U.S. Universities and “demonstrated interest”


When applying to American universities, demonstrating interest is important. According to a National Association for College Admissions Counselling (NACAC), about 50 percent of universities claim that a student’s demonstrated interest is either highly or moderately important in the admissions process. The university admissions process may be likened to dating.  Universities want applicants to show them that they’re truly interested in them.  There is one difference: there is no benefit in playing hard to get.  Universities want to know applicants are interested.

Why is it so important?

Each year universities use the historical yield – rate of acceptances relative to offers – to determine how many admission offers to make. If a college overestimates yield, it may end up with fewer students than predicted, creating serious difficulties such as low enrollment and budget shortfalls. Underestimating yield could result in high enrollment which leads to oversubscribed classes and inability to accommodate students in residence.  Either way a miscalculation creates problems for university administrators.  This is one of the reasons why universities have wait lists – they provide insurance for managing enrollment numbers.  As a statistical measure, yield rates have been used by university rating services as a measure of selectivity.  Yield, therefore, also impacts a university’s performance in rankings.

Why should applicants demonstrate interest?

The answer is simple: universities are more likely to admit students who are most likely to accept their offer of admission. Demonstrated interest helps universities determine which students are most likely to attend. Therefore, a student can improve his chances of being admitted by clearly registering interest for a university.

Eight ways an applicant may demonstrate interest

  1. Supplemental Essays: If a university’s supplemental question asks why you want to attend, you should write a response noting specific and unique features of the university that most appeal to you. This is an opportunity for you to show your interest by showing the research you have done on the institution and by showing that you considered why the university is a good match.
  2. Campus Visits: Tours are a good way for you to get a better feel for the university and, since most colleges track who visits campus, they offer an opportunity for you to record your interest.  They also offer an opportunity to gather specific information that may prove useful in writing a more focused essay and in preparing for interviews. Check out some helpful tips from VerveSmith.
  3. College Interviews: In many cases, interviews are optional. You should take the time to interview with college and/or alumni representatives.  Interviews offer you an opportunity to learn more about the university, including whether the school is a good fit.  Students who are not interested are less likely to participate in interviews.
  4. University/College Fairs: Many universities track students who visits their table at information fairs. Be sure to visit with representatives of universities that interest you. Introduce yourself and have the representative add you to the university’s mailing list.
  5. Contact Your Admissions Representative: Many schools assign representatives to specific regions.  Be sure to find out who is responsible for your region and communicate with him or her.  You want to make a good impression so ask questions that are not answered on the university’s website or view books.   Grammar is important; check your messages for errors.
  6. Thank You Notes: If you met a representative at an information fair or campus visit, or communicated via email or phone, don’t forget to send a note to show your appreciation for their assistance. It is a nice, polite detail that also highlights your interest in the school.
  7. Request Further Information: You will gather many university view books as you move through the applications process. If you need further information, don’t just rely on university websites or presentations.   Send a brief well-written note requesting the specific information you need.  This shows that you are actively researching the university and opportunities it offers, and shows your interest in getting to know it better.
  8. Apply Early:The best way to demonstrate your commitment to a university is by participating in an early action and/or early decision program, if these are offered. Since you can only apply to one university through early decision, and if accepted the decision is binding, you are showing your commitment to the school. You can also show commitment – without the pressure of a binding decision – by applying early action. You should only apply early decision if you’re absolutely sure a school is your best match.
          Source: About Education, How to Demonstrate Interest in a College by Allen Grove

One more thing: As is the case in dating, you don’t want to be overbearing. You don’t come across as trying too hard or to create unnecessary work.  You want to make sure that all your interactions with university representatives are meaningful.

Check out VerveSmith’s list of things to consider to make a good university match.

VerveSmith helps students find universities and programs that match their aspirations, and to develop an admissions application strategy. To learn how we can help help, contact us.

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