#52 Demonstrated Interest: How It Can Help Guide Your College Search Transcript



Sylvia Borgo  0:00  

So I feel like demonstrated interest is really more of like, do you understand the college? Do you know them? Well? Do you see them? And the more that you see them as a student, the more that you understand them really benefits you, the student. And it’s similar. It’s kind of a parallel advice that I give to students when they ask me, Should I join the chess club? Should I take up fencing? Should I do the violin? And my question is always like, do you want to? Is this something that you will find enriching and valuable? Because at the end of your high school career, if you join the marching band, or the gardening club or Model UN, are you going to regret that? Because if you’re just doing it for college applications, that’s going to be very clear, it’s going to be very superficial.


Lisa Marker Robbins  0:38  

For colleges that care whether your teen demonstrates interest doing so can create an admission advantage for your teen in this episode, Sylvia Borgo and I give tips on how to demonstrate interest and explain how you can save time by figuring out which colleges don’t even care if students demonstrate interest. For those colleges who don’t care. Your family doesn’t have to feel the pressure to reply to every single email, or send in the postcards they’re asking for. I’m Lisa Mark Robbins, and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation full of many actionable tips. It is my pleasure to welcome Silvia Borago, an independent educational consultant from California to the show today, she inspired among a group of us that work with teens that are on the college bound journey, a fantastic conversation about something that is often misunderstood. And that is demonstrated interest. So I decided to invite Silvia to join me so we could talk about this hot topic, because it truly can make a difference on getting in on the college side. But as Sylvia is going to explain in her work with students as an IEC, it actually is even a better tool for your family in your teen. Sylvia, welcome to the show.


Sylvia Borgo  2:16  

Thanks so much, Lisa, I’m so happy to be here.


Lisa Marker Robbins  2:18  

Oh, it’s fantastic to have you. So you and I could make a lot of assumptions. Because we always forget that we know things that are in our daily practice and others don’t. Let’s go back to kind of a working definition of demonstrated interest that you and I understand it to be. So if you were talking to a new family that you started working with, and they had no clue what this was, how would you explain demonstrated interest?


Sylvia Borgo  2:43  

Ooh, such a good question. So brand new family calls up they want to know about demonstrated interest, I would say it is a way for colleges to see if the student that is applying has engaged with different forms of communication with them. So in let me make this clear, not all colleges care about or track demonstrated interest, a great way to find out whether they do or not is by looking at the common data set. And it’s Section C, section number seven, C seven. So the colleges want to understand whether you are engaging with the communications that they provide for you, whether you visited their website, whether they may be perhaps opening the emails that they are sending you whether you visited their campus. And the reason they want to understand whether or not you’re engaging with them is to possibly understand whether or not you’re serious about their institution.


Lisa Marker Robbins  3:34  

That’s fantastic way to put it. I often say to parents, so I’ve been doing this work for him in my 24th year, back in the day in the 90s. When I started, what I found was we were still using hard copy applications and mailing them to colleges. And so when the colleges move things online, and I even remember, there were those years where I was like, Oh, you can submit a hardcopy or the electronic application or the common app. But then there was the year that they said, Nope, everything has to go electronic. Right, I think it was 2005 or 2006. And that increased the flood of application. So this really came about because online applications kind of blew up all of those statistical analysis that colleges had of, hey, if you do this on your application, or we have this number of applicants, we know that we’re going to get ultimately probably this number of paying clients and they needed those seats, then


Sylvia Borgo  4:35  

that’s something that I mentioned families that have a student going through this process. It’s not necessarily that, well, admissions decisions or admissions, the rates of being admitted have gone down at some colleges because of that sheer number of applications that they’ve got because of the ease of the application process.


Lisa Marker Robbins  4:53  

Stealth applicant is that applicant that the college knew nothing of this kid until that Apple occasion lands in their office. Anybody that the college knows before that they’ve demonstrated some sort of interest to the school, which can be a plus for getting in for the colleges that care about it. Real quick, I want to go back to what you said about the common data set. And it doesn’t say in that C seven, it doesn’t say demonstrated interest, it just says level of interest, right?


Sylvia Borgo  5:23  

Yes, I believe the factors are very important. So usually, academic courses are very important. That’s something that colleges always say is very important, considered or not considered.


