Is Demonstrated Interest in College Admissions Dead?

Demonstrated interest is a fancy admissions term for showing that you are interested in the school beyond just applying with the school name spelled right. Ways of demonstrating your interest can include touring, going to an admissions information session, doing an interview if it’s an option, taking part in their summer programs, or basically anything else that puts you on their radar before they hand down judgment on your application.

The “2017 State of College Admission: Executive Summary” by the National Association for College Admission Counseling listed demonstrated interest in one of the top factors in admissions decisions for first-year applicants (as opposed to transfers) after grades, high school curriculum, and test scores and alongside recommendations, class rank, and activities. Most schools, they said, take demonstrated interest into account and many (close to 20%) take it very seriously. If you want to get it, you show them.

If the role of demonstrated interest is so widespread, why the melodramatic title of this post? How could demonstrated interest possibly be going the way of the dinosaurs?

Well, take a look at Carnegie Mellon.

As one of the top schools in the country, Carnegie Mellon has an average acceptance rate of 9.6% across their undergraduate colleges.  

For a long time, they took demonstrated interest very seriously. In fact, there is still a page buried deep in their website that says they “strongly recommend that you have a campus visit before mid-November, which adds a personal touch to our evaluation.” They also ask students to attend on-campus events, information sessions on campus or remotely, interview with a staff member or alumni, or even enroll in a summer program. “By showing an interest in learning more about Carnegie Mellon,” they say, “you can enhance your application.”

Now get ready for the 180-degree turn.

NOW, as in for this year, Carnegie Mellon is no longer taking demonstrated interest into account. We repeat: They are not considering demonstrated interest as a part of your application. And they are making it loud and clear with a big banner across the top of their website.

They’ve published an entire webpage on why they have made this switch, but the gist of it is that demonstrated interest was a super exclusionary way of making an admissions decision. Some kids don’t have the finances to visit, to do a summer program, or simply don’t live near any remote info sessions (which are generally in cities). Other kids were not able to do interviews even if they wanted to because the demand for interviews is exceeding the supply of interviewers, even when alumni are recruited for the job, which is something that is affecting colleges across the country.

Carnegie Mellon says that  they are:

“shifting to focus more on diversity and inclusion of all populations by reducing or eliminating advantages that have been inherent in certain aspects of the admissions process. The goal is to provide a leveler playing field where all segments of our applicant population have the same opportunity in the admission process.”

We think that Carnegie Mellon’s move away from demonstrated interest is awesome because college admissions should be more equitable, but it also points to an evolving trend. Sure, maybe demonstrated interest is not fair, but admissions offices rarely change their entire process just because something isn’t fair. After all, the entire system isn’t fair to begin with!

Rather, we think it’s tied to numbers. An additional reason that Carnegie Mellon gives for making their decision was to encourage more people to apply by simplifying the process and making it less stressful. That’s all about numbers.

In 2018, Carnegie Mellon applications hit a new high. More people than ever applied, and this may be just another move towards pushing that number even further north. More applications for the same number of spots equals lower acceptance rates.

But what does this mean for you? Lots of schools are still taking demonstrated interest into account, so you shouldn’t throw away your bus tickets for the college visits you’ve been planning for months, but you should take some time to reconsider what the point of your visit is—It’s about you.

If it is possible for you to visit schools, you need to do it for YOU, not for an extra commendation on your application. Go to programs for you, interview so that you can learn more about the school, and tour so that you can get an idea of whether it is somewhere that you want to be. 

And then show your interest in your application. If the school has a supplement, show that you have done your research. For the umpteenth time, do not copy and paste answers. Show the college that just as you want them to pick you, you have already chosen them. Yes, even schools that aren’t your first choice should feel like they are. They should read your application and think, “Wow! She gets us!”

Demonstrate your interest on paper, and use all the other stuff as an educational opportunity for yourself.

Let us know if you need some extra help.