The 2021-2022 admissions cycle brought with it several surprises. Perhaps, the most stunning was watching some students with lower GPAs gain admission to schools that, historically would have been out of their academic reach, while other, academic high-fliers (valedictorians, perfect test scores, etc.) were denied admission at schools where they would have previously been a “shoo-in.” What’s the reason for this inverted admissions result?
Demonstrated interest includes all the ways students show they like a school. Why do colleges care if you like them? They are the ones making the decision, right? Well, not exactly.
A college’s reputation is determined by many things: winning football team, cool location, or famous alumni. But, one of the top drivers of a school’s popularity is its ranking; and, one of the top drivers of a school’s ranking is yield. Simply put, yield is the percent of students who accept a school’s offer of admission. The higher the yield, the higher the rank, and the more popular the school becomes. A student who takes the time to invest in learning about the school demonstrates interest and gives admissions the confidence that, should the student be offered a place in the incoming class, he or she is more likely to accept which increases yield, rankings, and popularity. It creates a virtuous cycle of selectivity (and tuition dollars).
According to The National Association of College Admissions Counselors 2018-2019 Trends Survey, 40% of colleges considered demonstrated interest to be of considerable or moderate importance in making admissions decisions. However, the advent of COVID in 2020 and the resulting surge in applications, made yields much less predictable. In this post-COVID world, colleges are struggling to accurately forecast the size of their class and, therefore, seem to be putting more and more emphasis on demonstrated interest.
You are likely familiar with the idea that many highly selective schools calculate an “academic index” to easily compare students’ academic performance and competitiveness, but did you know that schools like Wake Forest have long calculated an “LTA” or “likelihood to attend” score for each applicant, as well? In these cases, a student is given a point value for each possible activity that demonstrates interest. The points are tallied and create an LTA score which, like the Academic Index, is written on the front of the student’s admission folder for easy reference. When it comes to choosing between 2 students who may look very similar, the student with the higher LTA wins.
Here are some ways you can demonstrate interest at your target schools:
- Register with the admissions mailing list
- Participate in webinars and virtual events
- Open emails AND click on the links, answer the surveys, and show them you read it
- Attend admissions visits to your school
- Visit the campus, register for (and attend) the information session and tour
- Follow them on social media
- Email admissions officers (but don’t be annoying)
- Write a strong supplemental “Why” essay that shows your understanding of the school’s culture, educational philosophy, mission, academic and extra-curricular offerings
- Apply early
- Recognize that nothing is optional (interview, video, supplemental essays, etc.)
The ultimate demonstration of interest is to apply under the school’s binding early decision deadline if they offer it. But, if you aren’t able to do that, take the time to invest in the checklist above.