Demonstrated interest creates inequality in college process

Many factors contribute to which students colleges accept and which they reject. Demonstrated interest, which measures students’ interest based on how much they interact with the college, is one of these factors at certain colleges. Demonstrated interest tracks if a student attends a college tour, signs up for a college email list, visits a college website, and even how long a student stays on that website. Some colleges are more likely to accept students who show more “interest”. Although this may seem logical, the practice is problematic.

When you visit a college and go on a tour, sometimes your name is added to a list that slightly increases your chances of getting accepted to that college. However, not every student is able to fly out and go visit their dream school. This puts them at an unfair disadvantage compared to students who can visit every college they are applying to. 

According to a National Association of College Admission Counseling survey, 44 percent of colleges utilize demonstrated interest.  Despite this, many students don’t know about it. “I had no idea about demonstrated interest, which is weird because I feel like it’s a big deal. More people should know about it,” said Diego Zarate, a Berkeley High School junior. 

This lack of information is why so many students hire college counselors who guide them through the process. Demonstrated interest is the type of thing a college counselor would tell their clients about. Therefore, students who can’t afford a college counselor may never find out about demonstrated interest, putting them at a disadvantage.

While demonstrated interest can assist colleges in knowing who is serious about attending their schools, there are other, more fair methods colleges can use to determine this. 

For example, many schools offer early action or early decision. Early action is when a student applies early and is considered before the rest of the normal applications. Early decision is when a student applies early and promises, if accepted, to attend that school. Early decision has some drawbacks; for example, a student may not be able to compare financial aid offers from other schools. However, it still is a more reliable metric of desire to attend than demonstrated interest. 

Comparatively, far more students know about early action and early decision. In fact, at BHS, college counselors come and present the college process to juniors, including how to utilize early action and early decision.

Though colleges considering who is most interested in their school is not a bad idea, the way interest is measured must be reassessed in order to ensure equality. By doing this, colleges will become more diverse, and more students will be able to get into their dream schools based on merit.