The Dirty Details on Demonstrated Interest
(And Why You Shouldn’t Be a “Stealth Applicant”)
We’ve written previously about the concept of demonstrated interest, and why it can be so important during the college application process. To refresh, “demonstrating interest means going the extra mile to show schools that you could truly see yourself there. It means going beyond the required application materials and making a point to get to know the school and the faculty there.” In short, it means convincing the admissions counselors that if accepted, you’re going to attend. Today, we’re answering frequently asked questions about this often-overlooked aspect of college admissions.
Does my dream school actually care about demonstrated interest?
Good question! The application process is stressful and time-consuming, so why waste your time demonstrating interest if your first choice school doesn’t even care?
You can find out if your dream school considers demonstrated interest with a quick Google search. Do a search for “Common Data Set” followed by the name of the school in question. There, you will find a list of academic and nonacademic factors that the school considers when making a decision. Next to “level of applicant’s interest,” you will see if the school answered Very Important, Important, Considered, or Not Considered. If your school answered any the first three, you need to show demonstrated interest!
Note: Need-blind schools generally don’t consider demonstrated interest. This includes Ivy League schools and similar universities. These schools try to even the playing field, and they understand that not every prospective student is able to visit their campus. Even so, if you’re able to, sign up for mailings, visit the campus, and learn as much as you can! This can benefit your supplemental essays and help you make your final choice.
Many applicants don’t realize that demonstrated interest can be used for more than simply an admissions decision. Your demonstrated interest (or lack thereof) can determine if you’re awarded a merit scholarship. These merit scholarships can get students to enroll in their school, and they’re certainly not going to waste it on a stealth applicant!
Wait, what’s a stealth applicant?
We’re so glad you asked. A stealth applicant is an applicant that has never gotten in touch with the school aside from submitting an application. They’ve never gone on an official campus visit, spoken to an admissions counselor, requested an interview, or even inquired about the school at a college fair. Basically, they introduce themselves for the very first time with their application.
It’s not a good thing to be a stealth applicant. Admissions counselors will logically assume that your stealth application to their school was one of dozens you sent out, and question if you have a genuine interest in attending.
How can I show demonstrated interest on a college visit?
So, you signed up for a college visit – hooray! This is a big way to show target colleges that you’re serious about them, and it’s a great idea if your school takes demonstrated interest into consideration. However, what else can you do on said college visit to make an impression?
Before you head to the school, let the admissions counselor know you’re coming well in advance. Ask if they’re available to meet with you! If they are, come prepared with a list of questions to ask them about the school, as well as a few reasons why you’re the perfect fit. If you can get face time with the admissions counselor, this will help you.
Once you’re on campus, whether or not you get to meet with the counselor, make sure you “check in” at the admissions office. You want credit for being there! If there are any info sessions, make sure to attend those and introduce yourself to whoever is leading it.
If you’re visiting on a school day (and we highly recommend you do), ask a professor if you can sit in on one of their classes. Ideally, this should be a class that you see yourself taking as a student – so sit in on a class that interests you! Keep in mind that introductory classes will be large and more advanced classes will be smaller. If you can, sit in on a smaller class so you can make a bigger impression on the professor.
If possible, set up a private meeting with a professor who teaches a course in your desired potential major. There, you an ask questions about the school, the major, and learn more about the different courses available.
We wish we didn’t have to clarify this, but we must: all emails to admissions counselors and professors should come from YOU, not your parent. Your parent will not be attending their school, so their demonstrated interest will not help you at all. No matter how shy you are or awkward you feel, you must be the one making contact with staff at the school.
I can’t visit my first choice school. How else can I show demonstrated interest?
Not everyone has the time or budget to visit schools and don’t worry – colleges know this. Luckily, there are plenty of alternative ways to show interest!
Apply Early Decision. This shows admissions counselors that you want to attend their school and nowhere else.
USE YOUR SUPPLEMENTAL ESSAY TO SHOW INTEREST. This is huge!
Sign up for the mailing list. You’ll get news about the admissions process and your email address will be in the system. Win-win!
Attend a college fair in your area and speak with the representative there. Write down your full name on any mailing lists or forms they have with them, and make sure you express your genuine interest in the school.
If a local alumnus reaches out to interview you, SAY YES! Make time, no matter what.
Reach out to admissions officers. Don’t email them just for the sake of emailing them – no one likes to be bombarded. Make sure all of your communication is thoughtful and necessary. Let them know about any changes or updates to your application: if your test scores went up, if you had a stellar first semester report card, if you received an award or leadership position, and so on. If you are deferred, reach out to let them know that you’re still extremely hopeful and interested in attending their school.
If you receive emails from the college, click on the links! Colleges can see who reads what they send. Play it safe… read the email! On that note, give the school a “follow” on social media. This is less likely to help, but it can’t hurt!
Now that you’re in the know, go off and demonstrate your interest. If you have any more questions about showing demonstrated interest, leave it in the comments!