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Demonstrating Your Interest To Colleges

Stephen Friedfeld, PhD

It's easy to apply to more than ten universities (but I don't advise it): you simply click a few buttons and pay the application fees. But before online applications existed, students visited or called admissions offices to receive blank applications. As a result, high school students applied to many fewer universities, and they had a genuine interest in those few schools they contacted or visited.

Unfortunately, colleges today do not know if an applicant is seriously interested in attending, simply because it is so easy to submit lots of applications! Thus, as an applicant, you need to demonstrate interest in the colleges you're applying to, since admissions officers are more likely to admit qualified applicants who are seriously interested in attending. Way to demonstrate interest include:

•    Visiting a college campus – and signing in, sitting in on an information session, and taking a tour. Get the name or business card of the admissions officer who delivered the info session and contact her or him later.
•    Meeting with a professor or listening in on a class -- and then referencing these experiences in your essays when describing why you want to attend that particular college.
•    Going to a local info session, sometimes called a Prospect Program, held by a college or a group of colleges. While there, sign in, meet with admissions officers and introduce yourself.
•    Speaking with a college representative at a college fair – and following up with a thank you note.
•    Agreeing to an alumnus interview or an on-campus interview, if offered. (Most small colleges offer optional interviews.) Let the college know you're serious about attending, if admitted.

Demonstrating interest is exactly what it sounds like: showing admissions officers that you’re excited about attending a particular college. Many colleges keep track of this interest and then factor how much you’ve expressed attending as part of the admissions decision. Schools want to admit students that want to attend.

Don’t go overboard, though. Meeting a college’s entire admissions staff, visiting campus 14 times and sending six thank you notes (and three emails) won’t guarantee you admission. In fact, it will likely do the opposite.

(Stephen is the COO of AcceptU (www.AcceptU.com), a college admissions counseling group that connects applicants with former admissions officers. He has 10+ years of admissions experience at Cornell University and Princeton University. )

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