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Parents always ask me how important “demonstrated interest” is in the college application process. At elite colleges with competitive admissions, the interest a student shows in the college (visits, calls, social media interaction, responsiveness to emails) does become a significant factor in admission decisions.
But as you go down the list of colleges in terms of ranking and selectivity, there is a “tipping point” where the college wants (and needs) the student more than the student wants the college. Actually, this is true at probably 80% of all colleges and 90% of all small private colleges.
Then the question for the student becomes “Which college will I choose to attend?” rather than “Which colleges will accept me?”
When demonstrated interest flips in this direction, it is the personalized interest that a college shows in a student and their family, rather than the other way around, that becomes the most significant “demonstrated interest” factor.
In a recent survey of high school juniors, only 16% said that the communications they’ve had with colleges is personalized. Rather, they are receiving communications that are “transactional, impersonal, generic and mass-message sounding.”
Before joining My College Planning Team, I was an admission representative for 42 years at seven different colleges. None were in the super-competitive-elite category, so we would recruit hard right up until the first day of classes. Demonstrated interest in the student was always of paramount importance: handwritten notes, personalized emails, family visits at Starbucks, phone calls, video calls.
These are all ways for colleges to go the extra mile. Translation (in the mind of students): “This is how personal and attentive things will be if I choose this college.”
What is the most important factor to students and parents? Responsiveness! It is so important, in recruiting students, to really pay close attention to the needs of the students and their parents or advocates.
Here are my tips for students and parents to evaluate a college’s “demonstrated interest”:
Your family is spending a lot of money for college and you need to make sure you are getting value for your investment. If a college is ignoring your student, maybe they need to check out a different college. What they experience in the recruitment process is usually a pretty good predictor of the total four-year experience.
This is why I have enjoyed working for small colleges. It is much easier to be personal, attentive and responsive when you are dealing with hundreds of students and parents than it is with thousands.
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