Recently, we posted on our Facebook page a ranked list of the top 12 things colleges are looking for in the Class of 2014. (If you missed it, check it out here: http://www.iecaonline.com/PDF/IECA_CollegeTop12List.pdf) There were some interesting changes from last year’s list. For example, letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors, etc. moved down on the list from #5 to #10. Some items fell off the list completely: ability to pay full tuition, involvement in a wide variety of activities, and the student interview, to name a few. Surprised? Well naturally, there were items that moved up, too. Most notably, demonstrated interest (a.k.a. “demonstrated enthusiasm”.) Demonstrated interest – the most important issue to move up on the list, yet the least known or understood by students and parents.
What is it?
Demonstrated interest consists of the actions taken by a student that say to a college “I’m into you.”
How to say “I’m into you.”:
- Visit campus
- Like on Facebook
- Open their emails
- Follow on Twitter
- Apply Early Action
- Visit the table at college fairs
*These are just a few … there are many, many more!
Why does it matter?
Because colleges track your demonstrated interest – or lack thereof. Yes, colleges are able to track how into them you are – or aren’t. They’re able to track whether you opened their emails, liked them on Facebook, visited their table at a college fair, and more.
Colleges are spending the time, money, and effort tracking your demonstrated interest. So add it to the usual criteria used in admissions decisions – ACT or SAT score, GPA, coursework in high school. It’s that important.
It’s the middle of October, and like so many of you, I’ve been visiting colleges to learn about their programs and get a feel for their campus. There’s a strategy to maximizing campus visits that goes far beyond just mapping out how you’re going to get there. So here are my 5 tips to successfully hitting the college pavement:
1. Avoid “preview” days, if possible.
Schedule an individual or small group (10 or fewer) tour. Fewer people generally means more access to buildings such as residence halls during tours and more in-depth discussion during information sessions. However, if a preview day is the only opportunity you have to visit, by all means, visit. A preview day tour is better than no tour at all.
2. Know before you go.
While it’s not necessary to do extensive research of a college before a visit, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the school and the surrounding area. Search the university’s Web site so you can ask specific questions about not only admissions and financial aid, but also student life and school traditions. Check out local area Web sites to get information about eateries, shopping, and things to do while you’re there, if you have time.
3. Dig deeper.
I’ve seen more than a college tour guide or two ask a group of students and parents “Any questions?” only to be greeted with silence. Speak up. You haven’t looked at this college, familiarized yourself with its programs, scheduled a visit, and traveled far and wide (okay, may be not far and wide), only to get there and not ask any questions. Remember, you’re looking at a place you could potentially be for at least four years – ask away!
When you visit several colleges, they can start to blend together, so take pictures of things that appeal to you or that you may not find on the school’s Web site or in a brochure. Then create an album for each school. Be sure to note any interesting facts, traditions, even superstitions you learned. Capture the school from your unique perspective. It will be helpful down the road as you begin to narrow down your final choices. [Want to see what I mean? Check out the college albums on our Facebook page to see what I’ve captured.]
5. Take the wheel.
Yes, while some of you may be driving by this point, that’s not the wheel I’m referring to. But I do want you to take some control – of what you get out of the visit, that is. Take advantage of opportunities to meet with a professor. Sit in on a class. Talk to someone in financial aid. Even if these are not offered as part of the tour, ask anyway. Putting forth that extra effort affords you more insight of the school and demonstrates how interested you are in attending.