch with them.

Sam Wong, International Admissions Officer at Hong Kong Baptist University, explains that when students do this, it prompts her to follow up with that student, and even to support them through the process. So you gain a helping hand!

Modern or Digital Demonstrated Interest is related much more to tracking student interaction using data. This includes the above interaction via email etc, but also:

  • Newsletter sign-ups
  • Clicks on those newsletters through to their website
  • Social media engagement
  • Attendance at online information sessions and webinars
  • Virtual tours

This data is logged, and allows admissions officers to see who is most likely to say yes to them.

In some cases, this could affect whether you’re offered a place, taken from the waitlist, or sent emails about scholarships.

How does this help?

Demonstrating your interest to a college needn’t be as scary as it sounds. Yes, it means colleges are tracking you in some way. But it also gives you a big benefit: you get to find out more about the colleges so you can make better applications, and you might even get someone supporting you at the university’s end.

How much difference does it make?

Not all colleges use Demonstrated Interest in a formal way (and you can see which do in the Common Data Set). Those that do might use algorithms to make certain decisions based on the data they’ve collected on you.

But even those colleges that say they don’t use it will still be influenced by your contact. In the end, decisions are made by humans, and an admissions officer will have to stand in front of a committee and justify their decisions. If you can get that person to remember you and advocate for you, that must improve your chances.

So what should you do?

There are simple things you can do to use Demonstrated Interest to your advantage: 

  • Research universities properly by signing up for information and prospectuses
  • Wherever possible, follow links in emails and read the web pages
  • Attend talks, fairs, and webinars for every college you’re interested in
  • Do campus visits if possible, or virtual ones if not
  • Follow colleges on social media and read the links
  • If you have a question, email the admissions office
  • Use your real name and email address throughout – so they know it’s you!
  • Apply early! Early Decision/Action is very important to colleges nowadays, but even applying early in the regular round shows you’re keen.

What you shouldn’t do:

  • Be impolite or rude, or waste their time by asking questions you could have looked up
  • Use a fake name or email address
  • Email lots of people in the same office – just find the right person online and contact them.

Don’t think of demonstrating interest as a chore – use it to find out more. You’ll then know whether the colleges are right for you, and how to make a great application!

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