Group of students walking
Group of students walking

Demonstrating Interest & Maximizing Your Application

Some colleges, mostly the private ones, track interest. But what does “track interest” really mean? It means they consider your level of interest in their evaluation of you for admission. Students who demonstrate interest in meaningful ways are statistically more likely to enroll if admitted. This can help boost yield, lower admit rates, and ultimately help a college’s rankings. Said differently: Why would a college want to waste an acceptance on a student who is unlikely to attend?

Even if they don’t officially record this information, it’s valuable to show interest in the colleges on your list and make personal connections. There are passive and active ways to show interest. Passive means being on a school’s mailing list, for example, opening their emails, and looking at the links they share with you. Active means visiting the college campus in person or virtually in a live session, asking good questions in the Information Session or webinar, or directly emailing an admissions counselor with a question.

Here are a few pointers to make sure you are taking the right steps to “demonstrate interest:”

1.  Add yourself to all the mailing lists. of the schools you’re interested in through their admissions websites. Usually you can do this by searching under “Mailing list,” “Prospective Student,” or “Want more information?”

2.  Open the emails that colleges send you. They track this, and it’s important! Click on the actual links you are sent and navigate from there. No need to do this obsessively, but intermittently, it’s important to make sure you’re actively engaging. And guess what? You will learn so much about the school along the way.

3.  Plan campus visits in person when possible. Spring Break is a great time to see a school, but so are long weekends. Listen to what is highlighted in the information session and tour, and also remember that there might be a lot of marketing in what is presented, so read between the lines. Bucknell University has a great list of questions to consider asking while visiting colleges. You can access it here: 80 Questions to Ask on a College Campus Tour. Beyond actively engaging in a tour, try to meet with current students, eat lunch on campus, visit a class, or even talk to a professor or two to learn more. Meeting with a professor is most applicable if you know you are interested in a particular area; make sure you have read up on the program/department beforehand. Some professors are more amenable to this than others. You can also ask to meet with the admissions counselor who serves your region. In addition, some campuses offer on-campus interviews with admissions officers or students. If you choose this option, make sure you know your stuff beforehand!

Want more tips on how to maximize your time on campus? Check out our blog post on Navigating your College Visits.

4.  Attend virtual visits. (either synchronized or asynchronous) to learn about schools and show interest. Colleges have really ramped up their virtual visit opportunities, and you want to be sure to virtually or in-person visit every college on your list. The live events are great because they’re more interactive, but the advantage to the pre-recorded ones is that they can be viewed at any time, which is easier on your schedule.

5.  Meet them in your neck of the woods. College admissions counselors (often called “road warriors”) spend the bulk of the fall and part of the spring traveling their assigned recruiting territory to meet with students. High school visits, college fairs, and information sessions are all great opportunities to meet with representatives for the colleges on your list and to make a personal connection. Be sure to introduce yourself at any of these events, share your information (either through a contact card, QR code, or follow-up email to the counselor), and ask good questions. Pro tip: the student should take the lead here! Students, don’t hide behind your parents at the college fair booth or info session. Introduce yourself, ask some questions, and show some confidence!

You can read more about what to expect at a college fair in our blog post on the subject.

6.  Send direct and substantive emails to colleges asking specific questions. This is the next level of demonstrating interest. These really have to be substantive questions. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time with superfluous questions that would be easy to answer with minimal research, and you also don’t want to appear like you’re doing this just to show interest! Very often these email conversations will be linked to your application for the school’s future reference. You can ask a question any time, or link it to your visit (or interaction elsewhere, such as at a high school visit) with a question before you get there, or a follow-up question from a recent visit or off-campus meeting. You can also just reach out and start a dialogue. Pro tip: Highly selective schools are sometimes less responsive to these kinds of direct inquiries. Don’t take this personally! They won’t hurt you in any case. Other colleges will be responsive, and it is valuable to have a personal relationship with the counselor who handles your region, as this is likely the person who will be reading your application!

7.  Meet your admissions officer face-to-face if at all possible. This can be while visiting the campus, while they’re visiting your local area or high school, or maybe even on a personal Zoom call. I can still remember what it felt like to associate a face with a name when reading an application as an admissions counselor at Washington University in St. Louis. It really does make a difference. You just feel like you know that person better! Don’t be afraid to email them and ask if there are any opportunities for you to meet on campus, virtually, or in your hometown.

Bottom-line: showing interest has a lot of benefits and can’t hurt. Don’t make yourself crazy, as this kind of activity can become a full-time job, but make sure you are having substantive interactions with all of your schools. If putting yourself out there in a really active way is not in your comfort zone, at least do the more passive approaches to maximize your best chances for admissions.

Ready to take the next step? Schedule a free consultation with our admissions experts today! We’ll help you navigate the process and ensure you’re making the most of every opportunity to show interest and stand out to your top-choice schools. Schedule your consultation now.