Demonstrated interest is one of the trickier parts of the college admissions process. Knowing what demonstrated interest is and how to use it to your advantage can help boost your admissions chances, especially at competitive schools.
In this article, we’ll answer all your questions about demonstrated interest, including:
- What demonstrated interest is, including the basics of how to show interest in a college
- Why demonstrated interest is important to the college admissions process
- How to show interest in a college in four ways
- How to demonstrate interest in a college to maximize your chances of getting into your top schools
Ready? Let’s dive in.
What Is Demonstrated Interest?
Is it true that colleges track applicants online to size up interest? In some cases, yes! Colleges often do assess applicants' demonstrated interest. Demonstrated interest is a measuring tool that college admissions officers use to identify applicants that are most likely to enroll as new students if they’re admitted. In other words, admissions counselors use demonstrated interest to figure out if you’re actually interested in their university or not.
Colleges want to make sure they’re bringing in the right number of students each year, and measuring demonstrated interest is one way that they can predict whether their incoming class sizes will match their goals!
Demonstrated interest boils down to gathering and measuring data about all applicants to a given school, then using that data to predict whether a student will enroll in their school. Some of the things admissions counselors look at are campus visits, social media engagement, and admissions office contacts.
While all applicants to a college or university demonstrate at least some level of interest—those applications are no joke!—not all schools are going to factor demonstrated interest into their admissions process.
Schools that do take demonstrated interest into account will usually explain this policy on their admissions websites, but they don’t always call it “Demonstrated Interest.” Instead, they’ll talk about putting an emphasis on students that apply Early Decision (which means they’ve committed to enroll if they’re accepted), or students that show their commitment to becoming a student at that particular university.
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2 Examples of Colleges With Demonstrated Interest
In order to see if your university uses demonstrated interest as part of their admissions procedures, you’ll have to do a little reading between the lines. But now let’s take a look at two schools that do consider DI.
Demonstrated Interest Example 1: Dickinson University
One school that ranks demonstrated interest as highly important to the admissions process is Dickinson University in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Dickinson Admissions indicates that students who show a higher interest in Dickinson will be eligible for Early Decision admissions based on the following criteria:
An ED application is encouraged if you know that Dickinson is your first choice. Following are a few things you should know about ED: Due to the smaller size of the applicant pool, you will be evaluated based upon your own merits rather than in competition with many other applicants. Your very strong interest in Dickinson is taken into consideration when rendering a decision [. . .] Early Decision is a binding commitment. If admitted, you agree to withdraw all other applications and submit your enrollment deposit within three weeks of notification. Learn more about Early Decision.
If you’re new to the notion of demonstrated interest, this might seem kind of confusing. But this statement makes it clear that demonstrated interest is a central component of the admissions process at Dickinson.
Here’s how: Dickinson explains that applicants who know--and show--that Dickinson is their first choice school will have the advantage of Early Decision admissions. Dickinson extends Early Decision offers based on the assumption that you’re so interested in attending Dickinson that you’ll withdraw your other college apps and accept their offer of admission immediately.
Demonstrated Interest Example 2: American University
Another school with a demonstrated interest policy is American University. Demonstrated interest is a very important component of American University’s admissions process, and they explain their approach to demonstrated interest on their official YouTube channel. That’s why we recommend checking both a University’s admissions website and any of their associated communications channels (like email and social media) when you’re researching whether a school uses demonstrated interest or not.
The video states that AU applicants can demonstrate interest by emailing with an admissions counselor, visiting campus, doing an optional admissions interview, meeting with an AU admissions representative, and attending an online webinar. The more of these activities you engage in during the admissions process, the stronger your demonstrated interest will be on your application to AU.
Do all Schools Consider Demonstrated Interest?
The short answer is no.
Each university decides whether or not it will consider demonstrated interest as part of its admissions process. And even if a school does take demonstrated interest into account, it’s not always a key component of the application process.
For instance, while Dickinson College rates DI as “very important” to an application, for schools like Baylor, demonstrated interest is slightly less emphasized (but is still part of the “big picture” of your application). Here’s what their admissions website says:
Baylor is a competitive learning and research environment. So, naturally, we will consider your academic history when reviewing you for admission.
That said, test scores and GPAs are only part of your story. That's why we also review the recommended items you share with us. These include recommendation letters, short answer responses and a resume.
