On Showing Interest in Colleges

We credit Emory University with making Demonstrated Interest a major factor in highly selective college admissions.

A recent Newsweek piece by Jenni Fink entitled “Ignoring Emails From Colleges Could Hurt Students’ Chances At Being Accepted, Admissions Experts Say” focuses on the importance of Demonstrated Interest to our nation’s elite colleges. As one can intuit from the title, the writer makes the case that not opening mass emails from colleges and thereby not responding can hurt a student’s case for admission. The logic is that colleges want students who want them, that they want to admit students who actually have intentions of matriculating — and opening and responding to such emails is a predictor of intention to matriculate. And while any occasional reader of our college admissions blog knows that the underlying logic is sound — that colleges go to great lengths to manipulate their yield — the piece by Fink makes it seem like if a student doesn’t write back to formulaic mass emails sent by colleges that the student will be hurting his or her chances of admission. That’s ridiculous.

College Applicants Shouldn’t Reply to Mass Emails Sent by Colleges to Demonstrate Interest

Regardless of what these so-called “experts” say, Princeton is not going to deny a student admission because he hovered over their email for three minutes as opposed to eight minutes. Dartmouth is not going to deny a student admission because she didn’t respond to the mass email: “Thank you so much for sending me your mass email. It filled me with joy!” In fact, sending such a silly email in response to a college’s mass email is not a good way of demonstrating interest to an elite college. As our loyal readers know, there’s an expression in elite college admissions that goes, “The thicker the file, the thicker the applicant.” Such an email would only serve to make the applicant’s file thicker and make the applicant appear annoying. It goes without saying — but we’ll say it anyway! — that admissions officers don’t root for annoying applicants.

There Are Better Ways for College Applicants to Demonstrate Interest

Do some of our nation’s elite colleges track if their emails are opened? Sure. But college applicants should not get carried away feeling as though they need to open and respond to every email sent by colleges. That would be quite the task and it would not serve their case for admission. This kind of advice is the kind of advice that only serves to make the admissions process more stressful for all: “Oh my goodness. Cornell sent me a mass email on June 12th. It was in my spam folder. I didn’t write back! I’m never getting into Cornell now.” No, rest assured, that is not going to impact the student’s case for admission — in any way — to Cornell! But does Cornell care that you visit the campus? You bet. Does Cornell care that you answer their “Why Cornell” essay prompt with lots of specifics about how you’re going to contribute to their school, specifics that can’t apply to any school but Cornell? You bet. Now these are some genuine and powerful ways to demonstrate interest to an elite college — much more so than opening and responding to mass emails.

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