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"Demonstrated Interest" - Going from Candidate to Collegian

Updated: Sep 8, 2021

Chances are, you have never heard the phrase "Demonstrated Interest" before, but, depending on where you want to go to college, Demonstrated Interest may be one of the most important tools in your arsenal.

Demonstrated Interest

Today, it's easy to apply to a multitude of colleges with minimal effort using tools like the Common Application, and that certainly makes life easier for students who want to cast a wide net. For college admissions offices, though, it often makes it difficult to tell which applicants actually want to attend the school and which applicants are simply applying to every university with a recognizable name. Accordingly, many universities have turned to Demonstrated Interest as a way to denote which students genuinely care to attend the school. The concept is actually very straightforward: if you demonstrate interest, the school will take note, and this can help you to get in.

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, nearly half of schools rate an applicant's demonstrated interest as "Important" or "Very Important" when considering a student's application. Especially if you hope to attend a school with strong ideological underpinnings, it is incumbent upon you to demonstrate your interest.

So... how do I "demonstrate interest"?

In a recent podcast from the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the Senior Associate Dean of College Counseling at Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Bill Hancock, expounded on the idea:

One of the things about the last year is a lot of deans have been on panels and doing broadcasts and there is a philosophy out there that it’s not just demonstrated interest, but it’s demonstrated engagement. And the subtle, nuanced difference is demonstrated interest feels more like I’m checking this box off, and I got the email, I opened the email. But did you respond to the email? And that’s the difference between demonstrated interest, checking the box, opening the email, and demonstrated engagement, reading the email and responding appropriately. So, I think it’s important to have the mindset that if you’re interested in a college, you’re going to want to seek opportunities to engage with them.

"’s not just demonstrated interest, but it’s demonstrated engagement."

Keep in mind that the admissions officers reviewing your application are real people. Don't get so caught up in the application process that you start to treat every application like a robotic, box-checking exercise. Instead, be engaged. Here are a few simple ways to make it known that you are interested:

  • Be interested.

The most fundamental component is to actually be interested. If you really don't care to attend a particular school, your application is likely to reflect that - there's really no getting around it. Apply, then, to schools that you actually care to attend, and make a concerted effort to show your interest to each of them.

  • Talk about the school.

When you write your essay or answer longform questions, discuss your interest in the school - things you like about its history, principles that align with yours, renowned professors under whom you hope to study, etc. Don't go nuts, but do make it clear that you want to be at the school for a reason.

  • Set up a visit (and do the interview)!

Visit the school. Not only does this show that you're serious, but it may reveal something to you that you didn't know about the school... maybe even something you don't like. And, if you have the option to do an interview, do the interview, even if it's not required. Think about it from the perspective of an admissions officer. A student applies to your school, raves about the school and about fulfilling his or her dream of being a student at your university... but refuses to come to the campus to talk about it. That could well raise a red flag.

Early Action / Early Decision is your formal way to tell a college, "You're my school of choice." For colleges with an Early Action or Early Decision process, the acceptance rate can be two to four times higher for early applicants.

  • Keep in touch.

Check in periodically. Email a question, or call the admissions office if your question is more entailed. Get to know the recruiter or admissions officer assigned to your area. Don't inundate them, but do let them know you're excited to take your next step as a student at their university.

Which schools value Demonstrated Interest?

As a rule, Ivy League schools and large, public universities do not consider Demonstrated Interest (though there are a few exceptions). Mostly, it's relegated to the smaller private schools. Among the more notable schools that rate Demonstrated Interest as "very important" are research institutions like American University, conservative schools like Hillsdale College, HBCUs like Morehouse College, and military colleges like the U.S. Air Force Academy and U.S. Naval Academy. Additionally, nearby schools like College of the Ozarks, Kansas State University, and the University of Tulsa all consider Demonstrated Interest when they evaluate candidates.


Admissions Rate

Demonstrated Interest Weight

American University


Very Important

Hillsdale College


Very Important

Morehouse College


Very Important

Syracuse University


Very Important

United States Air Force Academy


Very Important

United States Naval Academy


Very Important

College of the Ozarks



Kansas State University



University of Tulsa



If you are unsure, it won't hurt to check in with your preferred school's admissions office.

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- Randy Biggs

Owner, Heritage College Prep



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