We are looking for students who:
- are excited and motivated about intellectual activity
- want to be part of a community that values faith and personal calling
- have challenged themselves academically and embraced opportunities outside the classroom
- recognize that life, learning and service go hand-in-hand beyond the four years of college
In summary, we are looking for students who can gain the most from a Baylor experience. Students should have a demonstrated interest in becoming a Baylor Bear and be a fit spiritually, academically and financially.
So, in this case, Baylor is clear that while demonstrated interest matters, it’s weighted as part of your application along with your GPA, academic record, dedication to service, and faith.
If you’re wondering if a school takes demonstrated interest into account in their admissions process, comb through a school’s admissions website and look for language that’s similar to the language used in the sample statements above to clue you in. You can also peruse a school’s admissions website to see if they offer more info on their social media pages, like American University. And of course, you can always do a Google search to see if other students, parents, or counselors have determined whether your target schools use demonstrated interest.
How Important Is Demonstrated Interest in the College Admissions Process?
The significance of demonstrated interest during the college admissions process is ultimately determined on a school-by-school basis. While each school will take its own approach to evaluating and factoring in demonstrated interest, you can think of most schools as falling into one of three categories where demonstrated interest is concerned: Not Considered, Considered, and Important.
The first category here is pretty simple to break down: some schools simply don’t track demonstrated interest, or they don’t take it into account during the admissions process. This means that you don’t need to take specific steps to demonstrate your interest in order to boost your admissions chances. Most of the time, schools that don’t factor in demonstrated interest just won’t mention it in their application requirements or bring it up on their admissions websites.
Schools that fall into the “Considered” category, on the other hand, may include demonstrated interest in a list of admissions requirements on their website. These schools likely won’t emphasize demonstrated interest above other factors, but they’ll let you know that it is taken into consideration along with other important factors.
The category to really be aware of is schools that rank demonstrated interest as “Important” or “Very Important.” These schools will include a specific statement about how admissions evaluates student interest, and they’ll usually describe what students can do to show a high level of interest. They’ll also provide many opportunities to demonstrate interest during the recruiting and admissions process.
With these schools, you’ll need to look online for detailed info about demonstrated interest or reach out to an admissions counselor to learn more about how to maximize your chances of showing strong interest through the opportunities provided.
Unfortunately, there’s no set rule for how schools will handle demonstrated interest—or how they’ll let you know if they consider it or not. You’ll have to do your own research about each individual school and get as much info as you can about their admissions process before making any assumptions about whether demonstrated interest will factor into your chances of admission. (For more information about this, check out our step-by-step process to demonstrating interest below.)
5 Ways to Show Demonstrated Interest
Not sure how to let colleges know you are interested? There are five key ways you can demonstrate interest during your college application process. Having said that, some schools may prefer you demonstrate interest in certain ways, or they may have their own unique criteria for demonstrated interest. We’re covering general categories here: you’ll need to research each school to make sure you’re demonstrating your interest the right way!
So, let’s look at five parts of the admissions process that give you a chance to demonstrate your interest in a school. These five parts are:
- Campus visits
- Admissions office contacts
- Electronic tracking
- Social media engagement, and
- Application submission
#1: How to Show Demonstrated Interest In a College Through Campus Visits
Campus visits are crucial when it comes to how to show demonstrated interest in a school. It’s common for college applicants to only attend campus visits at the schools they’re most seriously considering. This means that visiting a campus is a way to show a high level of interest in a school.
Attending a campus visit indicates that you’re eager to learn more about what a school has to offer, including degrees and majors, scholarships, campus housing, internships, and extracurricular activities.
Why Campus Visits Matter
Campus visits are an important part of demonstrated interest because they show that you’re really committed to learning about the school. Attending a campus visit takes effort! Students often have to travel, take time off from school or work, and commit to a long day of events and info sessions. Schools assume that a student isn’t going go to this kind of effort if they aren’t interested.
That’s why campus visits are your chance to show that you’re seriously considering a school and want to learn how you’ll fit in there.
How to Maximize Your Campus Visit
Demonstrating interest in a college through a campus visit comes down to more than just signing up. Once you actually get to the visit, you’ll likely connect with an admissions counselor or university ambassador in person. During this conversation, you want to seem engaged, interested, and excited to be there!
