If you’re working on your college applications, you may have heard about “demonstrated interest,” and that colleges use it to decide who they’ll admit to their school. But what does that really mean? And does it matter to every school you’re applying to? The truth is, demonstrated interest can be an important part of the application review process, but only at certain schools.
To make things easier for you, we’ll explain what demonstrated interest is, why it matters to schools, and how you can use it to your advantage. Plus, we’ve created a list of all the colleges that consider demonstrated interest to be important! So read on to see how your top-schools feel about demonstrated interest.
What Is Demonstrated Interest?
When you show a specific college that you're eager to attend their school you’re demonstrating interest. You can show demonstrated interest in multiple ways: visiting campus, following the school's social media channels, joining a mailing list for prospective students, attending admissions events in your area, scheduling an interview (if the school offers them), or applying Early Decision (but only if you're certain that's the top school you want to attend).
So, why do colleges care about demonstrated interest? Colleges want to admit students who are genuinely excited to be at their school. Students who love their college are more likely to get high grades, stay enrolled (rather than dropping out or transferring), graduate on time, be involved in student activities, and give back to the school after graduation. A school full of students who are happy to be there is a much more enriching place than a school filled with students who are apathetic. So, if you really want to attend a certain school, that can make them consider your application more closely.
But, it's important to realize that even if you really, really want to attend a certain school, being super passionate about it won't be enough to get you admitted if your grades/test scores/etc. are significantly below those of other applicants. Demonstrated interest is just one of many factors schools consider when reviewing applications, and frankly, it's not the most important one. Demonstrating interest is therefore usually most useful for students who are on the cusp of being admitted or not. In that case, showing a lot of interest in a school can be the extra boost that pushes you into the "accepted" category.
What Are Colleges That Track Demonstrated Interest?
Below are the colleges that consider demonstrated interest as either important or very important when considering admissions. "Very important" vs. "important" is not a clear-cut distinction and often just reflects the language specific schools choose to use. If a school is in either of the tables, it's to your benefit to show demonstrated interest, even if you know you’re a strong candidate in other ways.
You may notice that these demonstrated interest colleges are often smaller private schools. Public schools don't track demonstrated interest as often for two reasons. First, these schools are often large, with tens of thousands of students, and it would be a significant amount of work to track demonstrated interest among all their applicants every year. Second, large public universities are often the top or default choice for many in-state students. These schools expect and receive a lot of interest across the board.
You may also notice that there are no Ivy League or ultra-competitive schools like Harvard, Stanford, or Yale on this list. These schools also already know they garner a lot of interest and are often the top choice for applicants. Therefore, it wouldn't make sense for them to spend resources tracking demonstrated interest.
That leaves lesser-known private schools as the main demonstrated interest colleges. These schools use demonstrated interest to try to determine which applicants really want to attend the school, compared to those who are less enthusiastic. So if a school you’re applying to is listed here, be sure to show them some love!
Colleges Where Demonstrated Interest Is Very Important
Colleges Where Demonstrated Interest Is Important
How Can You Determine Which Colleges Care About Visits and Demonstrated Interest?
Didn’t see a college you’re considering applying to on our list? That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t consider interest at all. Colleges can be notoriously cagey about the specific processes they use to determine who gets accepted and who doesn't. They're usually pretty open about whether or not they consider demonstrated interest, but not always. Sometimes you have to ask if a school is a demonstrated interest college.
There are two main ways you can figure out whether a school tracks demonstrated interest and how important it is in their admissions process. We’ll cover these two approaches to determining which colleges consider demonstrated interest next.
Work With the School's Admissions Office
The easiest way to learn is to Google, "[school name] demonstrated interest." If it's one of the colleges that track demonstrated interest, it'll often pop up a webpage that explains how demonstrated interest is considered. When available, this information often appears on a school’s admissions website.
One general rule of thumb to keep in mind is that even if a college’s website doesn’t use the words “demonstrated interest,” if they care about it, they’ll often strongly recommend going for a visit, doing an interview, or applying Early Decision/Early Action.
