In the world of the Common Application, demonstrating interest is showing colleges that you are truly interested in their institution and not just checking a box. Why do colleges care? Colleges are very interested in yield, or the number of students who are admitted that choose to enroll. Yield is important because it has become a proxy for popularity—the higher the yield, the more popular the school. Yield is also an important number in the US News and World Report rankings. If colleges want to move up the ranks, increasing yield numbers is very important. In general, the highly selective colleges (think Stanford and the Ivies) do not need to measure if students are interested, they are always going to have high yield numbers. However, many other private institutions use demonstrated interest as a factor in admissions. Keep reading for 5 specific things you can do to demonstrate interest right now.
1. High School Visits and College Fairs: Did you know that the admissions representative who often travels to your school or stands behind the table at your local college fair is often the same person that reads your application? Making a connection with them, asking your specific questions about their school and sending a thank you email are all ways that you can demonstrate interest. For more advice read this article.
2. Contact an Admissions Representative: I attended a breakfast for JET last year (Jesuit Excellence Tours) and the message I got from the admissions representatives was that students really should make the effort to contact them and ask specific questions related to their personal experiences. Many schools list not only the admission’s officers by territory assignments, but also their contact information on their website. For example Elon lets you search by your zip code, Boston University lists counselors with their territories and the Regional Admissions Counselors of California (schools not in CA that recruit heavily in CA) has updated emails for reps that would love to talk to you. You can also ask for a business card from a college representative so you can follow up with a specific question about your application or inquire about scheduling a class visit, connecting with a professor or talking to a current student.
3. College Interviews: Checking school websites or emailing admissions officers about interviews really demonstrates interests. Recently at a visit to Gonzaga, I asked if they do interviews while they are on the road and how would students know to sign up. She said that they no longer advertise any interviews, they simply try to make time for the students who contact them ahead of time and request an interview. For the private schools on your list, please contact them to see if they do interviews on or off campus, with an admissions officer or an alum. You have to demonstrate interest and ask the question, to get a local interview. Once you get an interview, this is one of the best posting I have ever seen regarding how to prepare for a college admissions interview.
4. Send a Thank You Note: Always make sure to send a thank you to any representative from a school that has gone out of his or her way to answer your questions. Also send a thank you note (yes on real paper with a stamp) to any representative or alumnus who takes the time to interview you. This means you have to ask for their card to get their address. Sending a quick email thank you is nice as well.
5. Supplemental Essays: Whether you are answering Michigan’s, “Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School to which you are applying at the University of Michigan,” or Chapman’s, “There are thousands of universities and colleges. Please share with us why you are choosing to apply to Chapman,” the research and thought you put into your supplements matter. Answers to supplements can really display your interest in a school. If you write a supplement and the same essay can be used for multiple schools, you did not demonstrate enough interest. For ideas on how to write a “Why Us” essay check out College Essay Guy.