When you’ve spent literally years of your life trying to make yourself appeal to colleges, it can be easy to forget that colleges work hard to make themselves appeal to you, too. Just as you are in a race against your peers to win a coveted spot at your dream college, colleges are in a race against one another to enroll the best students.
What Is a College’s Yield and Why Is It Important?
A college’s yield is the percent of admitted applicants who ultimately end up enrolling. You may not care too much about a college’s yield, but colleges definitely care. When a school’s yield is consistently high, meaning that most admitted students choose to attend, then the school can afford to admit a smaller number of applicants. This, in turn, makes the school more selective, which increases prestige, demand, and—of course—rankings.
Let’s take a look:
Imaginary University got 10,000 applications last year. They need to fill a freshman class of 1,000 students. Last year, only 30 percent of admitted students actually enrolled. To get 1,000 enrolled students, the school had to admit about 3,300 students, giving it an admission rate of about 33%.
Pretend College also got 10,000 applications and also needs to fill a freshman class of 1,000 students. They had 90% of students enroll, so to fill their freshman class, they only needed to admit about 1,100 students, giving them an admission rate of just 11%.
A higher yield leads to a lower admission rate, and many colleges strive for that kind of prestige and selectivity.
How Do Colleges Improve Yield?
Colleges want to increase their yield. Today’s college admissions landscape makes that pretty hard to do. After all, the Common App and Coalition App make it really easy to apply to a bunch of colleges, whether you’re really interested in attending or not. As a result, students are a lot more likely to end up with several offers of admission, putting colleges in direct competition with one another.
Colleges want to admit students who are likely to enroll because that is how a college ensures a high yield. That’s one big reason why colleges have supplemental essays: students who are willing to take the time to write a quality supplemental essay are probably more invested in actually going to the college.
And it’s why your demonstrated interest in a school can boost your application.
What Is Demonstrated Interest?
Demonstrated interest is the term used to describe your level of interest in the school. At schools that consider demonstrated interest, admissions officers look for signs that you’re really into the college. While your demonstrated interest certainly isn’t the most important factor in your application, it can be the thing that pushes you over the edge from a “maybe” to a “yes.”
How Do I Demonstrate Interest in a College?
First, let’s cover what you definitely should NOT do. Don’t spam admissions officers with obnoxious emails, send gifts, or become a weird stalker. In other words, don’t be annoying.
Here are some great ways to demonstrate interest (that won’t make you look crazy):
Visit the School
Go on an official campus tour. Not only is this the best possible way to learn more about the college, it also illustrates your level of interest. After all, you traveled there. You spent an afternoon listening to a tour guide. You must like the school.
Many colleges offer informational sessions or webinars. Register and show up!
Research Your Essays
A lot of colleges require supplemental essays, and many of those essay supplements will ask you why you want to attend that particular school. Be specific! Saying, “This college is known for its amazing engineering program” is far too generic. After all, plenty of colleges are known for their great engineering programs. Instead, you need something that could be said ONLY about that particular college. Maybe there’s a renowned professor you’d love to work with, a degree program not offered elsewhere, a particularly robust network for internships, or a co-curricular program that you find particularly appealing. Do your research so that you can discuss the school’s assets in detail.
Request an Interview
Many schools offer optional alumni interviews. If that’s the case at the schools where you’re applying, request an interview as soon as you submit your application. Not only are interviews a great way to show your interest in the school and add favorable details to your application, but they also offer you a unique opportunity to learn more about the college. Alumni who conduct interviews are more than happy to discuss their former school and the opportunities it provided.
Applying early indicates your interest in the college—but with a caveat: applying through an Early Action program is not as strong an indicator of interest than applying through an Early Decision program. (Learn more about Early Action versus Early Decision here.) While Early Action comes with little to no downside, Early Decision carries some risk: you must consider your choice to apply through Early Decision very carefully because it is binding. If you get in, you have to go—so you had better be SURE this is the school you want to attend.
Follow and engage with the school on social media. You can quite literally show you like the school by “liking” some of their posts.
Open and Read Their Emails
You probably get spammed with tons of emails from colleges. It’s a lot easier to ignore them, delete them, or just file them away. But if you actually want to show colleges you’re interested, you should open and read their emails—they may well be checking to see who’s reading their correspondence.
Ask an Admissions Officer
If you have a question about your application, contact the admissions office! Reaching out to inquire about what you might be able to do to further strengthen your application (such as submitting additional test scores or letters of recommendation) shows that you’re very interested in attending the school.
Submitting an Application May Not Always Be Enough
Actions that you take beyond simply submitting your application show your interest in the school. Some schools don’t take your interest into consideration when deciding who gets in; for instance, large public universities are less likely to include demonstrated interest as a factor in admission than are smaller colleges or private schools. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to show a school a little love—and it might just be what tips the scale in your favor.