Lisa Marker Robbins  5:33  

So if the college says checks, that box of interest is not considered those colleges, they’re not going to be tracking how the student engages with them at all. But if it’s any of the other categories, they’re spending some time and some money tracking in and is going to make a difference on the college side. So before we talk about the differences that it can make on the student side, let’s talk about like if a family said, Well, how in the world would we demonstrate interest to like, send up those flares? To let the colleges know that we’re interested? Like, what are some of your favorites to recommend as an easy way for families to start saying, like, hey, I’m interested in your school. It’s almost like dating, right?


Sylvia Borgo  6:19  

Yeah, so 100%, my favorite way. And probably the easiest way is to get on the school’s mailing list on every website, a school would say like, Would you like to receive information from us or upcoming events, get on that school’s mailing list, if you’re really interested in the institution, it’s going to be fantastic for you to understand, oh, well, they have a speaker coming up to town, or they have a webinar that they’re offering coming up next month. That’s fantastic. And that I think, is the easiest way. Another fantastic way, I think, to understand the college, but this does require quite a bit of resources. And maybe time, and maybe not everyone can engage at this level is to visit the campus. And I love campus visits. Because the student I have a college what my oldest is in college, and he did end up at an institution where immediately, like his little spidey sense, just flared up as soon as he got out of the car into the parking lot. And he was like, oh, okay, this place is special. So the campus visit was a huge privilege that he had, and we were able to make that available to him. And that was my favorite.


Lisa Marker Robbins  7:20  

So when you have a family that you’re working with, you guys are fortunate you could get on campus. And I experienced that with my own children who have gone to college, and it does the light popular goes off, or you see it dim sometimes pretty quickly, too, which is, in my opinion, still a win, because it’s giving you information that helps guide your decision making. But how do you advise your clients who say okay, well, either time or money, or we’re interested in a school where we’ve got the time and the money to go locally, but gosh, that is all the way across the country? I don’t know that we can go do an in person visit. And that’s a school that’s highly values demonstrated interest. What can I do in lieu of getting on campus? What are some of your suggestions for them to do that? Oh, okay. So


Sylvia Borgo  8:10  

I have two that right now are super popular with all my juniors, if they can connect with a regional rep, sometimes regional reps make it out to the high schools, and they have these like little lunchtime offerings. So connecting there, there are also possibly regional fair, so maybe the Southern California reps will be hosting an information session or Northern California or Cincinnati. And if they can’t make it out to an event, or the reps do not visit their high school, I also suggest there’s reaching out to the regional rep for real nuanced and intentional questions about programs and so forth. Not something that can easily be answered like Do you have a poli sci department? That would be just a bit of research they can do on the website before contacting a regional rep, but something very nuanced. For example, does your astrophysics department offer field trips out to your observatory? Yeah, and how often do they go? So real nuanced questions that the regional rep would be able to help out with.


Lisa Marker Robbins  9:04  

And that can feel I know, it feels so intimidating to kids, I do have and I’ll drop this in the show notes. Because I see a lot of times or kids get nervous about being the one to reach out because they’re not new. And as we know, you have kids in this age group, they like to text Snapchat and Instagram and all the other things, but not email. And so it can feel scary to send an email to an adult. So I do have and I’ll drop it in the show notes, just a little guide about how to write a student email, so that it a gets attention. B gets an answer, and it’s not too much, but it’s enough, right? There’s that fine line. So I’ll drop that in the show notes because I know that colleges can tell when those parents write the email and you and I visit colleges all the time and they say we want to hear from the student


Sylvia Borgo  9:53  

100% And the student gets so much more excited when they actually hear back from the regional rep. or even professors, they can reach out to Professor as a matter of fact, sidenote, my husband’s a professor, when students reach out whether they be undergrads, graduate students, or even high school students, because he has spent his life researching and understanding the field that he’s in. So what a better, you know, to have that impressionable young mind like to have that chat about what it means to be a professor in this field. It’s just enlightening.


Lisa Marker Robbins  10:23  

In my launch, Career Clarity, courseware, we’re working on the right college major and the future career for students. I teach in module four, how to curate experiences, I always say get up close and personal to talk to somebody about their job. And to your point with your husband, when somebody’s excited about their university, or their job, or their program, adults want to help, they are usually more than happy to respond to the students.


