Demonstrating interest in colleges matters big time in highly selective college admissions.
One of the most common mistakes that students make when applying to highly selective colleges is that they don’t show these colleges they love them. Remember the HBO series, “Tell Me You Love Me”? The title applies to highly selective college admissions. But you have to do more than tell. You have to show. Think about it. So many highly qualified students apply for admission to these schools each and every year. But these schools only want to admit students who they think will attend. After all, it’ll hurt their yield data to admit students who have no interest in coming.
So how do you prove to these schools that you really do want to matriculate? For starters, visit the schools you want to get into — each and every one of them. Take a tour. Go to the information session. If you have school-specific login credentials, stay a while. Some schools even record the number of minutes you spend while logged into their platform. Many schools also ask a version of the following on their unique supplements: “Why do you want to go to this school?” It’s such an important essay and very few students get this right. As a general rule of thumb, any sentence that doesn’t uniquely apply to the school to which you’re applying (e.g., Penn offers an outstanding undergraduate education, inside and outside the classroom), it should be stricken from the record. That kind of sentence means absolutely nothing and the student isn’t fooling anyone that he has done his homework on the institution. He very easily could have cut and pasted that sentence from ten other “Why College” essays.
It’s not as though many admissions officers aren’t open and honest about the importance of demonstrating interest. In a piece up on “PBS Newshour” by Emmanuel Felton for “The Hechinger Report” entitled “The new tool colleges are using in admissions decisions: big data,” see what Tom Blum, the vice president of administration at Sarah Lawrence College has to say: “[Blum] acknowledged that its use of big data is designed to increase yield rates. He added, however, that ‘we do want to minimize instances where we’ve admitted a student that probably wasn’t the best fit for us. How interested an applicant was is heavily correlated with the student who is going to be a good fit and stay on past the first year.’
The pieces goes on, “‘This isn’t rocket science. Those students get our open curriculum, they get that we only have one major, they get that there’s a focus on independent study. And the students that understand those things and are excited about those things are the ones who are most likely to stay.’ ‘We are small enough to get away with having conversations about each applicant, we don’t use numerical formulas,’ said Blum. ‘But we do use all of the data to cross-check the human process of building a class that is diverse and likely to show up and stay around.'”
We applaud Blum’s candor. And he’s absolutely right. This isn’t rocket science.