There is an entire industry around college visits, and usually the primary goal is to demonstrate interest to a university. In this article, we go in depth into data we analyzed based on years of research at Empowerly. We have developed a series of comparative analyses and school-specific profiles; each can tell students and parents how much colleges care about specific measures. One of these important factors is called “demonstrated interest.” Today, we’ll use this to answer the question of college visits: do they matter for admissions, really?
Demonstrated interest is defined as a student showing interest in a university above the application requirements. That could mean emailing professors to express interest in their research; visiting the campus; talking to former and current students at the university; or visiting events with regional admissions officers in your area.
Think on the macro level. Colleges receive hundreds of thousands of applications; and more than 20 percent of students in 2009 applied to seven or more colleges. That number has significantly risen since 2009 as well. Most students who are spending time writing essays and paying an application fee are also looking to express interest in the college. So if 50,000 people are applying to Stanford and 100,000 people visit Stanford each year and do 5 things on campus — reach out to friends, go for a visit, and three other activities, that is already 500,000 “events” for the university to track.
Many schools choose not to track these events and instead focus their staff time and efforts on reading the college admissions essays. The data tends to support this conclusion as well.
Where Demonstrated Interest Matters
Looking at our data in the Empowerly Portal, we can see how important the level of applicant’s interest is in a college.
Among the Top 50 colleges, Brown and UC Irvine care the most about college visits. They rank it 4/4. Many universities seriously consider demonstrated interest by marking it 3 out of 4 and those include: Carnegie Mellon, Case Western, and Boston University.
You will notice that rank is inversely correlated with demonstrated interest. Schools like Stanford and Harvard actually mark demonstrated interest in college admissions as 1 out of 4. But this is not always the case — for example Carnegie Mellon and Case Western. These anomalies are in fact what will give you an advantage in college admissions and specifically in demonstrated interest in applications.
How You Can Demonstrate Interest
You can look for specific measures on each university. Now that you know which schools care about demonstrated interest, how do you actually show interest?
We think there are four key ways to show interest: college visits, reaching out to professors, reaching out students or alumni, and showing specifics in the college application essays.
In order of impact, specifics in essays, college visits, reaching out to professors, and reaching out to students/alumni is what we normally recommend.
So how do you find specifics in college essays? The best way to do that is to do online research about the university. Each school has so much information about school clubs, traditions, professors, and research at the institution. These four key areas, and specific people at specific schools, most strongly demonstrates interest.