108: Demonstrated Interest: How to Build Authentic Relationships with Colleges (and Why It's a Good Idea)



While my goal is to bring more ease, joy and purpose into the college application process, my topic today is demonstrated interest, and at first blush this may not sound like a great way to do that, but I hope by the time you finish this episode and read the accompanying practical guide you’ll start to see how this can be something important to know about and consider as you’re applying to college. On this episode, my guest Monica James and I discuss, among other things:

  • What the heck is demonstrated interest in the first place and why is it important to colleges?
  • What “yield” is and why there’s a multi-million dollar industry of people called “enrollment consultants” who use sophisticated predictive analytics to foresee which students will actually attend a particular school… and why that’s important
  • How to find out which colleges track demonstrated interest
  • If you discover that there’s a school you are very interested in… how do you go about demonstrating interest--some practical tips for that
  • Is it possible to go overboard and demonstrate too much interest?
  • And we even get into: should you or shouldn’t you like a college’s Facebook page?


0:30 What today’s podcast is about.
1:53 Who is Monica James?
2:35 What got Monica thinking about Demonstrated Interest in the first place
3:24 What happens when you email a university representative about why you want to attend.
4:30 The importance of humanizing the college essay process and developing authentic relationships with school administration.
5:33 What is Demonstrated Interest?
6:26 How important is demonstrated interest in getting into a school? 
7:02 So why is demonstrated interest so important to colleges?
7:51 What is a stealth applicant?
8:52 So what changed about the admissions landscape that made showing Demonstrated Interest more important?
10:24 What is yield? 
10:43 Why does yield matter?
12:03 How the decreased acceptance rate of highly selective school makes it easier to get into lower-ranking schools
12:33 “Most schools accept most students”: a surprising fact of college admissions
13:12 What is resorting? 
13:48 How resorting created a multi-million dollar industry: enrollment consulting. What is an enrollment consultant?
14:41 What kinds of data do enrollment consultants use?
16:39 How consultants use zip code and demographics to figure out if you’re going to matriculate.
17:46 How colleges use predictive data to help students stay academically engaged.
18:18 The shifting landscape: the number of college applications being sent is rising at a faster rate than actual students going to college
19:31 Which colleges and universities track Demonstrated Interest and which ones don’t? Is there a way to find out?
21:10 Selective colleges that track demonstrated interest.
21:16 How to figure out which schools track demonstrated interest: 1. Google the college’s name along with “demonstrated interest” or 2. Google “Common Data Set” followed by the name of the college (the CDS describes which factors are important to each college). (Note: here’s a list of Common Data Sets for many schools)
22:55 So how do you recommend students go about Demonstrating Interest? 
23:41 Step one: open the emails that are sent to you by colleges in the summer of your sophomore year.
24:56 How being responsive to college emails can get your application fee waived
25:28 How useful are college fairs? 
26:27 How to make the most of a college fair
26:45 Ethan’s experiment talking to reps a college fair: four out of five college reps will likely read student’s applications.
28:21 Remember that there are always human beings behind each college application process
29:11 Step two: In the Fall, college reps visit high schools: offers an opportunity for students to meet your rep and show your intellectual vitality
30:43 Step three: If a college you’re interested in holds a presentation at a local conference center, attend.
31:10 What is the role of admissions reps in the application process?
33:34 How meeting a college rep can help win you an advocate if your application ends up in committee.
33:51 What about the role of Social Media in Demonstrated interest? Should I delete my Facebook? Are colleges looking at my Facebook or Twitter?
35:15 How chatting with colleges online can help show demonstrated interest
35:27 How visiting colleges can help
39:30 Advice to students and parents that may be feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of demonstrating interest 36:40
39:14 How much does early decision help? How much does early action increase chances?
39:58 Does applying before the deadline help?
40:48 How much do supplemental essays matter?
42:14 How much do college interviews help?
42:59 Is it possible to go overboard with demonstrated interest? 42:59
43:26 What are some things to NOT do when demonstrating interest?
44:22 Show and Tell
46:16 Monica, why do you do what you do?