Demonstrated Interest: The Benefits of Letting a College Know You Care

When a student is considering applying to a college, it can pay – literally – to let the college know. This is called “demonstrated interest,” and it can deliver an acceptance letter and a great college financial aid package. While demonstrated interest isn’t as much of a factor for public universities, it can definitely tip the scales in a student’s favor with many private colleges.

Request Info

A student can let a college know they care in many different ways. A great place to start is to request information from the college via the university’s website. When a student requests information from the University of Chicago’s website, for example, the school begins collecting data. It requires the basics, such as name, mailing address, email, and birthdate, but allows a student to provide much more – everything from their high school and parent’s email address to their intended major, extracurricular interests, and varsity sports.

Release Info

During the PSAT, SAT, and ACT, students can elect to release their contact information to colleges. This is almost always a great idea, as it will let the college know that the student exists. Once the student receives marketing material in the mail (and they will), the student can demonstrate interest by returning the enclosed postcard or following the directions in the letter to register with the college website.

Get Social

There’s no doubt that colleges want to connect socially, so following their Facebook, Flickr, Tubmlr, Twitter, and YouTube accounts can be beneficial – if the student has a spotless social media presence. If the student is seriously considering a university and can afford a pre-application visit, they should make sure to register online for a campus tour, class visits, or even an overnight stay. Each of these will express demonstrated interest.

If a visit is out of the question, a student can often catch a university representative at a high school campus visit or college fair. The key is to ensure that the representative takes down the student’s information, as it will ultimately be added to the school’s record of contacts.

Apply Early

An early application can also show demonstrated interest, but refrain from applying “early decision” unless you’re willing and able to pay full sticker price. Early decision acceptances are binding for the student, but not for the university. Still, applying early action, which is non-binding, is a way to demonstrate interest.

Leverage Essays

In the student’s Common App application, they should use any supplemental essays to tie in their familiarity with the college and their passion for attending. While the student’s sentiments need to be from the heart, supplemental essays are a great way to demonstrate interest.

Grab an Interview

Once a student has applied, they should try and secure an interview. Admission interviews are often conducted by local alumni, and so are generally accessible. It pays to thoroughly research the college and the student’s intended major, and then to ask thoughtful questions that are specific to that university.

Demonstrated Interest Provides an Edge

Across today’s landscape, universities are awash with qualified applicants. While not every college tracks demonstrated interest, expressing interest early and often is a way to stand out from the crowd. If the admissions committee is reviewing applications from two very similar students, they’ll almost always select the one who has had significant contact with the school.

But here’s the kicker: Some private universities consider demonstrated interest when developing financial aid packages for admitted students. The students with demonstrated interest receive what’s called “preferential packaging.” That’s why showing interest can result in greater institutional scholarships and grants. In other words, it can literally pay.

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About the Author:

Sally Smith is a college and scholarship coach who helps families navigate the path after high school. She facilitates in-person and online group workshops, and provides one-on-one coaching on a variety of topics. Sally can help families gain an understanding of the college selection, application, and decision process; pinpoint scholarship opportunities; write effective college admission and scholarship essays; decipher the FAFSA and CSS Profile; gather stellar letters of recommendation; and develop strategies for college entrance testing and test preparation. To learn more about the services she provides and to schedule a free 30-minute consultation, visit

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