December 1, 2022
What is "demonstrated interest" in college admissions?
Engaging with colleges can help show you are interested in attending. Learn what demonstrated interest is and why many colleges consider it important.

Note: This guest post is from Lisa Rubin-Johnson. Lisa is the founder of in!Admissions College Consulting, a company that supports families during the complex and often stressful college process. Lisa also volunteers as a mentor to inner-city First-Generation college applicants at the Trinity Education for Excellence Program as an advisor to their Roadmap to College program.

What is Demonstrated Interest?

Demonstrated Interest, or “DI” is a term used by colleges to describe how a student engages with a college to show how much they want to attend that college.

Many colleges track contacts a student makes to summarize the student’s interest. Demonstrated interest is one factor that can improve a student’s chance of acceptance. Students can express demonstrated interest as a college prospect or applicant and also during the waitlist process.

Why do colleges care about Demonstrated Interest?

Demonstrated Interest continues to be an important factor in the college process. According to the NACAC 2019 Factors in the Admissions Decision Report, almost 70% of all colleges consider Demonstrated Interest important at some level in making admissions decisions.

In particular, smaller colleges give comparatively more weight to Demonstrated Interest. Demonstrated Interest and Early Applications can represent the equivalent of a 100-point increase on the SATs and an extra .25 increase in a student’s GPA!

In order to remain successful in today’s competitive college landscape, colleges use metrics and tracking systems and improve the their communications plan to attract students they wish to enroll and gauge which students are likely to accept an admit decision (also called “yield”).

How do colleges track Demonstrated Interest?

Many college admissions offices spend money to track student data, including Demonstrated Interest, using software.

In addition to purchasing student data from providers like the College Board and ACT and pulling a student’s financial information off their website’s Net Price Calculator, colleges also pay a lot of attention to actions showing Demonstrated Interest.

Since “yield” is crucial for colleges, data gets entered into the college’s software to predict which students will ultimately come. Research has proven, statistically, that students who demonstrate the most interest during the admissions process are students who are most likely to enroll at their institution.

Sophisticated mathematical formulas track every contact a student makes — or does not make — as weighted “engagement points” for each action. A code can be assigned to each student to use in their admissions decision.

Some of the biggest points go for actions like official college tours, online info sessions, personal emails to admissions reps, and social media engagement, like Instagram “Likes” and tweets about the college.

Students need to approach the college process understanding that every interaction with a college — called a “Demonstrated Interest Trail” — may be tracked and given points toward their admission decision. Even when a student opens up an email from a college, or clicks through the college website, data is collected and click rates may be recorded for points. Colleges are often watching and counting!

14 ways students can Demonstrate Interest throughout the college process

Note: The following list is organized to match the flow of the college process. Consider step 1 the first action to take towards a college you're interested in attending. This might result in colleges sending materials to your email or mailbox. Some of these actions have costs associated - those costs may be covered by the college in question.

  1. Request Info: Fill out interest forms on college admissions websites to be put on mailing lists. Sometimes they will give free application waivers!
  2. Click on Recruitment Emails: Respond to contacts from colleges and click through the information – they collect and measure your click rates! Consider creating a college-specific email account to keep track of your college correspondence (and keep it separate).
  3. Do your research: Research college websites to understand signature strengths of academic offerings, programs, courses, residential life and extracurriculars. Check out YouTube videos. Study the college’s mission statement to understand their values.
  4. College Fairs: Attend College Fairs, in-person or online, ask questions, and sign up for more info.
  5. Campus Visits and Info Sessions: Sign up for and attend in-person or online campus tours and information sessions. Many colleges pay attention to the efforts that students take to visit their campus. Many colleges will frown upon applicants that have not taken the time to visit their campus if it is within 6 hours of the student’s home. Some colleges waive the admissions fee if the student comes for a campus tour.
  6. Participate in a College Webinar: Gain a deeper insight in to a college’s programs, strengths and values including specific topics like Financial Aid, Student Perspectives, Academic Programs, Application Deadlines, and How to Write their Supplemental Essay.
  7. Contact the Local Admissions Rep: Contact the college’s local admissions rep so they remember you. Use an email account for college correspondence with your photo attached to put a face to the name. Always try to find out who the local admissions rep is while at a visit. Ask to introduce yourself.
  8. Social Media: “Like” the college’s Instagram page or other social media. Be careful with this and check to make sure you don’t have social media with any inappropriate comments or photos in your news feed. Admissions officers can also find you this way.
  9. College Interviews: Interviewing with either an admissions officer or an alumni interviewer puts your face to the name on your application, and gives you the opportunity to talk about your strengths and how they would fit with the strengths and mission of the school, which you have already researched. Note: not all schools do interviews!
  10. Thank You Emails: If an admissions officer or alumni interviewer has either interviewed you or been helpful in answering questions, students should at the very least send a Thank You email. Plus, it is the polite thing to do!
  11. Write Supplemental Essays Showing Fit: A supplemental essay showing you understand the strengths and programs of the college and how it matches your strengths will show admissions that you will be a good fit for their school. If you really feel that this college is your first choice, state it clearly in the supplement.
  12. Apply Early! ED, EA, REA or SEA: Applying Early Decision (ED) shows that the student believes this is the best-fit college for them and is binding. Applying Early Action (EA), although non-binding, shows proactivity in the process and interest in the college. There are other types of early applications too!
  13. Apply Before the Deadline Date: Instead of waiting until the deadline date to submit an application, submitting an early Rolling Admissions application or any other type of application weeks before the deadline so you stand out. It also gives some admissions offices a chance to consider your application first and make a decision before the rush of other applications.
  14. Write a "Letter of Continued Interest" for a Deferral or Waitlist: If a student is deferred or waitlisted in the spring, they should submit a “Letter of Continued Interest” (LOCI). Students can write a note to their admissions rep with new information that shows positive progress, and then follow up with another short note about a month later. Even if the student does not get off the waitlist, they can look back on the process and know that they did everything in their power to be accepted.

Final recommendations

When in doubt, students should demonstrate interest in as many appropriate ways as possible, because most colleges will track their interest. Students should be aware of how colleges track their information and protect it as they desire.

Treat each college as if it is your first choice. For students that have a hard time executing this concept, I suggest that they think of each college as a friend on their birthday: that person may not be your very best friend, but on that day, you focus on your friend and reflect on their special and unique qualities.

When touring a campus, interviewing, or writing a supplement for a college, students should “celebrate” that school. Often, strongly tracked demonstrated interest will help an admissions committee feel confident about a decision to admit, or separate a student from the pack of applicants who have similar profiles.

Loper is a free phone app that helps students discover their interests and the colleges that match them. If you’d like to learn more about our platform and mission, we’d love to stay in touch through the email below.

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