Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Demonstrated Interest: Fact or Fiction?

The “Demonstrated Interest” Phenomenon

What is it?

Demonstrated Interest simply put is the amount and extent of interest that any given student might show to a prospective college prior to and during the application process.  Some colleges value this occurrence, while others claim to not subscribe to it at all.  If done correctly and strategically, it can offer a student an informal “edge in the application process.  The number of positive “touch points” a student has with a college over a period of time could go into his or her demonstrated interest “account”. This virtual account is a way for colleges to assess the level of interest from any given applicant. 

During the entire college admissions process, it’s important to build allies both internally and externally.  Internal allies might include coaches, admissions reps and professors.  External allies might be friends, neighbors or relatives who are connected to that college in some way, such as being an alum or parents of a current student or alum.  These folks (at the appropriate time) can vouch for your character and allow the admissions committee to better understand the three-dimensional version of you not just the two-dimensional version.

What are some examples of Demonstrated Interest?

  • Initial outreach by the student (not the parent) to the college via phone to request application materials and information on visiting the college. Contrary to the traditional notion that getting on a mailing list is a “bad thing”, being on the college’s mailing list allows them to enter you into their system as a potential applicant and allows you to receive updated information from them

  • Stopping by the admissions office to introduce yourself even if your visit to the college is an impromptu one, shows initiative. Just make sure that you’re not wearing ripped jeans and sandals.  Who knows, you just might find the admissions director in the office that day- even if it’s a Saturday

  • Taking the initiative to call and/or email the admissions representative, who will be assigned to your high school’s upcoming college fair, to simply introduce yourself and express enthusiasm for meeting them, shows a level of seriousness and responsibility

  • Mailing and emailing a well-written thank you note within 24 hours of a visit that references specific topics you had discussed during your meeting, shows thoughtfulness. The hand-written note can help students stand out from the pack, because it has long since been replaced by email and considered today by some to be a unique form of communication. Be sure to address the note to “Mr.” or “Ms”- not to their first name and if your handwriting is poor, stick to email only.

    • Example:

Dear Ms. Admission Officer,

Many thanks for taking time to speak with me during my visit on May 22nd to XYZ college. I enjoyed our discussion about the semester abroad program in Kenya and your own personal international travel experiences to Australia and New Zealand (Your personalizing it here).

The newly renovated black box theatre would be an exciting place to showcase my passion for acting and seems to be a major growing in popularity amongst your students.

I look forward to keeping in touch and am excited about the opportunity to apply to XYZ in the near future.


Susan Smith

How can it help a prospective student’s chances for admission?

Demonstrated Interest is really about developing your own personal brand and every interaction/communication with colleges, be it via phone, email or in-person, will either enhance your own personal brand or detract from it. 

Sending a well-thought out thank you note within 24 hrs of an interview by mail or email can enhance your personal brand while using text or IM to send it could just as easily diminish your personal brand. 

It really is the accumulation of these various communication touch points done strategically that can boost a student’s chances for admission, provided that he or she meets the other criteria for the college.

Often times, the demonstrated interest factor can rear its head if a college is trying to decide between two equally capable students who present quite similar on paper.

Even if you are waitlisted at a school, calling that school and reinforcing your excitement about that college shows them that you are taking the wait-list process seriously. Keep in mind, these types of calls should be done tactfully not annoyingly.

Demonstrated Interest does not mean calling a school twice a week to check on the status of your application or hounding the college about why you were waitlisted.  As in life, the more professional and tactful your approach, the better received it will be and the higher your own personal “stock” will rise in the eyes of those who will ultimately decide your fate at that particular college.

About the Author:

Jay Robie is Director of Student Services at College Planning Strategies and also oversees all business development, partnerships & client relations for the SmartTrack™ Toolkit online products. He has worked in the college admissions consulting space since 2004 and has worked in admissions at the secondary, collegiate and graduate levels. He received his BA degree from St. Lawrence University and MBA from Boston College.