The Ivy Coach Daily

October 11, 2023

On Demonstrating Interest to Colleges

On Demonstrating Interest To Colleges
Harvard admissions officers don’t care about Demonstrated Interest. But Harvard is the exception, not the rule.

Originally Published on February 28, 2019:

Is it essential for applicants to demonstrate interest in colleges? You bet it is! Is there a right way and a wrong way to demonstrate interest? Yes. Yet for those students who are aware of the importance of “Demonstrated Interest,” do most showcase their love to colleges in ways that undermine their case for admission? Yes, and it’s often due to fallacies perpetuated by teachers, parents, school counselors, private college counselors, and the press.

Many Elite Colleges Claim to Not Track Demonstrated Interest

In one such example, a few years ago, Forbes ran a piece about students showing their love to colleges. Regrettably, the article abounds in falsehoods about the longtime practice of elite colleges measuring a student’s interest.

In the piece, Nina Berler writes how some schools, like Carnegie Mellon University, openly tout how they don’t factor in a student’s interest. As Berler explains, “Last summer, Carnegie Mellon made its policy on demonstrated interest very clear when it announced: ‘We do not consider demonstrated interest in our admission paradigm…we do not consider a campus visit or communication with the Office of Admission or other members of the Carnegie Mellon community when making admission decisions.’”

Assume Most Elite Colleges Track Demonstrated Interest

But why oh why is Berler taking these schools at their word? Many schools also tout that they’re need-blind and don’t factor in a student’s ability to pay when weighing their case for admission. Yet then why do so many of these schools ask students if they’ll need financial aid on the application that admissions officers can read with their own two eyes? Why is the question not on a separate document that admissions officers aren’t privy to?

Colleges often don’t tell it like it is. Heck, Emory University — the school we have long credited for inventing Demonstrated Interest — states on its website that they don’t measure a student’s likelihood to enroll if admitted. When, in 2021, we at Ivy Coach called Emory’s admissions office out on their claim they haven’t measured Demonstrated Interest since the mid-2000s on Twitter, the school failed to back up their position in their reply and only doubled down on the fact that they write they don’t measure Demonstrated Interest on their website. It says everything.

Does Harvard Track Demonstrated Interest?

As a rule of thumb, assume that every college — except for Harvard Collegecares about Demonstrated Interest. Every college has a little bit of insecurity. Every college wants to know that a student will enroll if admitted. However, it’s safe to assume Harvard’s admissions officers strongly suspect you’ll come if accepted. After all, for the Harvard Class of 2027, the school’s yield was around 84% — and it’s not like the yield for last year was the least bit unusual for the institution.

Not All Contact is Good Contact in Elite College Admissions

In the Forbes piece, Berler outlines ways of demonstrating interest in colleges. She writes, “Filling out a card in the admissions office; Registering for a campus tour; Responding to or sending an email; Interacting with a college on social media; Submitting supplementary materials, links or videos.”

She’s right about filling out the card at the admissions office and registering for a tour (and information session, too!). Submitting a good email can help under the right circumstances (e.g., a thank you note after an admissions officer visits a student’s high school), but not just any email will do.

As to sending links or videos? No, that’s not necessary. In highly selective college admissions, an expression goes, “The thicker the file, the thicker the applicant.” And interacting with a school on social media? Writing comments to a post by a school’s admissions office on Instagram isn’t going to improve a student’s case for admission — sorry!

Make Effective Use of All Real Estate in Why College Essays

One of the very best and most effective ways to demonstrate interest is when a school — as they so often do — asks a version of: Why do you want to go here?

Whether it’s a 650-word “Why Cornell” essay or a 300-word “Why Northwestern” essay — essays both colleges asked during the 2022-2023 admissions cycle just as they did in many prior years — each sentence should be filled with specifics on the school and how you’re going to contribute to that particular school.

If a sentence can apply to any school in America, strike it from the record and make better use of the real estate to demonstrate your genuine interest in that college. Yes, that means name-dropping professors who may or may not be there next year is off-limits. So too is listing courses that you can cut and paste from one school’s course catalog to the next (it’s not a game of Mad Libs!).

Penning generic sentences that can apply to any school — like touting the beautiful campus or diverse student body — also is an opportunity cost. What could the applicant have written in this space instead of sentences that work for just about any institution in America?

Ivy Coach’s Assistance Demonstrating Interest

Helping students showcase interest effectively in America’s elite colleges is an ingredient of Ivy Coach‘s secret sauce. If you’re interested in learning how to more effectively demonstrate interest, fill out our free consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to outline our college counseling services.

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