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Yes, Actually, Colleges Know Whether You Open Their Emails

Updated: Feb 22

Last week, I told you all about demonstrated interest, which is an admissions factor (next to essays, recommendations, and GPA) at many colleges and universities. The common next questions are, why do they care, and how could they possibly keep track of this for every applicant?

Why do they care?

In short, it’s about planning for next year’s enrollment.

Imagine you’re throwing an enormous birthday party, and you’re on a budget. You’ve booked the venue (and the food and the entertainment) well ahead of time, and you need to fill 50 seats. You’ve got a dilemma: Not only do you want to fill the seats, but you also don’t want to over-promise seats when you really only have 50.

So you might make an educated guess and send out invitations to 100 people, hoping 50 will come. In reality, though, you would really love to know who these 50 people are ahead of time, because it would be so easy if you could just focus your efforts on people you know want to come.

Most colleges and universities have this kind of dilemma every year. If they send out too many acceptances, they’ll over-enroll and have to deal with a housing crunch. (Trying not to look too obviously at UC Santa Barbara.) If they don’t send out enough acceptances, they have to go to the waitlist, which is a lot more work and energy for everyone than the term would suggest.

So, what is a university to do? They hire a team of expensive consultants to help them determine who is most likely to attend if accepted – and who, if accepted, will politely decline and choose another school.

They’re tracking demonstrated interest. Every college treats it uniquely, assessing your engagement with the school during the admissions process. They could track your college visits, social media, communications, essay content, and more.

Besides helping them predict who will enroll, colleges – especially more close-knit liberal arts colleges – really want to know about your college fit. Students who want to go to the school, show up for opportunities to interact and learn, and can articulate their interest in the school are more likely to be strong fits for the community.

They’re tracking me? How?

Well, they’re fancy consultants, so they’ve got it down to a system.