I always feel like somebody’s watching me. And I have no privacy.
These lyrics were ahead of their time when Somebody’s Watching Me was released in 1984. In modern society we know we are often being watched: by security cameras that surround us, by cookies that track our online behaviours, and by social media followers and friends. Guess who else is watching you? Admissions officers!
Just like retailers know what you buy and Netflix knows what you watch, American admissions offices know if you engage with them, how you engage with them, and for how long you engage with them. For example, a university might send a prospective student an email about an academic program. The university can then track if a student opens the email, if a student clicks a link in the email, and for how long a student spends on their website. Universities can also track how many of their events you attend (in person or online), and how many emails you send to an admissions officer. The theory is that the more messages you read, the more events you attend, and the more university website links you click, the more interested you must be in the university.
Is the student really interested in our university? Even though the student has a strong application, she has not attended any virtual events or read any of our emails, so we are not going to admit the student.
These are the words of a US admissions officer at a university very popular with Aiglon students. Repeatedly this year, the University Advising Department’s advisors heard remarks like this from American admissions officers. At a moment when American applicant pools are at an all-time high, universities are seeking to admit students who have shown they want to be at their universities. Therefore, in addition to the human review process of the application, they are consulting their technological resources to determine if you have demonstrated interest in that university. The more interest you have demonstrated, the more likely that university is to yield you.
American universities are rated by outside sources on their yield, the percentage of students who accept their offer of admission. A university is perceived to be more desired, more elite, the higher the yield rate is; thus, universities want to maximise their yield rates by admitting students who are most likely to attend.
Now that you know that universities are tracking your engagement with them and that engagement (or lack thereof) can be used when your application is reviewed, what do you do?
- Not all universities practise demonstrated interest. If they do assess demonstrated interest, you need to make sure you are attending events, reading emails, and possibly writing to the admissions officer (without becoming a pest!)
- If the university does not practise demonstrated interest, you should still attend events and read emails. Why? That is how you learn about the university and determine if it is a good place for you to study and live.
- If you want to know if a university practices demonstrated interest, you can always just ask them!
Don’t be afraid that universities are “watching” you! Ultimately, what they want is for you to learn about their universities and make thoughtful applications that show you are a good “fit” for their schools. Now that you know that they want you to engage with their messaging and programming, you can do so.
About Elizabeth Downing
Beth is an Associate Director in Aiglon’s University Advising Department. She joined Aiglon in January 2021 after sixteen years within the University of Pennsylvania’s Office of Admissions. Beth has evaluated over 20,000 university applications, recruited students globally, and spoken at international forums on higher education and admissions. She enjoys working with Aiglon students and exploring the natural beauty of Switzerland with her pup, Jack.