When colleges consider applicants, they are interested in several factors. At the majority of institutions, the most important factors are whether students challenged themselves in high school and took the most rigorous classes available to them, as well as their GPA. But, colleges consider other factors too, such as letters of recommendation, test scores, essays and demonstrated interest (DI). Not all colleges track DI, but if you’re applying to one that does, you need to understand what it means.

According to IvyWise.com, “demonstrated interest is the amount of interaction and interest a student has shown in a particular college or university. This includes how they’ve interacted online, in person, and how they show they’ve done their research when applying.”

College admissions officers know that most students apply to several colleges, but in the end they can only attend one. The amount of interest a student has shown in a particular college is a good predictor of how likely they are to attend if offered admission. When evaluating applicants with similar GPAs, test scores, rigor, etc., admissions officers are likely to favor students who seem more interested in their institution. Think about it this way: who are you more likely to want to hang out with? The person who seems to really like you, or the one who consistently ignores you?

So, how can you demonstrate interest? Most students and parents think the only answer is “visit the college.” While this may be the most obvious way, it’s not the only way. Many students can’t take the time or spend the money needed to visit multiple colleges in person. Luckily, there are plenty of other options:

  • Join the college’s mailing list and open the emails they send you (they’ll know if you do!)
  • Attend virtual information sessions and campus tours
  • Follow the college on social media
  • Contact your regional admissions officer by email or, even better, by phone with questions (make sure the answers are not easily found online)
  • Attend admissions officers’ visits at your high school
  • Attend college fairs in your area
  • Participate in an admissions interview (if offered)

While this may seem like a great deal of effort just to tell a college you like them, demonstrating interest can benefit you, too. In addition to doing the things listed above, you should also research the college using its website as well as third party sites such as Niche, Cappex, the Fiske Guide and CampusReel. You’ll find out what you like, what you don’t like and whether or not a particular institution is a good fit. You’ll also have ample information to use when answering the “why us?” supplemental essay prompt asked by many colleges.

To find out how much emphasis individual colleges place on DI, check out CollegeData.com. Simply type in the name of the institution you are interested in, click on the Admissions tab and scroll down to the Selection of Students section. Here you’ll see a list of all the factors colleges consider when evaluating students and whether or not each one is Very Important, Important, Considered or Not Considered. If a college you are excited about indicates DI (listed as “level of applicant’s interest”) is important or very important, it will be worth your time to let them know just how much you like them.