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Three Steps to Demonstrate Interest in a Remote College Admissions World

With in-person visits canceled, for now, a lot of families are confused about how to engage with colleges, learn about the campuses, and show schools that they’re really interested. This article will outline the exact steps you can take!

What is Demonstrated Interest, and Why does it matter?

Every year colleges across the country get far more applications than they have spots for first-year students. Additionally, students apply to more colleges than they did in the past (an average of 7-10 colleges). This increase in applications and applicants means that colleges have to make hard decisions about which students to admit. 

 A significant portion of this decision-making is based on merit (test scores, GPA, extracurriculars) and the application’s overall strength. However, there is one additional area that many colleges, especially small and medium-sized ones, look at, and that is Demonstrated Interest.  

Demonstrated Interest is when a student has engaged with the college, often in the form of an in-person visit, to show that they are seriously considering the school and have a greater likelihood of enrolling. Colleges care about which students are likely to enroll because it impacts their yield, a critical enrollment management metric

A party invitation scenario best explains yield. If you were to throw a party and planned on having 100 attendees, you would invite people who were likely to say yes. You would not pass out your invitations at random to strangers. There might not be a party if you did that! Colleges view offers of admission in a similar light. The percentage of students who accept an admission offer is the yield, and that percentage is essential in ranking and also managing the size and makeup of the incoming class. 

Demonstrated Interest During COVID

Before the start of the pandemic, visiting a college in person and attending both an information session and campus tour was the most common form of Demonstrated Interest, but not always manageable for everyone due to cost and time constraints. Thus, Demonstrated Interest, while important, was not always considered essential. However, with all of the online offerings available now, colleges will be looking at Demonstrated Interest in a new light

Below are the best ways to engage in this new virtual world!

Step 1: Get Started with College Email Lists

One of the easiest ways to show Demonstrated Interest is to sign up for the college’s mailing list. Signing up is as simple as going to the college’s website, navigating to the admissions page, and looking for the “Contact Us” sign-up form. For students at the beginning of the college search process, this is a great first step. By signing up for the mailing list, colleges will know the student is interested and will start to include them in informational emails, event announcements, and physical mailings. 

Step 2: Narrow the Field with Virtual Visits

The next step in showing Demonstrated Interest is to sign up for an online virtual tour and information session. The sign-ups for these sessions can usually be found by going to the undergraduate admissions website for a given college. It is important to know that the tour and information session are two different things, the first being a tour of the campus and buildings and the latter being a general overview of the college/university. Typically the information session will cover things like academic offerings, campus life, and admissions. 

These sessions each last approximately one hour, and students should be sure to take notes since the information presented will help answer application questions such as the typical “Why Us?” prompt. Attending the general information session and campus tour should provide the student with enough information to determine whether further investigation is warranted and possibly even whether to apply.

In addition to the online sessions, students can also spend time on the college’s official YouTube channel, which often will feature interviews with current students, videos of campus traditions, and even tours of dorm rooms. While watching YouTube won’t count towards Demonstrated Interest, it is an excellent way for students to get more of the visual information they would have absorbed on a traditional campus tour. 

If a college is still of interest after completing the above steps, then the student should move on to Getting Serious. 

Step 3: Get Serious with Virtual Sessions Tailored to Your Interests

In addition to the general information sessions and campus tours described above, many colleges are now offering virtual sessions that are school or major-specific. For example, there might separate sessions available for engineering, business, arts and sciences, education, etc. Also, many colleges have started offering campus life information sessions, live student panels, and even one-on-one meetings with admissions officers. Note, not all colleges have all offerings! These more specific virtual sessions are a great way to show Demonstrated Interest on a higher level. 


While in-person visits may not be possible this year, the new array of virtual offerings make it possible for students to explore colleges and demonstrate interest. By following the steps above, students can slowly narrow the search so the process is manageable. The most important thing is to keep an open mind, learn more about the options, and have fun along the way. 

Kate Harmer of Catalyst College Counseling provides comprehensive college counseling services to students and families navigating the complicated college admission process. Kate holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a MPH/MBA dual degree from Emory University.

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