What’s Demonstrated Interest?

In order to understand why colleges consider what we call “demonstrated interest,” you’ll need to take a big step from a few beliefs you probably hold.

You may think that colleges admit the “best,” or the “top” students out of the pool of applicants.  This is incorrect.  Colleges admit the students they think will be a strong contributor to the overall class they are admitting in a given year, and who will add to the campus community.  And that doesn’t always mean the students with the highest GPA, the most AP courses, or the highest test scores.

And if you strip away the emotion you may feel connected to the college admission process, the “omg will I get in somewhere good?” part, you’ll realize that in the end, colleges are businesses.  They have to enroll a certain number of students, who will pay a certain amount of tuition, to keep the place up and running.

Recognizing that students apply to a larger number of colleges than ever before, these days colleges pay attention to how much interest you seem to show as you go through your application process.  You see, after a college admits you, the tables are turned – now it’s YOUR turn to decide if YOU want to accept THEM as you make your choice!  So monitoring your interest level helps them predict which students will actually accept their invitation.  And for some colleges, a high likelihood that you’ll accept their offer could bump up your chances just a little bit.  About 40% of colleges take demonstrated interest into consideration as they make their admission decisions.

So how can you show demonstrated interest?

The best way to show demonstrated interest is to *actually* be interested in a college!  Research their website.  Sign up for their admission updates.  Visit, if you can.  And if you do visit, here are some additional tips on what to do when you’re on campus (as well as a handy-dandy downloadable campus visit packet).

But even if you can’t visit, there are more things you can do to let them know you’re interested; some are simple and some more involved.  Here are the basics:

  • Click on the emails the college sends you (we know, they send a LOT) and then opening links.
  • Reach out to your regional admission officer by e-mail.  Introduce yourself, tell them about your interests and let them know what you’re interested in at their college.  Ask questions that are relevant to the majors and courses they offer to be clear about how you will fit into their academic community.
  • Register for a virtual/online tour or information session.
  • Ask for an interview to let them know you want to learn more, and tell them more about you.
  • Attend the meeting if the college admission officer visits your school, or your city.

When’s the right time to demonstrate interest?

You should be exploring and researching colleges throughout your junior year.  That’s the best time to start reaching out, visiting, opening e-mails and clicking.  As with many parts of the college admission process, it’s a great idea to start early.  Colleges that do consider demonstrated interest keep all of this information, and if/when you submit your application, they’ll connect all of the ways you’ve shown interest to your application file.

What doesn’t count as demonstrated interest?

As you’ll read in the Bucknell University blog post and podcast linked below, you should know that following a college’s social media sites may not get you noticed by their admission office.  While most colleges spend a ton of time and effort pushing out information through their socials, they are less likely to pay attention to which students are following them.

Which colleges consider demonstrated interest?

The most selective colleges are the ones that don’t usually consider your interest level.  You can find this information through the Common Data Set, through which colleges report the different factors they consider in their admission decisions.  And you’ll need to look up CDS information for each college individually.

By the way – we’ve also heard of colleges talking about demonstrated DISinterest!  They really pay attention to whether you open e-mails, click on links to their website, attend the visit when they come to your high school.  They notice these things!  With just a little bit of effort you can get onto their good side.

Here’s the Bucknell University blog post about demonstrated interest that will help you understand how and why colleges care so much about your interest in them.  Bucknell is a highly selective college in Pennsylvania.  Embedded in that post is this short podcast, with an interview with their Dean of Admission:

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