Guide to US Applications • Undergraduate

Demonstrated Interest: Why it’s Important for Undergraduate Admissions

POSTED ON 08/03/2023 BY The Red Pen

A prospective student on a campus tour.

Many US colleges for international students have become highly selective. Harvard University’s acceptance rate fell from 10.5 percent to 3.19 percent within a decade. Besides the best and brightest, universities are looking for sincerity. Students must demonstrate interest to express their desire to join the college. 

What is demonstrated interest? 

Unlike your grades, test scores, and extracurriculars, demonstrated interest isn’t something you can explicitly put into your application. It’s the act of showing your interest in a particular college through university tours, campus walks, overnight visits, information sessions and communication with faculty. When the choice is down to two applicants with similar credentials vying for the same spot, the college might select the student who has established contact and shown more interest in the institution. 

Why is demonstrated interest important?

Demonstrated interest is a tool that helps colleges predict the admissions yield or the percentage of students who enrol after securing admissions. Let’s say that a certain college has offered admission to 1,000 students. If 500 students accept the offer, the college’s admissions yield is 50 percent. Colleges measure their popularity and strength by admissions yield and are motivated to extend an admissions offer to a student who is more likely to enrol. 

Is demonstrated interest required by every college? 

Not all colleges give the same value to demonstrated interest. James Nondorf, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at the University of Chicago, mentioned in his latest address to students that the university does not consider demonstrated interest. The same applies to Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Amherst College, Claremont Mckenna College, Colgate University, Bucknell University and California Institute of Technology, to name a few. However, according to the 2018-2019 National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) survey, several schools consider demonstrated interest to some extent. 

How can I effectively demonstrate interest?  

If you’re applying to colleges where demonstrated interest is a factor, here are a few things you can do: 

1) Apply early

There is no greater culmination of sustained demonstrated interest than showing a college they are your first choice by applying early. Several colleges offer early application programmes like Early Decision, Early Action, and Restricted Early Action, which improve your chances of securing admission. The Early Decision acceptance rate of Columbia University was 11.3 percent as compared to the Regular Decision acceptance rate of three percent in the 2023 admission cycle. 

2) Visit the college

An in-person campus tour and information session is one of the best ways to demonstrate that the university ranks high on your college list. Besides helping you determine whether you’re a good fit for the college, a campus visit shows personal initiative and sincerity in learning about the institution. Opt for university virtual tours if a physical visit isn’t possible. You may even remotely attend online college fairs, which host admissions officers.  But regardless of the format of your visit, if you speak with a school representative, always follow up with thank you mail that summarises your conversation and specifically notes your interest in attending their institution. For example, don’t just say, “I loved learning about college X”. Instead, mention, “After the session, I realise that college X’s programme in _____ would be a perfect fit, considering my involvement in _____.” 

3) Make the most of your essay

“Why this college?” is a common topic for supplemental essays. It gives you a platform to demonstrate utilising an institution’s academic and extracurricular resources. A well-researched essay showcases your effort and eagerness to enrol in a specific university and should demonstrate a perfect match. Admission officers spend considerable time reading applications and know when you’ve worked hard on your essay. If another college name can be substituted in your essay, you probably need to dig deeper into the specific offerings of the institution. 

4) Sign up for information sessions and webinars 

Universities have implemented innovative ways of reaching out to international students. Their representatives often host online information sessions and webinars to provide general information, such as academic programmes offered, institutes’ financial aid for international students, etc. Attending these events enables you to gather details, which you can use in your application, and it also shows your enthusiasm and eagerness to join a particular university. Remember, colleges usually track attendance at these events. 

5) Know your admissions officer but don’t go overboard

If the admission committee is on the fence and cannot decide whether to admit you, it’s much easier for an admission officer to vouch for you if they know you. So, stay in touch via email but make your interactions impactful and meaningful. Don’t bombard an officer with questions or for information that’s on the college website.

6) Connect with professors but never fake interest

Reach out to professors with genuine queries. You can mention these interactions in your essay to demonstrate curiosity and proactiveness. But before you contact them, learn about the department, read up on the university’s research and ensure your interests align. Don’t gush about the Cold War in your email to a professor whose speciality is 18th Century Industrial England.

7) Fill up information request forms online

Every college features a page on its admission website where you can request general information, subscribe to its newsletter, and ask for details on academic programmes that appeal to you. Doing this shows the university that you’re keen on learning about it. After that, expect a lot of reading material in your inbox.

8) Open university emails and spend time on the school website

Admission offices know when you open a mail and how quickly you open them. So when you get a college mail (even if it’s a reminder), open it as soon as possible. Schools also track and record your activity on their website. So, spend time browsing their web pages. Click on the links these pages provide. Besides giving you valuable information, the college gets notified when you click their links. But clicking on every link on every web page doesn’t increase your chances of securing admission. Just follow what interests you. 

9) Follow the university on social media

Liking the school’s various social media posts and asking any relevant questions in the comments will display your interest in the institution and expose you to dynamic information on campus life. Of course, don’t comment negatively or post responses that reflect on you poorly. 

10) Target your dream colleges

Focus on one or two colleges you would give an arm and leg to attend. This way, your demonstrated interest will come across as genuine and have far more potential. 

Apart from showing a college your keenness to attend, an exercise in demonstrated interest also helps you decipher whether the university is the best fit for you. Read The Ultimate Guide to Undergraduate Courses in the US and Nuances of How to Apply to Undergraduate US Universities. Please get in touch if you need further guidance with demonstrating interest or any application component. Our expert US undergraduate admission counsellors look forward to helping you.