In order to understand the importance of demonstrated interest in the college applications process, we must first understand yield and why it matters.
Yield rates keep going down, and that matters a lot to admissions counsellors.
Yield in college admissions is the percent of students who choose to enroll in a particular college or university after having been offered admission.
With numbers of applications steadily increasing year after year (up 4% for first-time freshman in 2017-18 and a whopping 8% of international students in 2017-18) yield becomes a greater challenge for admissions teams. The average yield rate is on a steady downward trajectory, standing at 33.6% in 2016, down from 36.2% in 2014.
According to the 2018 State of College Admissions report by the National Association for College Admissions Counselling, after the hard factors of grades, curriculum and test scores, the most important application elements are the essay and demonstrated interest. These factors have gained prominence over the past 10 years because they can be used to gauge whether or not a student will attend if admitted. With increasing pressure to maintain enrolment levels (avoid both over and under enrolment) these indicators are becoming more and more important amongst an ever competitive applicant pool.
In short, admissions teams don’t just want to know that you like them, they want to know that you really, like really, like them.
What do these applicant and yield rates mean for me, the applicant?
So what does this mean for students on their application journey? While the concept of fit has always been important for the student in knowing the place they will spend 4 years and a lot of money will jive with their interests, style of learning, social and geographic needs, now more than ever the institutions themselves value the importance of that match.
In the NACAC Admission Trends Survey, 2017–18, 15.5% of admissions respondents reported student demonstrated interest as being of considerable importance, which is more than double the importance given to teacher recommendations (7.1%) and class rank (9.3%). Furthermore, another 24.2% consider it to be of moderate importance. Obviously, considering interest will not only help bolster yield rates, but it may also positively impact retention rates.
How can I demonstrate my interest in a way that admissions teams will notice?
There are many ways a student can, and should, show demonstrated interest. While it would come naturally as part of a thorough selection process of schools the student wants to apply to, there are specific things you can do to make sure those boxes are ticked.
The average yield
1. Complete an online information request form from the college website
All colleges and universities will have a page on their admission website where prospective students can request general information, subscribe to the college’s newsletter, and/or indicate academic programs/activities that are especially appealing. Yes, you will be opening up to a lot of marketing snail and email, but this is one easy way to start showing your interest. Additionally, depending on the contact form provided by the school, you may be able to give them extra details about yourself and your interest areas.
2. Connect on Social Media
The majority of schools offer applicants the chance to create an online admissions profile where they can submit and track their online application, schedule a campus tour, and interact with college staff via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and other social media. And keeping up with your prospective school’s social media efforts will also help you keep up to date with their news, giving you points to discuss during interviews or potentially supplemental essays.
3. Get in touch the relevant admissions counsellor
Colleges generally have admissions officers assigned to recruit and evaluate applicants from specific regions of the country/state. Find the correct counsellor for your state or county on school’s admissions website, or with a quick phone call or email to the admissions office.
Once you find your counsellor, send a brief email introducing yourself and describing your interests in the institution. Use this introductory email as an opportunity to ask questions related to the admissions process or a particular academic program. Show that you’ve done your research on the school by asking targeted questions about unique aspects of their campus or academic programs. However, try to avoid asking things that can easily be found online like, “What are the average ACT scores for admitted applicants?”
4. Attend college events in your area
If an admissions representative from a prospective college visits your school or area for an information session or college fair, make it a point to be there, and be sure to introduce yourself. If you are interested enough in a school to apply, you should definitely be interested enough to meet a rep who has traveled to introduce themselves and their institution to you. Afterward, send a brief email thanking them for their time and expressing the enthusiasm you feel for applying to their school. Remember, it is their job to determine who will be admitted, and having a face and a personality to place the application to can only help you!
5. Campus visits and interviews
Anyone can click on a website but only the truly interested will make the effort to travel. A campus visit, and an interview while you are there, is viewed by admissions committees as one of the strongest indicators of interest. Of course, this isn’t always easy to do, depending on the geographic location of your interest schools, and even more so if you are an international student. If you can make it work, it can make a considerable difference for your profile. If not, look into requesting interviews via Skype, or connecting with alumnus in your area who often work with admissions teams, especially at more selective schools.
6. Take your supplemental essays very seriously and show them what you know
Most of the above ways of demonstrating interest can be done before applying, but this one is the biggy, as it involves demonstrating interest during the process itself. Many schools, even those who accept the Common or Coalition App, require applicants to complete supplementary materials which often involve composing an essay which will help admissions teams glean why their school appeals to you. This can be the primary way to truly demonstrate that you have done your homework and know why the school is an exciting prospect and a great fit for you.
7. Apply Early Action or Early Decision
Applying Early Decision or Early Action is the most forceful way to make your commitment and interest clear. It can also be an irrevocable choice if you go with ED. Obviously, colleges that use ED like these applicants because they can count on them as automatic enrolments.
If you want to discuss what you can do to help determine institutional fit and subsequently show your interest in a demonstratable way, get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.