In 1990, just 9% of graduating high school seniors were applying to 7 or more colleges. By 2011, that number had shot up to 29% (data from NACAC). With increased marketing and recruitment efforts, the growing popularity and accessibility of the Common Application and a more competitive process overall, the trend should come as no surprise.
All good, right? That depends on who you ask…
At the most highly competitive and recognizable institutions in the U.S. (take Harvard or Stanford for example), yield rates (the percentage of admitted students to enroll) are consistently above 70% on an annual basis, allowing for the institutions to more accurately forecast their incoming class.
Other schools have found themselves battling sub-50% yield rates on an annual basis. Consider the class of 2019 at Tufts University (a highly selective Ivy-peer), which reported a record number of applications in 2015 (19,062 total) coupled with a yield rate of 44%.
As a result, colleges have shifted focus to the concept of “demonstrated interest” to gauge how likely a student is to enroll and ultimately contribute positively on campus.
Demonstrated interest can come in many forms. Many colleges and universities track and file all interactions between a student and the university, including email and phone correspondence, on-campus visits, information sessions, official tours and interviews (both on and off-campus).
Demonstrating interest can also be done through a student’s application. Supplemental essay questions prompt students to describe what they will add to the university and why they feel the school is a strong fit. Remember, colleges can and will view this statement in conjunction with your prior demonstrated interest. Writing about how comfortable you feel on campus without ever visiting is not a wise strategy!
Rising seniors should be cognizant of demonstrated interested heading into the fall, especially at their top-choice schools. Remember, a letter of acceptance isn’t a one-way street!