Interviews and Interest: Getting to Know Each College
“But that’s only my backup college; why do I need to visit?”
“Do I have to complete the optional essay?”
“Does it really matter if I don’t do the interview?”
As a college counselor, whenever I get questions like this from students, my answer is usually the same:
“Yes, because that college considers demonstrated interest.”
This usually requires an explanation of what “demonstrated interest” is, which is not surprising in itself, because demonstrated interest is a murky part of the admissions process. Very simply, demonstrated interest is a term that colleges use to predict whether a student is more likely to enroll if they’re admitted. Colleges really want to ensure that they enroll enough students to fill their class. The students who are most “interested” in a college are the students most likely to attend. Makes sense so far, right?
When you’re thinking about demonstrated interest in the admissions process, you should ask yourself two main questions:
- Does the college or university even consider demonstrated interest?
- What are the ways that I can demonstrate interest?
Let’s start with the first question. Not all colleges consider demonstrated interest. Generally, the very large institutions and highly selective institutions (think Ivy League, Stanford, and MIT), do not consider demonstrated interest in their processes. Many smaller and medium-sized colleges do. However, many colleges are not explicit about this. Some clues that suggest a college considers demonstrated interest in their admission process are:
- The college offers on-campus interviews
- The college lists regional admissions officers on their website
When in doubt, you can also check the Common Data Set to see whether the college considers demonstrated interest. If you are interested in whether another school considers it, just Google ‘[Specific College] Common Data Set’.
See this example:
Now, onto the second question: how can you “demonstrate” interest?
There are multiple ways to demonstrate interest including:
Most colleges ask you to register for campus visits. Do you know why they do that? They do it so they have a record of every student who has been on campus. This is something that is absolutely reviewed by many admissions officers. More importantly, campus visits can give you a great opportunity to tour the campus, meet with admissions officers, sit in on a class, and even do an overnight visit with a current student. If scheduling a visit is too expensive for your family, remember that many colleges offer fly-out programs with funding for underrepresented and first-generation students.
There are four main types of interviews that you could encounter:
- On-Campus interviews with an admissions officer or current student
- Off-campus interviews with an admissions officer (which could be at a local library or coffee shop)
- Off-campus interviews with an alumni
- Skype interviews
Different colleges offer different interview options, so don’t expect every college to offer all four of these options. In fact, many colleges don’t offer interviews at all. However, if a college you’re interested in offers you an interview, it is something that you should absolutely take advantage of. Ideally, you should do an on-campus interview if it is offered, but an off-campus interview is fine too.
Attend a College Fair
College fairs are the most efficient way to learn about multiple colleges in a quick time frame. Check with your guidance counselor about local fairs (your school might even host one). At the college fair, feel free to explore different colleges and ask the admissions representatives questions. Also, be sure to sign up for the college’s mailing list (so the college has a record of you attending the college fair).
Email your regional admissions representative
If you are not able to visit campus or attend a college fair, you can instead email your regional admissions representative (if they happen to be listed on the college website). This can be a great opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions representative and explain why you are interested in that college. I would also suggest asking a few thoughtful questions that you can’t find answered on the college website.
Final Thoughts on Demonstrated Interest
More demonstrated interest is not always better. You do not need to email your regional admissions officer every single day or visit the college 3-4 times. A single campus visit, an interview, and a thoughtful email to your admissions representative is sufficient.
Demonstrated “dis-interest” is also a thing. If a college you are considering offers you any additional opportunities during your application journey, you should do it (whether that is an essay or an interview). Similarly, if you fail to show up for an interview (even at a college that technically doesn’t require demonstrated interest), the admissions office will take note.
At the end of the day, demonstrated interest is just one part of the holistic admissions review process, but can be an important factor for candidates who have competitive, but perhaps not extraordinary, test scores and grades in the context of the college’s applicant pool.
Join Will next month as he hosts a free webinar on Interviews and Interest: Getting to Know Each College. Sign up here.
Will Geiger, Story2. Will is a veteran of the college admissions process who has read thousands of applications and successfully counseled hundreds of students through the admissions process. Story2 teaches students applying to college how to write powerful personal statements, supplemental essays, and scholarship essays. Previously, Will was the Associate Director of College Counseling at an independent school in Connecticut and a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at Kenyon College. Will is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the University of Pennsylvania.