Essay and Demonstrated Interest – More Important Than Ever
Want to increase your chances of getting into a specific school? Show them you want them. The National Association for College Admission Counseling’s 2017 State of College Admissions report found that in regard to admissions criteria, after “hard factors” like grades, test scores and curriculum, the two most important “soft factors” are an applicant’s essay and demonstrated interest.
Although demonstrated interest has been an important factor over the last decade or so, it has become even more important as college admissions representatives try to estimate how many applicants will actually enroll in their school. This has led to a trend in weighing “informed interest,” or rather, how well a student knows the school.
Tips for demonstrating informed interest
To demonstrate that you’ve done your homework AND want to attend a certain school, be sure to mention specifics about the college each time you mention them on social media or make contact with the school. Whenever possible, explain how you’d be an asset to the college.
For example, you could tweet (with an @ mention to the school) that you noticed there’s no saxophone player in the band, but you’d be happy to change that.
Or in your meeting with an admissions rep, ask specific questions that aren’t answered in the school’s brochure or website.
If you visit the school, be sure to post photos on social media and tag the school’s admissions office.
Showing creativity (and yourself) in the essay
Many schools ask the standard “Why do you want to attend this college?” question, but with the increased search for applicants with informed interest, supplemental essay questions are getting even more school-specific or, to say the least, unique.
“Tell us about spiders.”
– University of Richmond
“What one invention would you un-invent if you could, and why?”
– Brandeis University
“What do you hope will change about the place where you live?”
– University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
“You’ve just reached your one millionth hit on your YouTube video. What is the video about?”
– Lehigh University
In the coming year, you may even run across school-specific prompts related to the college’s traditions, mottos or history. Be sure to do your research!
When it comes to your essay, your goal is twofold: tell the school something about yourself that they couldn’t otherwise get from your other application materials and demonstrate why you’re a perfect match for their school. Be as specific as possible, mentioning people, places, activities or concepts that show you’re not just interested in going to college; you’re interested in going to THAT college.
Be sure to check your work for errors. The content of your essay matters, but grammatical mistakes can tell a lot about the applicant. The only message you want to send is about how excited you are to attend their school!