While colleges want to love you as an applicant, they may also want proof that you love them. They favor applicants who are likely to accept an offer of admission and to enroll in their institution instead of another to which they’ve also been admitted. The percentage of students offered admission who then enroll in a college is its yield rate. Maintaining a steady, satisfactory yield rate is integral to the successful operation of a college and is a common goal of administrators.

The best way to express your love for a college is through Demonstrated Interest (DI). DI is a term used by admissions officials to describe the things an applicant does that convey their desire to attend the college. Several types of activities may be tracked and weighed to measure DI. As an applicant, assume that all interactions that you have with a college can improve your DI score.

Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, and a few other highly selective schools aren’t concerned about DI because their admissions rates are very low. Most applicants offered admission to one of these schools accept it. However, about 65% of colleges do use DI as a factor in admissions. In addition to the yield factor, administrators have found that applicants with high DI scores tend to fit well within their student bodies and produce superior academic results.

Early Admissions Programs

The best way to demonstrate your interest in your top choice college is to apply for Early Decision (ED) in November of senior year. Keep in mind that ED programs have certain drawbacks. You can only apply for ED at one college. You must attend that college if accepted and offered financial aid that, by objective standards, is appropriate for your circumstances. Upon acceptance, you must withdraw all other applications that you have submitted. The great advantage of ED is that it is the single most convincing DI tactic. Colleges know that you’ll accept their offer of admission. Colleges favor ED applicants by admitting them at significantly higher rates than Regular Decision (RD) applicants.

A non-binding alternative to ED that proves your interest is an Early Action (EA) program. An EA applicant is viewed favorably in admissions decisions, although not as favorably as ED. EA applications are due November 1 and decisions are announced in mid-December. If you’re accepted, you’re not required to give the college your decision until May 1, so you’re free to consider admissions offers from other colleges to which you apply in the RD cycle.

Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) programs also show your interest in a school. SCEA programs only allow you to apply to one college prior to the RD cycle, but they’re non-binding. You can decline to enroll even if accepted. An SCEA program will have a higher admission rate than a college’s Regular Decision (RD) programs.

Recommended DI Tactics

By understanding the nuances in the admissions processes of colleges, your College Planners consultant is able to advise you on the most effective ways to show interest in a target college. Six recommendations are noted below.

  1. Visit – It is to your advantage to schedule a visit and attend a campus tour, preferably in person but via a guided virtual tour if visits are curtailed due to the pandemic. When you’re on campus, arrange to meet with an admissions representative, a student in your intended major, student groups of interest to you, and a faculty member if possible.
  2. Website – Colleges record the time that you spend on their website. They consider it to be a relevant measure of DI.
  3. Interview – An interview enables an admissions official to discuss the fitness of the college for you and vice versa. This is a great opportunity to impress the interviewer and add a personal touch to your profile. The interviewer may work in the admissions office on-campus or be an alumnus or alumna located in your area.
  4. Join – Respond to recruitment mailings and get on mailing lists. Thoroughly research colleges of interest on the web so that you can communicate with admissions officials intelligently. If you “Like” a college’s Facebook page, you’ll be put on that list. Be sure to “Follow” the college on other social media platforms.
  5. Contact – If possible, try to meet with the admissions officer who will be the first person to review applications from your area. Ask questions and discuss concerns that you may have. Send a Thank You note. Don’t over-communicate or sell too hard.
  6. Fairs – If you can’t visit a campus, a college fair is a good way to meet with admissions representatives. Attend even if you have already visited the campus.

Colleges that don’t track DI often require that you submit a supplemental essay in response to the prompt, “Why do you want to attend our school?” By becoming informed about the school through DI activities, you’ll be better able to craft an impressive essay. With the guidance of your College Planners consultant, your essay will be precise about those characteristics of the college that are most attractive to you. The specificity of the essay may prove to them that you’re a good fit for their institution. If so, your DI campaign will have served its purpose well.