If you don't find anything through an internet search, we recommend contacting the admissions office directly. This can be done either through email or a phone call. There's often contact information for prospective students. Use that information and just ask, "Does [school name] consider demonstrated interest during the admissions process?" If the school does, you can follow up with "How important is it?" and/or, "What are the best ways to show demonstrated interest?" It's that easy, and then you'll be guaranteed accurate information.
Search for a School’s Common Data Set
Another quick and easy way to find out whether a school tracks demonstrated interest is to search for their most recent Common Data Set (CDS). The CDS is an annual report that provides some of the most important facts and figures about a college, including admissions statistics, enrollment information, and--you guessed it--whether a school tracks demonstrated interest as well as how important it is in their selection process.
To find a college’s CDS simply Google, “[School name] + Common Data Set.” Schools that provide access to their CDS online often include links to this info on their Institutional Research or Admissions webpages. You should be able to view or download a PDF or spreadsheet that includes all of a school’s CDS information.
The drawback to searching a school’s Common Data Set is that the data is long and a little confusing. To help you find exactly what you need, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to find out whether a school tracks demonstrated interest through their CDS (with pictures):
First, you’ll need to search for a school’s CDS online. We’ll use Wheaton College as an example. To find the webpage below, we Googled, “Wheaton College Common Data Set”:
As the picture above shows, Wheaton’s Common Data Sets appear under the school’s “About” section on their website. To find Wheaton’s CDS, you’d need to navigate to the webpage above.
Second, scroll down the webpage and look for links to the actual document(s) containing the CDS. Wheaton provides links to each section of their 2020-2021 CDS on the webpage above, as shown in this picture:
Third, you’ll need to find the section of the CDS that states whether a school tracks demonstrated interest. The good news is that this information appears in the same section of the CDS for every school. The information about whether a school tracks demonstrated interest always appears in the "First-Time First-Year Admission" section C7 of the CDS, as shown below:
As you can see in the picture above, section C7 of the CDS lists the level of importance of several factors in a school’s admissions decisions. Demonstrated interest always appears in the very last line of section C7, labeled as, “Level of applicant’s interest.” In the picture above from Wheaton’s CDS, you can see that the school rates demonstrated interest as “important.” Schools also have the option to rate demonstrated interest as “very important,” “considered,” and “not considered.”
And that’s how you consult the Common Data Set to find out whether a school tracks demonstrated interest! If you can’t find this information by perusing a school’s admissions website, looking for the school’s Common Data Set is a sure-fire way to find out for certain whether they track demonstrated interest.
Unfortunately, not all schools make their CDS available online. In those cases, you can always reach out to the admissions office (which you should probably do anyway!) to get information about demonstrated interest.
Once you know that a school you're interested in tracks demonstrated interest, you should do what you can to show the school how excited you are to attend (without going overboard).
To show interest, get on their mailing lists, and open the emails they send (colleges often track this information). Follow them on social media. If you can visit campus, do that and schedule a tour. If you can't, try to attend a college event near you and speak to someone from the school. If you have a question, contact the admissions office directly. If you need to write a "Why This School" essay, spend a lot of time on it. Above all, work on making your application strong across the board, so that schools will be excited to admit such an accomplished, enthusiastic student.
Summary: Colleges That Track Demonstrated Interest
Which colleges care about visits or other ways of showing interest? Demonstrated interest colleges are those that factor student enthusiasm into the application process. The schools in our list above rate demonstrated interest as “important” or “very important,” and tend to be lesser-known private schools. That’s because these schools often have smaller pools of applicants, and only want to admit students who will be valuable (and involved) members of their campus community. That means they look for applicants who are genuinely excited to attend their school rather than applicants who might just be using them as a backup choice or safety school.
Once you know if demonstrated interest matters to a college you’re interested in, you can begin showing it! Don't go overboard, but a campus visit, following them on social media, and contacting the admissions office if you have a question are all great ways to show how much you want to be there.
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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.