You also want to make sure you attend as many sessions and events as possible during the visit. This shows that you’re there because you care about learning more about the school. If there are optional or extracurricular activities offered during the campus visit, try to attend those, too. For instance, many schools offer on-campus mixers with current students or other prospective students during campus visits. Making connections with event leaders and other attendees will show that you want to be part of the campus community.
#2: How to Show Demonstrated Interest in a College Through Admissions Contacts
Schools with demonstrated interest policies also track an applicant’s contacts with the admissions office. Specifically, many schools want to see you exchanging emails with your admissions counselor.
While many students prefer email, phone calls are also a great way to demonstrate interest. Admissions counselors can get to know you and answer questions over the phone, too. These calls will be documented and will be considered as a form of demonstrated interest in the admissions process.
Why Admissions Contacts Matter
These contacts indicate that you’re interested enough in this school that you’ll take the initiative to get more info all on your own. There are questions that are specific to your experience that a website or leaflet might not answer. Reaching out shows that you’re considering a school and working to become a top applicant in the process. On the flip side, students who aren’t super interested in a university aren’t going to waste time sending emails or making calls.
How to Maximize Admissions Contacts
First, always reply to personal emails and phone calls that you receive from your admissions counselor in a timely fashion. Make sure you’re being friendly and professional when you do!
Second, initiate conversations with your admissions counselors. These conversations don’t have to be long or super memorable: you should just simply reach out when you have questions about the admissions process or the school. Counselors will note your calls in your application file, and those will be considered demonstrated interest when your application goes up for review.
Yep...colleges can track how often you're opening emails from them and visiting their websites. But you can use that to your advantage when it comes to demonstrated interest!
#3: How to Show Demonstrated Interest in a College Through Electronic Tracking
This sounds high tech, but it really isn’t too involved. Electronic tracking mostly includes checking to see if you open the school’s emails and click on included links to visit the school’s website. (Social media is a whole different thing that we’ll touch on in a second.)
Think about it this way: it’s super easy to just ignore the mass emails and promotional content you receive from schools. Colleges know this, so they’re going to consider applicants who actually open their emails and engage with the content as more interested students!
Why Electronic Tracking Matters
Colleges realize that prospective college students will use their online time to engage with things that matter to them. If you’re visiting a university’s websites and reading their digital communications, you show that you’re interested in building a connection with them.
Plus, measuring your clicks is a pretty easy and hands-off way for schools to gauge your interest. This means it’s safe to assume that schools that rank demonstrated interest as highly important are going to be using electronic tracking--and you’ll want to make sure your electronic activity shows them what they’re looking for.
How to Maximize Electronic Tracking
Open as many emails that you receive from a school as possible--especially emails from the recruiting and admissions office. It’s also a good idea to actually engage with the content in the emails. For instance, if there are links included in the email, click on them. If there’s an embedded video, watch it.
On top of these actions, you can visit the school’s website occasionally. One surefire way to demonstrate high interest when engaging with a school’s website is by creating an account for submitting an application early, and checking that account frequently.
#4: How to Show Demonstrated Interest in a College Through Social Media
It’s no secret that social media has become an integral part of the college admissions process. Some schools may track applicants’ engagement with social media pages to see if your social media activity demonstrates interest.
Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube, chances are the admissions office at the schools you’re applying to has a social media presence. The whole point of a school admissions office’s social media presence is to attract and engage with prospective students. If you’ve expressed interest in the school in any quantifiable way, chances are that a school’s admissions team is going to be looking for you in their list of followers on social media.
Why Social Media Engagement Matters
Like other forms of electronic tracking, tracking your social media engagement is super easy--schools can simply see who’s liked, commented, shared, and viewed their content. And you’ll want to make sure your name pops up in their list of followers. Connecting with schools through social media will demonstrate that you’re looking for more engagement with that school’s culture, community, and important info. In other words, social media engagement demonstrates your interest.
Having said that, it’s important that your social media profiles reflect the type of student schools are looking for. You should take some time to switch your name over to your actual name...and scrub any content off your pages that could be considered controversial. (You should do this anyway since students have had their admissions letters revoked due to social media content.)
How to Maximize Social Media Engagement
You really don’t have to do anything fancy to maximize your demonstrated interest through social media. Just start by following your top schools on all of the social media platforms you use and, as often as you can, engage with their posts. This can be as simple as liking, sharing, or commenting! These actions will show that you’re paying close attention to what these schools are doing, and that you’re socially invested in their digital community.
