Of Prom Dates and "Demonstrated" Interest
Don’t judge me but I love Family Guy. I’m not like “overzealous Simpsons-guy” or anything like that, I don’t own any of the DVD’s (although I do have all seasons of Entourage and Arrested Development). Peter Griffin has a short stint on the local news doing stand-in op-ed pieces called “What Really Grinds My Gears” which involved nonsensical rants about Lindsay Lohan and Star Wars. Demonstrated interest, in its current incantation in college admissons, is one of mine.
Demonstrated interest as a concept is not inherently pernicious. In fact, we all use the construct in everyday life. A measurement of demonstrated interest comes in handy when you’re: 1) making small talk in an elevator (arms folded, looking at the front right corner = “I didn’t see the game last night and I wouldn’t admit to it if I did”) 2) merging in traffic (to make eye contact or not to make eye contact) or 3) asking someone to the prom (more on this in a minute).
As it exists in college admissions, demonstrated interest can be applied as simply as having a “Why us?” essay, or as complex as a contact tracking system, where every phone call, email, and personal interaction is noted and accumulates to a greater interest score. The greater the score, the greater the love. I suppose the logic goes that there are only a small number of admissions slots available and you want to be pretty certain that the offers you extend have a higher likelihood of acceptance. To cast it in a more personal light: in my junior year of high school, I asked three people to the prom before the fourth person said yes. I asked people who I thought were cool, attractive, low maintenance, fun, and who generally met my “good prom date” threshold. In retrospect, I apparently did not consider “demonstrated interest” enough as my prom date yield was a pathetic 25%.
In a recent post on VU’s College Confidential message board a poster vented about the concept of demonstrated interest, arguing that it adds another layer of complexity to an already confusing process at best and overly advantages individuals with the financial means of visiting colleges at worst. So in addition to being introspective but social, funny but humble, a capable leader and occasional follower, you also have to make sure that College X knows how pumped you are about their genetics program.
I will admit that the systematic application of demonstrated interest, and the resulting game playing I believe it reinforces in college admissions, is a frustation of mine. In my opinion, it “puts the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLABle.” The accumulation of contact points to build demonstrated interest versus better communicating your more enduring intellectual interests (politics, science, the arts, etc) is akin to playing Guitar Hero over rocking an actual guitar – you know, the one with strings? One’s a game where you press the right buttons and get a ton of points and “win,” whereas the other actually makes you cooler. In other words, point based demonstrated interest seems to value how much you are interested in a college, when it should be the college’s job to learn how interesting you are.
Where is Vandy in all of this? While we do keep track of all contacts an applicant has with us, that does not aggregate into a score that is used in the admissions review. Visiting campus is encouraged, but only because we wholeheartedly believe it is the very best way to learn about Vandy, its professors, students, campus and about Nashville, not because it will give you a better chance of admission. Not visiting campus will not harm your chance of admission.
Post your thoughts in the comments section. Be well friends & hang in there, April is only 11 weeks away.