College Counseling

Demonstrated Interest: How to Not Get Spurned by Your "Likely" Schools

David Brunk, College Counseling Associate Director
You have come across this phrase in blog posts, deep in subreddits, whispered on the sidelines of basketball games, and from that person your uncle knows who once applied to college.
“Demonstrated interest” is a real thing, and some colleges have applied increasingly sophisticated analytics to determine how likely you are to enroll if you are admitted. This, in turn, influences their decision to admit you or not.

In the arms race of college admissions, admit rate has become a wildly-inflated measure of how “good” a school is. For many colleges, therefore, the admission goal has become to admit as few students as possible in order to enroll the class they need. This can result in exceptionally-qualified candidates being left out in the cold on the waitlist, even if those students actually were interested. Here’s how to avoid being caught up in the demonstrated interest trap:

Demonstrate your interest!

This does not mean that you have to visit every school on your list. While a campus visit might be the most obvious expression of interest (beyond the application itself, of course), colleges do not necessarily expect every applicant to visit. There are many ways to show a school that you are interested.
  1. Visit the school! Yes, we just talked about this, but there are certain cases where you should do what you can to visit. If you are applying to a school within an hour or two, you should visit (and make sure the school knows you were there; sign in at the admissions office!). We have had terrific candidates waitlisted by schools in our backyard because the students did not make the effort to visit campus. Basically, there is a sliding scale to apply here: the closer the school, the more important it is to visit. You won’t be penalized for not getting on a plane to visit a school that is far away, especially if you do some of the following. Read on!
  2. Can’t visit? Schedule a virtual tour or information session. These often require you to register for the program, so they will have a record of your participation.
  3. Put yourself on the mailing list by going to the school’s website and filling out a “request information” form.
  4. Open your emails! Some colleges track if you open the emails they send you. If you are interested in a particular college, make sure to open the emails you receive from them. Take the next step to click on a link or two within those emails. They track that, too!
  5. Open your “mail” mail! We know you are getting bombarded with (largely) unsolicited mail from colleges. If a college which interests you sends you something that has a reply card, fill it out and send it back to them.
  6. When colleges visit Severn next fall, make sure to meet with the colleges to which you plan to apply. If you cannot make the meeting for some reason, let us know. We will fill out a card for you; to the college, that will be as good as you being at the meeting.
  7. Fill out an information card at a college fair. If you attend the AIMS College Fair (Sunday, April 16th from 1:00-4:00 at UMBC), stop by the tables for the colleges which interest you. Say hello to the representative and fill out a card.
  8. Next fall and winter, you may have the opportunity to interview with a member of the admissions staff or a graduate of the school. If you have the chance to interview, take advantage of it! We will prepare you beforehand to ensure that you have a great conversation.
While it is important to show some love to your “Likely” schools, don’t forget to do the same for the other colleges on your list, too. The college search can be stressful, but armed with the information above, you can confidently remove any doubt a college might have about your interest. 

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