Demonstrated Interest: What You Should Know
“College admission representatives struggle to discern between authentically interested applicants and the “casual” applicants, and the advent of a preference for texting over more effective forms of interpersonal communication only complicates the communication process, hence the latest buzzword in college admissions — demonstrated interest.”
“I get the feeling that they’re not reading their e-mail—they certainly don’t answer it!”
“They don’t show up to meet me when I visit. It’s as though they are avoiding any personal contact!”
“They hide behind their phones—the only way I can make any contact is through a text, and even then sometimes they won’t answer.”
“I have tried everything! I just can’t figure out how to reach them and make a personal connection! Face-to-face communication is all-important, but they just don’t seem to get that!”
These are common laments—not from parents or grandparents in this case—but from college admission representatives, often young twenty-somethings who are, ironically, generationally not distant in age from the very high school students they are assigned to recruit, but distant in light years with respect to the necessity of personal engagement and communication skills inherent in the college admissions process and the awarding of scholarships.
Texting has become the primary mode of communication for teenagers. While texting is convenient for messaging friends and family, it is not a substitute for the interpersonal communications that the college application and selection process demands. Additionally, each student must somehow rise above the huge numbers of academically qualified applicants, especially at competitive colleges and universities. Technology has allowed students to apply to several schools with just the stroke of a key, so it’s more important than ever to practice some “soft skills” to show your interest. College admission representatives struggle to discern between authentically interested applicants and the “casual” applicants, and the advent of a preference for texting over more effective forms of interpersonal communication only complicates the communication process, hence the latest buzzword in college admissions—demonstrated interest.
Students (and their parents) are thus wise to practice effective communication skills and to demonstrate their interest in schools as they engage in the college search and application process. Wise applicants actively demonstrate interest in several ways, such as the following:
- Read all e-mail and respond promptly with courtesy, in a friendly yet businesslike tone, conscious of proper e-mail formatting and grammatical conventions.
- Attend local, regional, and (if possible) national college fairs, not only to learn about the wealth of options for possible colleges to attend but to meet the college admission representatives and make personal contact. Always be sure to complete their official forms for more information, and remember that colleges definitely keep track of official contacts and look at those contacts as an expression of demonstrated interest.
- Attend lunchtime, advocacy-time, or afterschool visits with college admission representatives when they visit high schools. Many high schools regularly host such visits, which are often not well-attended. Students should check their school’s website for a list of such visits, and seize the opportunity to make a personal connection with the college admission representatives in attendance. After the presentation, students should definitely take the initiative to shake hands and warmly thank the representatives for their time, express personal interest in what they had to say, pose intelligent questions, and, in general, exercise their interpersonal skills.
- After meeting personally, or to establish a relationship if a personal meeting is not possible, initiate contact with a meaningful e-mail query and a brief expression of thanks for their time, again, using all the conventions of proper e-mail, including grammatical conventions and a courteous, friendly, business-like tone.
- Make formal visits to campuses, and take the official tours of each campus. Check each college’s website for details about visitation schedules and procedures. Again, in-person visits provide an opportunity for students to actively engage with not only admission officers, but with financial aid officers, heads of departments, academic advisors, professors, and students, which not only helps students determine whether a particular school is a great fit, but lays the groundwork for important relationships which may eventually play important roles in admission decisions and the awarding of scholarships.
- Send formal, handwritten thank-you notes after visiting, interviewing for admission or scholarships, or any time that university officials extend courtesy. Most students do not take the time to write thank-you notes, so students who do stand out from the crowd even more!
Most importantly, students and parents must realize that demonstrated interest, inherently necessary in the college admission process, provides a meaningful opportunity to acquire all-important interpersonal communication skills that serve students well beyond their college years. In the words of one college admission representative, “Remember that college admission representatives are people too! We appreciate common courtesy, and after all, we are the ones making the decisions about admissions and scholarships!”