At this time of year, may students ask me how they can show their interest to a school more than in the application itself. Do they send flowers? Have a high-powered alumnus call the school on their behalf? Ask a coy question so that the admissions officer will remember their name?
Although I can’t say for certain that some schools aren’t impressed by a letter from a Nobel Prize winner or a generous donor, I prefer to believe that admissions officers actually are more concerned with the student’s grades, scores, activities, essays and letters from teachers. But “demonstrated interest” is indeed a factor that has significant value as well.
Of course, admissions officers want to know that you are eager to attend their colleges or universities and that you have chosen to apply to their programs after careful research and reflection. How do you show that?
A very important way to show demonstrated interest is to do your best on the supplementary essays for each school, including the "optional" prompts. This will add depth to your application and be considered along with the personal statement and additional information essay that are available on the Common Application. Answering the prompt that asks why you have chosen to apply to a particular school must not be done in a generic “fill in the blank” essay. You should demonstrate familiarity and specific details about what the school has to offer. As a matter of fact, one admissions officer told me that sometimes he reads the “Why” essay before any other part of the application!
If you do reach out to Admissions, you must be mindful of how busy a time this is for the people who are reading and making decisions on your application. Any connection you make must be thoughtful, polite and meaningful. Otherwise, your efforts will be about as successful as a robocall at best and considered harassment at worst. Visiting the college, attending information sessions given by admissions officers who come to your high school, writing thank you notes if you have made contact with any officers, and emailing respectful questions that are not easily answered on the school's website are all good ways to show your interest in a school. Definitely do not waste an admissions officer’s time by emailing information that is already on your application!
And of course, if you are truly interested in a particular school, by all means take advantage of the early decision or early action options.
After you submit your application, if you receive a new honor or award or you have accepted an exciting academic or co-curricular opportunity, by all means, reach out to Admissions. But meanwhile, make sure that your applications are the best they can be, keep up your school work, and try to enjoy your senior year while you wait for responses. It’s difficult, but you can do it!