Collegewise's Guide to Demonstrated Interest

By Nicole Pilar


Guide to Demonstrated Interest

One of those pesky terms that’s thrown around in the world of college admissions (and can be really confusing) is “demonstrated interest.” Demonstrated interest is often an important factor in college admissions, so consider this post your personal cheat sheet.

What is it?

It’s helpful to think of demonstrated interest like you would the beginnings of a relationship. When you like someone, you show it! You might talk to them more often, hang out together, and give them more attention. Demonstrated interest is that attention, but for colleges. It’s going on college visits, opening emails from the school, and talking to the admissions rep at college fairs.

Who uses it (and how)?

It’s important to note that not all colleges use demonstrated interest when making admissions decisions. The UCs, for example, do not track an applicant’s demonstrated interest, and it plays no role in the admissions process. But some universities definitely care about how much attention you pay them. Washington University in St. Louis is one of those universities. Here’s a snippet from the WashU website:

Yes, demonstrated interest is a factor when we are considering applicants. We want to get to know you through the admissions process and for you to get to know us . . . One of the best ways to do this is through a campus visit (if feasible) to experience our community first hand. If this is not possible, perhaps you can attend a local information session or college fair, or visit with admissions officers when they visit your high school. You may also request an interview with an alumnus, or the parent of a current student who lives in your area. You can also demonstrate interest through meaningful interactions via phone or email. Please know that we don’t expect you to do all these things, and demonstrating interest in more than one way is not necessarily better. Rather, we want you to feel comfortable starting the conversation with us. Feel free to ask us questions about our campus, programs, and community that may not be on our website, and to share your academic and personal interests with us. This is your time to explore WashU and we are happy to help you.

Universities like WashU are interested in admitting applicants who they feel certain will attend because they are concerned about their yield rate, which is the percentage of students who accept an offer of admission. Those college rankings we’re always hearing about place a lot of weight on this number, and, by taking demonstrated interest into account, colleges can admit students that they feel reasonably certain will accept their offer (and boost their rank in the process).

How can I use this knowledge to my advantage?

First, determine whether the colleges you’re interested in consider demonstrated interest in their admissions decisions. Some schools, like Lehigh, list it as part of their criteria. If you are not sure, reach out to the colleges you’re considering via phone or email and ask.

If your dream schools do consider demonstrated interest, here are five ways you can show them some love:

1. Visit!
By going on an official visit (this generally means registering for a tour and information session), you are not only learning more about the college but also telling them you are seriously considering applying and attending. Why else would you give up your time?
Pro tip: if a tour fills up, reach out to the office of admissions via phone or email and see if there’s another way to see the school. Some campuses will offer self-guided tours, and you are making your interest known just by reaching out!

2. Send emails.
If you really love a school and want to learn more about a certain aspect, find out who your designated admissions representative is and shoot them an email. Maybe you want to ask about a specific aspect of the business program or learn more about the opportunities to do research. A sincere email asking for more information about an aspect of the school shows that you are serious about this choice. It’s also a great way to connect with the individual who is responsible for reviewing your application.

3. Read their emails!
Too many students these days don’t read their emails, and it’s a shame because schools are paying attention to who reads them. Colleges can even track if you click on a link embedded in their email and how long you spent on that website. Knowing this, it is in your best interest to open those emails and read them. They likely contain information you can use to help you write the “Why us?” college essay!

4. Consider applying Early Decision.
One of the most impactful ways you can demonstrate how much you love a school is to apply Early Decision, which is a binding admissions decision. Because students who apply ED commit to attending if admitted, the admissions rates for ED candidates are generally higher. But you should really only consider Early Decision if it is truly the college you want to attend over all others and if the university’s tuition is financially feasible for your family even if you don’t receive any merit scholarships.

5. Don’t demonstrate DISinterest.
Finally, there are ways that you can communicate the opposite of interest. If a college offers optional essays, don’t consider them optional. You should write them. If they have a portal for you to track documents like letters of recommendation and transcripts after you’ve submitted your app, make sure to create an account and follow up to ensure that they’ve received all required documentation. If a college offers interviews, get dressed up and talk with their representative directly about your passion for their university. These are opportunities for you to demonstrate that you are a great fit for that school. If you really are interested, make sure to show them love! Missing out on these opportunities could demonstrate disinterest, so take every chance you get to show the schools you’re excited about that you’re truly interested in attending.