How To Show Demonstrated Interest

Have you heard of "demonstrated interest"? It's one of those phrases that can cause some confusion for students -- and parents  -- as they go through  the college application process. Luckily, educational psychologist Jane McClure returns this month to demystify "demonstrated interest" and provide six action items for students to -- what else? -- demonstrate interest.

By now, your applications have been submitted.  Whew!  What a relief!  So now you just wait, right?  Well, no, not exactly.  There are some actions you can take that will make a difference at many colleges, particularly independent colleges and universities.  It’s called “demonstrated interest.”  Students show demonstrated interest when they take various actions that signal to a school that they are seriously considering it. And it can possibly enhance your chances of admission.

It’s important to understand that NOT ALL colleges factor demonstrated interest into their admission process; but many do.  Some colleges are straightforward about it and let students know that they are looking for various types of contact. Other colleges keep track of contacts, but don’t advertise the fact.  When students’ demonstrated interest first became a part of the process at many schools, I thought it was silly and a waste of students’ time; but I’ve changed my mind.  As it turns out, it can motivate students to interact with colleges in ways that they would not have otherwise.  In the process, they make contacts that are beneficial and they learn about programs and opportunities that become important when it comes time to make that final decision about which college to attend.  Here’s how it works.

Let’s say you apply to a college using the Common Application and that’s all they hear from you.  You send in the Supplement and all the supporting documentation required, but that’s it.  At some colleges -- those where demonstrated interest is a factor in admission decisions -- you may be put on the Wait List and not receive a letter of acceptance.  While this may not seem fair, colleges want to admit students who are genuinely considering attending.  Colleges want a high “yield,” which is the percentage of students they admit who actually enroll.  If they only receive an application and nothing else, that isn’t encouraging to them. 

So how can you demonstrate that you are a serious applicant and that there is a reasonable chance you will attend this college if admitted?  There are lots of ways. 

1.       Visit the college, before you apply or after you apply but before the decisions are out.  When you visit, make sure you take the student guided tour and fill out the information card….so they know that you have been there.

2.      Have an interview on or off campus, if possible.  After the interview, send a thank-you note to the interviewer.

3.      If an admission counselor comes to your school or your town and you are invited for an information session or an interview, GO!  If you can’t go, respond to the invitation with gratitude and explain why you can’t make it:  an exam, a game, a play rehearsal, etc.

4.      Keep in touch with the admission counselor who visits your region and is the first reader of your school’s applications.  If you receive recognition for something after you’ve sent in your application, let him or her know about it.  This could be recognition that's academic, athletic, artistic, or for some extracurricular activity.

5.      If you are interested in a particular major, contact that department to find out about internship opportunities or areas of professors’ emphases.  If a professor is impressed with your level of interest, he or she is likely to let the admission office know.

6.      Similarly, if there is a particular activity that interests you, be in touch with the person in charge:  soccer coach, Hillel Director, head of the music or theater department, debate team coach, faculty advisor to the campus newspaper, etc.

Don’t bother trying to figure out which colleges include “demonstrated interest” in their admission decision.  Instead, take a little time to demonstrate your genuine interest in each college to which you have applied.  It can’t hurt, it might help, and you will very like gain some valuable information in the process.  Good luck!


Jane McClure is a Licensed Educational Psychologist (LEP 1605) and educational consultant whose work focuses on college counseling and psychoeducational evaluations.  McClure was a partner at San Francisco’s McClure, Mallory, Baron & Ross for more than 20 years. Previously named Educational Psychologist of the Year by the California Association of Licensed Educational Psychologists, McClure recently received the WACAC Service Award from the Western Association of College Admission Counseling. For the College Board, she has presented workshops for guidance counselors related to counseling college-bound students who have learning disabilities and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and worked as a consultant on issues related to services for students with disabilities.   


Great article! It's very true and helpful. I also like it because you offer solid suggestions for how the applicants can take active steps that might benefit them during this stressful waiting period. Thanks for your article!

Thanks for your kind words. Yes! Students need action items, especially when it comes to the buzzwords used in college admission. And demonstrated interest is important to understand! Students need to know that colleges are paying attention.

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