Understanding the Role of Demonstrated Interest

It’s June, AP and final exams are in the rear-view mirror, and summer is on the horizon. Time for summer romance! Here’s how it’s going to work—summer is a great time to fall in love with college(s), and what’s more, to show the love. Thought of as a new relationship, it’s easier to understand why it might be in your best interest to do so.

Murilo demonstrates his interest in NYU Stern!

Murilo demonstrates his interest in NYU Stern!

Think of it this way—during the school year, you’re focused on classes, your GPA, sports, activities, leadership, standardized testing, etc. You’re pursuing your academic and extra-curricular interests and all the while wondering, “will colleges want me?” But increasingly, colleges and universities, even those who do want you, are wondering— “but will you matriculate?” The admission process is its own peculiar courtship, and summer is a great time to reflect on the rituals that can result in proposals (ahem, offers of admission), and to plan accordingly.

One way to express your interest in a particular college of course is to consider applying “early” (action or decision). The proliferation of early admission plans (e.g. Early Action, Restricted Early Action, Early Decision I or II) is one method colleges use to hedge their bets, “we are interested in you, but will you say yes?!” and thereby manipulate “yield” (the percentage of admitted students who matriculate). But sometimes, much earlier in the courtship process, colleges are looking for signs. Even when college admission representatives are circumspect on this topic, you should know that many colleges are tracking your “demonstrated interest”. It’s worth finding out whether your top prospects do so, and if so, summer is a great time to start that relationship.

How will I know?

Sometimes college admission offices or websites are upfront about the extent to which they track interest demonstrated by prospective students throughout the undergraduate admission process. But all colleges and universities disclose this information when they complete The Common Data Set, “a collaborative effort in the higher education community to improve the quality and accuracy of information provided to all in a student’s transition into higher education”. In addition to providing a useful snapshot of enrollment and programming available at a college or university, Section C of the Common Data Set is devoted to First-Time, First-Year (Freshman) Admission Data and Data Element C7 specifically ranks the “Relative importance of each of the following academic and non-academic factors in first-time, first-year, degree-seeking (freshman) admission decisions. At the very end of this data table, schools indicate where “Level of applicant’s interest” (in the institution) ranks in significance on a scale from “Very Important” to “Not Considered.”

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What can I do about it?

Knowing whether your top prospects need reassurance can help you plan your overtures—whether this means prioritizing campus visits or intensifying your responsiveness to electronic communications. Say you’re determined to attend college in the vicinity of Washington D.C. for example, and you’re planning to visit a few schools, trying to determine where you’ll officially attend information sessions and student-led tours. Google a college prospect, e.g. “American University” + “Common Data Set” and typically you’ll land on the Institutional Research portion of a school’s website, where the Common Data Set resides. In this case, a quick search might reveal the following with respect to the significance of “Level of Applicant’s interest.”

If you find that the majority of your top prospects are somewhat…high maintenance when it comes to showing how likely you are to say “yes!” to an offer of admission, you might consider setting up a separate email account strictly for college application purposes so that you can be sure to carefully click, manage, and respond to intense communications coming from schools that track whether you take the time to show your interest.

As in most relationships, it helps to understand what’s important to your intended! When demonstrated interest counts, dare to compare thee (college) to a summer’s day or better yet, ask yourself, “how do I love thee” and let them count the ways….