By now, May 9 every High School Senior should have made that one choice for the school they will attend next year. One hopes that all the effort and energy placed into applying came through and everyone is happy with their final choice. Now it is the time to focus on those pesky final exams – IB, AP and A Level. One should not think that these final marks are not important – they are! But we have been down that road and not the topic of this article. So what is? That elusive thing called Demonstrated Interest.
I know, not an overwhelmingly exciting topic and certainly one that I have brought up before. So, why talk about it again? I just returned from the fabulous city of Austin, Texas where I attended a conference. One of the presentations was… you guessed it Demonstrated Interest (DI). You may ask why I am bringing this up again – because I think many students don’t pay attention to this important factor in admission – whether it is boarding school or university.
What is DI and why so much hype from me about it? Many students a. are unaware of DI b. some students think that just applying is DI c. most think it is unimportant. DI is important because schools are interested in students who may enroll in their school. Filling seats is their whole purpose; something called Yield. Yield comes from the number of students who are offered a place and decide to attend that university. When it comes to ranking, this is one of many factors US News and others use to quantify in the ranking process.
Back to what is DI? DI is any way that a student reaches out, in one way or another to find out about the university. This could be opening an email, logging into the school’s website, contacting current students or professors, visiting campus, attending an information session at a student’s high school or in their city or just simply completing an inquiry form for the school or finding information about the school on social media.
Let’s just say that schools have gotten very technical about this whole process. Many universities use a database called Slate to track the number of times a student responds or takes action. And track they do because Slate reports all that information back to each student and then in the admissions committee that information is displayed.
How much influence does DI play? It depends on the school. For some schools, it may just be writing cogently in response to the Supplement Essays. DI is a student’s way of showing that they have done much more than apply to show interest in the school. They have researched and shown how that research has helped them understand that they FIT the school. DI can also come into play when a student actually submits their application. A student who completes their application several weeks before the deadline is showing more interest than the student who submits an hour before.
One could argue that a student could show that fit in a number of ways. But when a student has the academic acumen to make them a viable candidate – Grades, SAT scores, letters of recommendation, then DI comes into play. Obviously, one student cannot possibly be all things to all schools. And despite how the news reports admission decisions, one would think that it is advantageous to apply to a number of schools. Those students we read about who were admitted to all the Ivies or to 20+ schools have something most don’t have – a major hook like first generation to attend college or a minority that is under-represented; some factor that stands out significantly. Most students do not fall into any of those categories.
As mentioned in the beginning, many students take a very passive roll in applying to schools. In the new age of data collection, this just doesn’t cut it anymore. Students must take a more active role and also be a bit more discerning. The days of “Just Try” applications is long gone. There is too much competition for spaces available, particularly at the top schools – boarding and college. The message is clear – do your homework on schools, take the time necessary to research and reach out, create a good viable list of schools and hopefully all will be good.
One final note – be genuine in all that you do. DI should be a natural way of showing that as a student you genuinely are interested in the schools to which you are applying. As a student intending to apply, you have much to do. So don’t procrastinate – too much is at stake to be passive in your future.