How to Share Your Demonstrated Interest in Your College Essays
by Will Geiger, on Nov 7, 2016 7:00:00 AM
“If only he had interviewed, visited, or at least sent us an e-mail...then maybe he could have been admitted...”
I remember thinking when reading Jack’s file. In many ways, he was an ideal applicant: strong grades that were trending upwards, a wickedly funny personal essay that showed his wit, and recommendations that painted the picture of a highly curious and engaged classmate. At the same time, Kenyon College, where I served as Senior Assistant Director of Admissions, was a highly selective school and there were many fewer spots than qualified applicants. At Kenyon, there were many Jacks each year, great applicants who we had absolutely no contact with. This particular Jack would wind up on the waiting list, with the thought that he could perhaps state his case from there.
As Kenyon is a highly selective, small liberal arts college, “demonstrated interest” is an important part of the admissions review process. At many schools, this is becoming increasingly more important with so many students applying to so many colleges. Colleges want to make sure that they will enroll the amount of students that they need and considering demonstrated interest in the admissions process is a good way of accomplishing this (and predicting whether a student will enroll).
From this experience at Kenyon I’ve found that it’s extremely important for students to demonstrate interest and connect with the colleges that they are interested in. While demonstrated interest is part of the admissions review, many colleges are also looking for students who are good “fits” for their institutions.
So what is demonstrated interest?
Demonstrated interest is any student behavior that would indicate a desire to attend a particular college. This can include interviewing, a campus visit, meeting a college rep at a college fair, a well-written supplemental essay, and sending an e-mail to your admissions rep. Remember that not all schools count demonstrated interest (as a rule of thumb, very large schools and the super selective schools with acceptance rates at/below 10% do not count demonstrated interest). Questions about demonstrated interest (whether they count it and how they would like students to demonstrate interest) are great questions to ask admissions representatives.
What is the best way to connect to a college and demonstrate interest?
The best demonstrated interest is genuine. As a student, you should try to maximize the opportunities that are available to you. For example, if one of your schools is located an hour away, if you’re able to you should absolutely go to the school for a tour and interview (if an interview is offered). If another school is across the country and would require a lengthy flight then it is understandable if you don’t visit. In this scenario however, there are still things that you can do to connect with a school that you can’t visit. You can try to schedule an off-campus interview in your community, you can attend a regional information session for the college, and you can e-mail your admissions representative. Many colleges will list a directory of their admissions officers and the “territories” where they work with students.
Another important part of this process is supplementary essays, particularly questions that ask about why you are interested in attending the college. Note that many schools that don’t count demonstrated interest, WILL use your responses to these essays in their decision making process.
So how do I effectively answer supplemental essay questions?
As tempting as it may be, you should not recycle essays when writing your supplemental essays (particularly for the “why do you want to attend this college” prompt). I know that many schools have similar attributes, but it is a huge missed opportunity to write generic responses.
So how do you avoid this?
Research is going to be your best asset in the writing process. Online research, your impressions from a visit to the college, talking to current students, and reading the campus newspaper are all great ways to get a better sense of a college. You should be able to tailor your essay specifically to each school and discuss why it in particular would be a good fit for you and your academic goals.If you covered the name of the school in your supplemental essay, you should NOT be able to just insert another school and it would make sense. If the school does not have a supplement essay (as Kenyon College did not) I would recommend writing a “why do you want to attend this college” e-mail to your admissions representative. If the applicant Jack sent me an e-mail stating his case, his decision very well may have been different.
The most important takeaway for students is that demonstrated interest and “fit” in the admissions process do matter. Students should figure out how each school on their list uses demonstrated interest and do what they can to take advantage of opportunities available to them. When writing supplemental essays, students need to make sure that they are unique and well-tailored to the schools they are applying to and how the schools they are applying to connect with their ambitions and aspirations and personal goals.