How Important is Demonstrated Interest for College?

“Demonstrated interest” is a term that gets thrown around a lot during the college process. People say that it’s so important, or crucial, sometimes they say it’s not important at all.

Let’s start with a plain definition, shall we?

Demonstrated interest: (noun)

  • The amount to which a student may illustrate their enthusiasm for attending one particular college over others.
  • Action-oriented participation in the pre-application portion of the college application process.

One may accomplish varying levels of demonstrated interest by participating in one or more of the following for a particular college: visiting, registering for emails from the school through the website, attending a local information session, setting up an on-campus interview, etc.

Ultimately, let’s just say that demonstrated interested is not as important as you think but it is important enough that you should not ignore it completely. It’s not completely false that demonstrated interest matters to colleges, but what we always emphasize to students is that your application matters most. If you do not have the grades or scores to apply to a college but you have demonstrated interest...tough stuff. (Read: it won’t make up 5 points on the ACT.) They likely still won’t consider you. On the other hand, if you’re already in the running as an applicant and you have demonstrated interest, it just might be the thing that tips the scales in your favor.

Think about it: Applicant A is highly qualified, but lives sort of nearby (an hour away) and has never visited, attended an info session at their high school, or even signed up for emails. Applicant B is also very qualified and they have indeed visited, signed up for emails, set up an on-campus interview, and went to an info session at their high school, despite living 3 hours away. We can predict that Applicant B is getting in. It’s clear that Applicant B is actually interested in the school and hasn’t arbitrarily added it to their list.

This also brings us to the visiting question—if a school is pretty close to your home, you should probably visit. It’ll look weird if you don’t. It’ll seems like you don’t want to attend because you haven’t even done the minimum despite your close proximity. The opposite is not true though—if a school is very far away from where you live, a college would never hold it against you if you haven’t visited. They understand circumstances and are not unreasonable. Visit as many schools as you can, given your abilities. Don’t break the bank visiting a school on the opposite coast just to demonstrate interest. Wait until they accept you to do that.

Students sometimes ask us what more they can do to demonstrate interest, as they have already checked all of the available boxes for demonstrating interest in a certain school. If you’re in that situation, we’d advise reaching out to a professor, department, or even a current student to gain a deeper understanding of the school. Having a conversation with a professor or student gives you a more nuanced understanding of the school because you’re operating outside of the school’s marketing scheme (which is what tours are, essentially). They will likely be more frank and honest with you and you can ask your more detailed questions that you may have felt uncomfortable asking during an information session.

Here are your take home points:

  • Demonstrated interest is more than just impressing a college by touring the campus. It’s about your actual worthiness as a candidate—if your numbers don’t stack up and if you’re not a worthy candidate, demonstrated interest means zilch.
  • It’s necessary to be strategic in where you devote your time and energy to visiting. It might be more important to visit certain schools on your list over others. Call us if you need help figuring out a plan for this. You only have so much time, so you might as well be specific and demonstrate interest in schools where it will actually help.

If you’re not sure if it’s worth touring a school, let us know. We’re experts at this, and can help you streamline this process. If you have any questions, just send us a note.