What is it? Does it matter? Demonstrated interest is a topic of considerable confusion these days, especially since information about it varies widely.

Let’s start with: What is Demonstrated Interest? From a school’s perspective, it’s you, as an applicant, showing how likely you are to accept an admissions offer. Here’s a refresher on the metrics colleges care about in the admissions business (remember, it’s a business):

  • Selectivity is what percent of applicants are admitted. To an admissions officer, more selective is better. So they want to encourage applications.
  • Yield is what percent of admitted applicants accept admission and enroll at the school. The best case is that all the admitted applicants accept– especially because that means a school can admit less and be more selective (think Stanford, Harvard– if you get in, you’re probably going to go). The worst case is of course the opposite: everyone who’s admitted ends up choosing a different school. This is a real concern for schools outside of the top tier.

In order to improve yield, schools want to know if you’re likely to accept admission. Demonstrated interest is one tool to measure that. One of the other big tools– listing order of schools on the FAFSA– went away this year, so one might expect Demonstrated Interest to begin to play a larger role.

Many schools are upfront about the role that DI plays in admissions. If a school’s website “strongly encourages” a campus visit or interview, that means they’re looking for DI. With winter and spring breaks approaching, now is a great time to figure out how to get to your favorite schools, or how else to demonstrate your interest. Of course, there are travel-free options: Call the admissions office and ask if they will be coming to your school or if there is a local alumnus who will do interviews. Or ask another question about the admissions process.

Anything you can do to make your application stronger in the eyes of the school is likely to benefit you in the admissions and merit processes. Demonstrating interest in a positive way– through a campus tour, stopping by at a college fair, calling the school, scheduling an interview, or whatever the school suggests– is an easy step to take to improve your standing.