In this post, you'll learn everything you need to know about that elusive concept called "demonstrating interest." We show you how to tell when demonstrating interest matters and how to do it most effectively.
You may have heard that some colleges and universities track “demonstrated interest” in the admissions process. This post will dig into everything you know about how universities track and use demonstrated interest. I’ll also share my perspective as a former admissions officer at a couple schools to let you in on how I’ve seen demonstrated interest used.
What is demonstrated interest?
Demonstrated interest refers to colleges tracking how interested applicants or prospective students may be in their school by “tracking” if they have taken certain steps that would indicate an interest in attending.
If a school tracks demonstrated interest, they are more likely to admit a student who has shown an interest in their school than one who hasn’t.
It is, therefore, important to demonstrate interest to schools that track this metric.
Why do colleges track demonstrated interest?
To understand demonstrated interest, you have to understand one very important metric to college admissions offices: yield rate. Yield rate, or just “yield,” refers to how many admitted students choose to actually attend the college. It is typically expressed as a percentage.
If a school admitted 1000 students and 100 of them attended, the yield rate would be 10%.
The higher the yield rate, the better. This is for several reasons we won’t get into now, but safe to say colleges want to admit students who are actually interested in attending. That allows them to keep their admit rate as low as possible, because they don’t have to admit as many students to make their class. Makes sense, right?
Schools track demonstrated interest because they want to better predict which students are likely to attend if offered admission. They use indicators of “demonstrated interest” to predict this.
Do all colleges track demonstrated interest?
Many colleges do not track demonstrated interest. If a college does not track demonstrated interest, you do not need to go out of your way to demonstrate interest in that college. It will not make a difference.
Note that there are a couple exceptions which are discussed later in this piece.
How do I know if a college tracks demonstrated interest?
Colleges report this in their Common Data Set (CDS). Each college answers a series of questions about their admission and enrollment numbers each year, which makes up their Common Data Set.
Check out Data Roomand Common Data Set posts to learn more about the schools you are interested in and whether they track demonstrated interest.
How can I demonstrate interest in a college?
There are several ways to demonstrate interest to colleges. Here is a list of how to demonstrate interest:
Attend an admissions information session and/or tour.
Attend an online information session.
Attend an online admissions webinar (this might be about a particular major or student activity).
Do an admissions interview.
Visit with the school at an open house near you.
Connect with your admissions officer via email.
Attend a school visit at your high school if the admissions officer visits.
Create and log into your application portal after applying.
If you are waitlisted or deferred, submit a letter of continued interest.
If the admission office specifically requests anything from you like updated grades or an optional essay after being deferred, submit them in a timely manner.
Note that with all of these ways of showing demonstrated interest, you need to make sure they can actually track that you did the thing. If you talk to an admissions counselor at an open house but don’t fill out the information card they have, they won’t know you were there. Similarly, if you sign up for a tour and don’t show up, that won’t count.
Portal activity is different–they can track logins into the portal automatically, but this in and of itself isn’t enough to really demonstrate interest. You’ll want to take some of the other steps listed above.
By the way, these are all generally really great ways to learn more about a school whether they track demonstrated interest or not!
A couple exceptions to these rules: Some schools do not track demonstrated interest except on the waitlist or after being deferred. For example, Vanderbilt does not track demonstrated interest for any of its applicants. However, if they waitlist a student, they do want to know if that student is still interested in attending, and how interested they are in Vanderbilt specifically. So, they do track demonstrated interest on the waitlist, but nothing prior to landing on the waitlist is tracked.
As a former admissions officer, how did you see demonstrated interest factor into the application process?
I’ve seen and know of demonstrated interest factoring in in several ways:
Some schools track demonstrated interest throughout the entire admissions process and even award “points” or track levels of demonstrated interest based on the criteria listed above.
Some schools are more lenient in understanding that not everyone can travel to visit them, but they really want to see students do things like an online information session or sign up for a virtual interview.
Some schools, as I mentioned, don’t track demonstrated interest at all until the waitlist.
Some schools give their admission officers a lot of leeway with their own students to build personal relationships and base admission decisions in part on their understanding of the student’s fit within their community. This might have been established through email, a high school visit, or campus visit.
Finally, plenty of schools, especially the most selective colleges and universities, simply do not track demonstrated interest. No need to do anything special for these schools.