How to Demonstrate Interest in the College Application Process
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By Andrew Henrotin

“Demonstrated interest” is how a college applicant shows he or she is serious about attending a particular college. As high school students are applying to more and more schools, colleges are giving demonstrated interest extra consideration in determining admissions and financial aid decisions. The main reason for this trend is colleges want to admit students who are not only qualified for admissions but who are likely to enroll if admitted. Students who know what they want in a college experience, have done their research, and taken initiative in getting to know the colleges to which they are applying have a distinct advantage for admission. Data from the National Association for College Admission Counseling shows that 16.9 percent of four-year colleges say they view demonstrated interest as having “considerable importance” in admissions decisions, and another 33.3 percent see it as having “moderate importance.”

There are many ways to demonstrate interest. However, before students spend the necessary and valuable time showing their sincere appeal for certain schools, they must have genuine knowledge of those institutions and a genuine desire to attend them. The bottom line is students should only apply to schools they definitely want to attend, even if that means applying to fewer schools. Students can demonstrate interest in colleges in the following ways:

1) Visit the school’s website and request information. Filling out and submitting a basic online profile and questionnaire will get prospective applicants in the school’s “system” and on their radar screen. In addition, students will receive personalized application/admissions information and communications about upcoming events (counselor visits and local college fairs) in their area. It’s a great start to the application and admission process.

2) Identify and communicate with regional admission representative/counselor. Despite what some may think, the college application process is very personal. Real people read application files and have real discussions about each applicant. College admission counselors want to establish relationships with students. Students should make the effort to initiate contact with the regional counselor/representative (introductory e-mail and follow-up phone call) and introduce themselves at their high school visits and college fairs. Putting a face with a name when a student’s application file goes to the committee definitely helps.

3) Attend high school visits/information sessions and local college fairs. Admission officers are on the road in a lot, and it’s an excellent way for students to meet college admission counselors and ask them questions. Be sure to provide them with an academic resume.

4) Visit. Students are NOT required to visit a school BEFORE they apply, but they ABSOLUTELY should visit before they attend. Colleges understand visits are pricey and sometimes it makes more sense to visit after students get a letter of admission. However, if they are able to visit, it sends a strong message to the admission committee. After students visit, they should send an e-mail to their regional admission counselor letting them know their thoughts and impressions. A handwritten thank you note is always recommended.

5) Apply Early. The earlier you apply (not necessarily Early Action or Decision), the better. Students who write their essay over the summer and are ready to apply in September or October show more preparedness and give a positive sign of interest to admission officers.