9 Ways to Demonstrate Interest Virtually
WHAT is demonstrated interest?
Demonstrated interest means pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Colleges and universities are tracking how much you, as a prospective student, demonstrate your interest in their school. They want to see students who are enthusiastic and curious about their school. Show them how much you care.
We don’t know what you don’t tell us. Good news for you: that means you have a lot of power in this process. Help yourself out! During the coronavirus pandemic and shelter-in-place orders, a lot of colleges have cancelled their in-person campus visits, but there are certainly many other ways (that are more affordable and practical) to demonstrate your interest. We’ll get to those later on in the blog, but make sure that how ever you connect or learn more, you tell them! Yes, this might mean spending a few extra minutes to fill out the inquiry card or online form for a university, but it is worth it.
WHY do schools look at it?
With so many students applying to so many colleges, colleges are becoming increasingly concerned about their “yield” - that’s the number of admitted students who actually enroll. Every university has a target number of how many students they want to bring in every year based on things like class sizes and on-campus housing. For example, at Santa Clara University, we received over 16,000 first-year applications for fall 2020 and had a target of 1,425 enrolled students. Schools use historical trends, along with demonstrated interest, to determine how many students to admit each year.
Demonstrated interest can help colleges make an educated guess on how likely you are to enroll if admitted. And because colleges want to admit students that have demonstrated interest, it might end up being the factor that tips the admission scales in your favor.
Keep in mind that schools’ admission processes differ. Some colleges, like highly selective liberal arts colleges, might see demonstrated interest as very important and likely won’t admit you without it; some colleges may consider it for certain students (like those on the bubble who aren’t as academically strong as their peers); and other schools may not look at it at all.
So HOW can you demonstrate your interest? Here are 9 ways to do it:
- Attend virtual information sessions or campus tours. Most schools now offer online campus tours, chats, video presentations, and Q&As. You can find information about these offerings on a school’s admission website, like Santa Clara University’s, which includes a 1-hour conversation with admission counselors and current students.
- Explore virtual college fairs that can expose you to hundreds of colleges at one time. Check out Go To College Fairs and NACAC National College Fairs or talk to your high school college counselor to learn about your options.
- Be thoughtful and specific in your supplemental question responses. Many colleges have extra essay questions in their applications. Show the school that you understand who they are, what makes them unique, and why you’re a good fit.
- Introduce yourself to your admission counselor before applying. Many schools have specific staff who specialize in certain geographic areas. They will be the people advocating for you, so you want to make a good impression. One caveat: be smart and use good judgment. Since admission officers typically have full inboxes, don’t over communicate. Search Google and the university’s website first, then only email questions when you haven’t found the answers. You can find your counselor on most school’s admission websites, like this one for Santa Clara.
- Sign up for the school’s mailing list. For you, it’s a double win: it shows demonstrated interest and opens you up to future valuable information from the school. Here’s where you can get on SCU’s.
- Open emails from colleges! Click the links that you’re genuinely interested in. Some schools do track these behaviors.
- Do your own research on social media and online! Go on YouTube to watch videos from the university or current students to get a feel for the school. Follow accounts of colleges you like on Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook. Even better--if they have specific admission accounts, follow them too! Browse the university’s website and other forum sites like Reddit or College Confidential. And, of course, if you do any of this exploring, tell us which pages, conversations, videos, or posts you liked and why!
- Interview with the school if they conduct interviews as a part of their application process. Typically in these settings, you’ll get a chance to talk with an admission counselor, a student, or an alum. Even if it’s not mandatory, you should still consider doing it. (Note that SCU does not offer interviews.)
- Apply Early Decision if the school is your number one choice. You are signing a committed contract with the school saying that you will attend if admitted. It’s not for everyone, though; it’s a serious financial decision to make with your family because you will not know your financial aid package before making a commitment. Don’t worry If you can’t make that commitment. Instead, if a school has two different application deadlines, apply by the earlier deadline.
Even if a school doesn’t track demonstrated interest, it’s still great to follow the suggestions above to help with your own college research. Narrowing down your list of schools can take time, and it can seem overwhelming, especially if you had planned to visit campuses this spring or summer that have been cancelled. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to learn about colleges, interact with them, and show your interest without traveling.