You can also use social media to leave clues about other ways you intend to demonstrate interest in the future. For instance, if a school posts about an upcoming prospective student visit day and you leave a comment saying you can’t wait to be there for the visit, that’s going to be a huge indicator that your interest level is high.
#5: How to Show Demonstrated Interest in a College Through the Application Process
The last component of the college admissions process that you can leverage to demonstrate interest is your actual application for admission. Your application is where you really get the chance to express your level of interest in a school on your own terms. You can do this in two main ways: by writing about why you’re interested in a school in your application essays, and by submitting your application early.
Why the Application Process Matters
Your application is the most important aspect of the admissions process. But just submitting an application isn’t really enough to indicate your level of interest in a school. You could’ve submitted the exact same app to twenty other schools! This means that you have to approach your application in strategic ways in order to communicate your commitment to a university.
How to Maximize the Application Process
First, use your application essays to (sincerely) explain how eager you are to attend that university. Writing essays that show you’ve researched a school and its programs can help admissions counselors understand your interest in their college.
Besides your application essays, the other most important way to maximize demonstrated interest is by submitting your application as early as you can. Students who submit their apps early typically come across as more invested in getting an acceptance letter. Plus, schools are probably going to assume that you’ll submit apps to your top schools earlier in the admissions process.
And if it’s right for you, consider applying to your dream school Early Decision. Essentially, Early Decision means you’re contractually obligated to enroll in that school if you’re offered admission. For more information on Early Decision applications, check out this article.
Here are the key steps to follow if you want to "unlock" the potential of demonstrated interest.
How to Demonstrate Interest in a College: 5 Key Steps
If you're not sure where to start, knowing how to demonstrate interest in a college can seem overwhelming at first. But it doesn’t have to be! Just follow these easy steps to make sure a university knows you’re committed to them.
Step 1: Assess the School’s Demonstrated Interest Policy
As with many aspects of the college admissions process, the first step to demonstrating interest is doing some research. Head over to your top schools’ admissions websites and read their application requirements and admissions criteria.
Make note of anything that suggests the school is going to give admissions preference to students who indicate that the school is their top choice. And, of course, look for explicit statements and language about demonstrated interest.
Step 2: Build a Plan
Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to build a plan for how you’ll demonstrate interest. This doesn’t have to be complex! You just need to decide which specific actions you’re going to take to demonstrate interest and have a clear idea of how you’ll follow through.
This is especially true for actions that take lots of effort, like a campus visit or attending an on-campus seminar. You’ll need to plan ahead to pull this off, so it’s important to put a plan in place as soon as possible.
Step 3: Start the Process Early
When you’ve got your plan fleshed out, don’t wait to put it into action. One of the top ways schools gauge an applicant’s interest is based on when they demonstrate interest. This means you want to start demonstrating interest early and often in the admissions process.
So don’t try and cram all of your plans for demonstrating interest into the last couple of weeks before the final application deadline. Start reaching out to the admissions office, engaging with electronic communications and social media posts, and planning out your campus visits as soon as the application season kicks off.
Step 4: Reach Out, Ask Questions
The final thing you can do if you really want to amp up your demonstrated interest is to talk about demonstrated interest with your admissions counselor. This is especially important if you struggle to find concrete info on how a school handles demonstrated interest, or you aren’t clear on what actions a school values most where demonstrating interest is concerned. You can tell your admissions counselor that you want to make sure the record shows that your interest in their school is very high, so you’d like some advice on how to make sure you take all the right steps to demonstrate that during the admissions process.
Step 5: When in Doubt, Demonstrate Interest
Let’s say you’ve done your research and you can’t find anything about demonstrated interest on a university’s website, and you haven’t been able to get a clear answer from an admissions counselor. In that case, assume a school uses demonstrated interest. That way you’re covering all of your bases!
Now you know how to show interest in a college, but there's a lot more to a great college application than just demonstrating interest. Check out this article for expert insights that will make your apps stand out from the crowd.
Another key component of your college application is your essay. Writing college application essays can be intimidating—but it doesn't have to be! This step-by-step guide will take the fear out of the process.
Of course, you'll need great SAT or ACT scores to get into the school of your dreams. Getting a perfect test score means lots of studying! Get our free SAT study plans here (and our free ACT study plans here).
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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.