How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. (with apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
Juniors: now is the time to start showing colleges some love! Demonstrated interest – yours – increasingly is a factor in the admissions selection process.
Although admissions officers are fully engaged in the review of applications for the Class of 2025, the recruitment of the Class of 2026 is underway. Whether managed by digital and print marketing firms or by members of the admissions staff, there’s no question that the virtual recruitment initiatives launched during the pandemic are here to stay. Why? Those colleges and universities that invested in digital outreach saw huge returns on that investment.
VIRTUAL EVENTS = HUGE ROI
According to Mark Dunn, director of outreach and recruitment and associate director at Yale University’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, virtual information sessions and outreach events reached significantly more prospective students than in a typical year — 47,000 prospective students registered for joint virtual events featuring Yale in 2020, compared to around 8,500 in 2019.
The expansion in digital outreach, along with test-optional admissions policies, clearly helped drive up application volume at top colleges this year. Additionally, it injected much more volatility into the yield models that most schools use to help them figure out which – and how many – students to admit. Over the next couple of months, admissions committees at many colleges and universities will ask themselves which of the many strong candidates in this year’s applicant pool would be most likely to attend if admitted. And, note that this year they have record numbers of applicants. We anticipate this trend to continue for the Class of 2026.
DEMONSTRATED INTEREST DIGITAL BREADCRUMBS
Essentially, many colleges (even highly selective ones) will use your digital breadcrumbs and other evidence of engagement to assess the seriousness of your interest. Why? They want to carefully manage the numbers of students offered admission to keep their admit rates as low as possible. The reality is that colleges are hesitant to admit well-qualified candidates whom they believe are unlikely to attend. It’s all about yield. Will you attend if they accept you?
Even the handful of schools that state on their websites that they don’t consider demonstrated interest, actually do. First, their supplements to the Common Application specifically ask you to indicate the sources of information you used to learn more about the school. Second, many schools ask for a 200-600 word supplemental “why” essay. What are the factors that led you to apply? Why do you believe this school is the perfect fit for you? How will you use the resources and opportunities of the school in pursuit of your educational goals?
With this in mind, we always advise students to act as though the school does value demonstrated interest, even when official materials say it does not. The worst that happens is that the student learns more about the school and can make a more informed decision about whether it’s a good fit for him or her — and that’s never a bad thing!
So, how can you show colleges some love? Let us count the ways.
- Sign up on the college’s admissions mailing list. It seems obvious but this is actually a great way to learn about the schools on your preliminary list. Be prepared for lots of email messages – you can even set up a dedicated email account for your college search process.
- Open the emails you receive from the schools on your list. If you don’t, then you’ll stop getting these emails. If the email includes a call to action – “click here,” “register,” “RSVP,” etc. – take that action, especially if you are being invited to events and programs that relate to your academic and extracurricular interests!
- Sign up for an online information session and a virtual campus tour. These are the “bread and butter” of admissions recruitment programs and will give you in key programs, facts and figures about each campus.
- Join a more interactive virtual Q&A with current students. Don’t ask the basic questions that you can find on the school’s website – “can I double major?” – but instead, ask current students about their favorite professors, courses, and how they take advantage of research and other curricular opportunities.
- Sign up for an interview. Many schools offer interviews to prospective students in the spring, summer and fall. If you’re on the email list, you’ll get an email telling you when the interview schedule opens up. Most likely these will continue to be virtual interviews, making it very convenient to schedule.
- Many admissions representatives will schedule virtual high school visits. Check with your college counseling office to see who’s “coming” to your school. If it’s a school on your list, make plans to attend.
- Attend virtual college fairs with multiple schools in attendance. Think of it like a buffet – a chance to graze and sample from a variety of different options.
- Follow colleges on their official Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook sites. These are fantastic sources for campus news full of interesting stories of current students, faculty, and alumni.
- Join any special interest groups that match your own, if an option, and ask questions.
PANDEMIC-ERA RECRUITMENT: HERE TO STAY
At some point, colleges will roll out the physical welcome mat for prospective students and their families who want to visit the campus in person. But this past year has shown colleges how they can democratize access to their programs and so these pandemic-era recruitment innovations will no doubt only continue to grow. So, log on and let the colleges count the ways you love them!