For new readers...

Welcome! Please do a search with the Google box to the right if you have a question and pick a name if posting a comment. Remember to come back and read the comments if you post a question. Please ask permission before republishing my work.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How UVa Uses Demonstrated Interest

Many years ago, I experienced a college fair unlike any I had experienced before. My experience at that fair has become sadly common.

The college fair was organized by a consortium of private schools in a nearby state. It was a massive fair, held in the field house of a college. I set up my table, found the refreshments too late to have anything to eat (and kicked myself for not stopping somewhere on the way), and watched as crowds of attendees gathered outside the doors of the building. In my mind, the opening of the doors had a similar sound to the opening of the gates at a horse race. The doors opened, the crowd poured in, and the massive space was immediately filled with noise. Then the thing that made this fair so unusual happened.

A receiving line formed at my table. One after another, students stepped forward, stuck an arm out to shake hands, and simply said "Hi, my name is ___ ___." I'd reply "Nice to meet you, I'm Dean J. Do you have any questions?" The answer was almost always "no." It was a long fair. There were times when I wondered why I was there. Those 15 second exchanges weren't helpful to anyone.

I left that fair so confused. Looking back, I wonder if that was my first experience with something that has become almost ubiquitous. People assume that demonstrated interest matters. Everywhere. Some folks think that if they can just get some "face time," they will be in a better position later in the process. In reality, the names of the students at that fair fell out of my head the moment they stepped away from my table.

Today, we have students doing all sorts of things to put their name in front of us before they apply. They send emails that either contain questions easily answered on our website ("Is it true that I can't apply to McIntire until my 2nd year?") or no questions at all. They reply to the mass email that alerts them to programs in their area. They send thank you notes for tours.


We don't use demonstrated interest in our application review. The message doesn't seem to be getting through, so I put it on the "Contact" page on the Office of Admission website:

In my mind, your application is how you demonstrate your interest. When you visit us for a tour and information session or come to see us at your high school or a hotel program, you are gathering information about us. We are not making an assessment about you as a candidate.