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  • Writer's pictureAllison Styffe

What is "Demonstrated Interest" anyways?

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

What first pops into your mind when you think of your college app to-do list?

Essays, entrance exams, letters of recommendation probably come first, as they should. But what about scheduling college visits, signing up for a school's newsletters, or contacting the admissions office? Those are all elements of what's called "demonstrated interest" in the college admissions world, and they are becoming more important than ever. That's because, due to Covid-19 and its impacts on education and application elements, certain factors like SAT/ACT scores are becoming less essential in college admissions, which in turn elevates the significance of other elements like essays, letters of rec, and — that's right — demonstrated interest.


Pre-Covid data revealed more than two-thirds of colleges agree that a student's demonstrated interest in their school plays a role in their admissions decisions. I can only imagine how much higher that number is today.

Some admissions counselors have a term for students whose first contact with a college is their application itself. These stealth applicants, as they sometimes refer to them, didn't take advantage of any active opportunities to learn about the school itself prior to clicking "submit" on their app. Meanwhile, as they look over your application, most admissions officers are asking themselves, "How interested is this student in attending our school?" They want to know that you've invested time and energy into learning about their campus and programs; they want to see that you've been intentional in your college-research process; and they want some reassurance as to whether you might say yes to if they grant you acceptance.

If you haven't demonstrated your interest yet, start today! Here are a handful of steps you can take with the schools on your college list:

  1. Contact your admissions rep At most schools, you will be assigned an admissions officer (aka admissions counselor, admissions rep — they're all the same). Usually it's based off of your location, sometimes it's based on the letter of your last name, but you can almost always track down who it is. If the information isn't readily available on the college's website, call their admissions office and ask (1) who your rep is and (2) for their contact info. Then reach out! Ask questions about the school and application, inquire about upcoming info sessions or tours, and share your excitement about learning more.

  2. Get on a mailing list (and open the emails they send) On most college websites, there's a place to share your contact info to be placed on their contact list. In many cases, you're automatically put on their list when you add a college on your Common App. When you get emails from those schools, be sure to open them (yes, they can track who opened which emails).

  3. Go to an info session or on a tour Colleges most certainly make note of who has participated in these kinds of events. Before you visit a campus, go online or call the admissions office to sign up for a tour. And if you sign up for an info session (many schools are offering virtual options) be sure to attend and ask questions during the Q&A portion.

  4. Use social media Follow the schools you're interested in on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Like and comment on their content, bring specific posts up in conversations with your admissions rep, or engage in whatever way feels authentic to you. Before doing so, though, go through your own profiles and make sure that they represent how you'd like to be viewed by the colleges you're applying to!

  5. Schedule an interview & complete optional essays While these are often considered their own unique college application elements, completing optional items can also be considered a form of demonstrated interest. That's because going above and beyond shows your investment and interest in the school, that you have a strong desire to get in and will do everything you can to make that happen.

  6. Submit an early decision application (but only if it's right for you!) If you don't know what I mean by "early decision" then stop and learn more about it before even considering this option. I put it on this list only because it is perhaps the ultimate way of demonstrating interest and certainly gives you a statistical advantage. But it's only a good move if you are 100% sure that the school is right for you AND you would be happy with the financial aid awarded.

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