Sylvia Borgo  10:50  

Absolutely. So those regional reps as well are just the most enthusiastic, they tend to be just a bit on the younger side, maybe mid 20s, late 20s. And they really, they’re not that far off in age with the high school applicants. So I think that there’s a possibility for great collaboration and communication between those two, I always


Lisa Marker Robbins  11:07  

think about like, in this intimidation piece, right. So it’s helpful that they’re younger, but I remind students that colleges err on the side of the students, right? Yes, they’re going to have to accept some and deny some and craft that perfect freshman list. But you know, they’re on your side. They’re not against you. They’re for you. What do you advise I always hear from people are like, okay, my kid took the PSAT and now we are inundated with mail. What’s your advice on? Do we have to send back every report card? Or if the email says reply to us? How do you advise your clients? Because that is a way of demonstrating interest?


Sylvia Borgo  11:44  

Oh, my gosh, yes. So tip number one, if you are getting a new data, and I had to do this with my oldest, literally probably about 150 emails a day, what we did is we unsubscribed from literally all the colleges that we knew he was not going to be interested in at all, whether it be because of a region or they didn’t have the program that he was looking for. Or perhaps as a family, we decided that financially that was not going to be one of our target schools, we would go ahead and use the search bar and look up, let’s say for example, all say, University of Nebraska, to cold for him, University of Nebraska, we find it all the emails, we delete them, but we go ahead and also unsubscribe to one of them. And then no longer does he get that. And so that was kind of almost like a weekly ritual every Sunday, he would go and spend about 20 minutes and just delete, delete. Now the ones that the schools that he really was interested in, you would open the emails that he thought were fantastic. So for example, when when the regional rep was coming to the school, or the region programs, he was he’s a computer science major. So anything in the engineering, any of those programs are fun. And then of course, some of the social aspects like guess what we’re doing for Halloween on our campus, or these are some top tips, he would open some of those.


Lisa Marker Robbins  12:52  

Okay, so kind of look for that trash can on your email, or maybe in your house. I remember there was a school that my oldest, it was one of the early ones that sent him something. And I just went over I said, we’re throwing this one away. It is not in our family budget to attend here. Because that school ultimately has to fit for your college major, your family’s finances, any kind of special needs that you have for sure. Okay, so we’ve been talking about like, colleges really track this, like I remember one time I called up to Case Western to check on something with a student that I was working with. And they’re like, well, we saw that he opened the email at 836 a m, but we asked her reply didn’t reply, and I was like, Oh, wow, they got a lot of detail here. So that’s the college side, it matters to them, because they’ve got so many applicants. They know that a kid who demonstrates interest regularly is more likely to attend than a kid who’s a stealth applicant. Now you have a perspective that you bring to your clients about how to think about demonstrated interest from for themselves. And I think it’s really helpful because we’re always so worried about like, am I checking the right boxes for the college, you’ve got some great advice on how to think about this. That’s really more student centered. So why don’t you share a little bit about that?


Sylvia Borgo  14:13  

Yes, absolutely. So I feel like demonstrated interest is really more of like, do you understand the college? Do you know them? Well? Do you see them? And the more that you see them as a student, the more that you understand them really benefits you the student. And it’s similar. It’s kind of a parallel advice that I give to students when they ask me should I join the chess club? Should I take up fencing? Should I do the violin? And my question is always like, do you want to? Is this something that you will find enriching and valuable? Because at the end of your high school career, if you join the marching band or the gardening club or Model UN, are you going to regret that? Because if you’re just doing it for college applications, that’s going to be very clear, it’s going to be very superficial? In really you could very well not get into one of the schools that your thinking is your top choice. And then you’re you’ll say to yourself, Well, why the gardening club I should never drawing, I should have gone the skiing club instead. So truly being very intentional about what is valuable to you what is meaningful to you, is very important. And in that vein, that’s how you demonstrate your interest to the colleges. First, starting with yourself that centering of yourself, what do you hope to gain? When you interact with these colleges? What kind of information will you be receiving when you interact with their website, with their emails, with the regional rep with the research for the supplemental essays that you’ll have to do, and that ultimately, as you get closer and closer to that summer, before your senior year, the fall before your senior year, you understand exactly why your college list is the way that it is. Because you’ve done that research, you’ve understand the program, whether they have a Bachelors of Arts, or a Bachelor of Science in Global Studies, or global health, all of that research can be, in my opinion, really exciting, because I’m a Research nerd. So I love it.


Lisa Marker Robbins  15:59  

Another benefit of that, and I’m a research nerd myself. So we are alike in that it really is going to help the kid have a better application as well, right? You’ve got many of the colleges are asking, Why do you want to attend here, and I always say, don’t just talk about their weather or that they’ve got good outcomes is what makes them unique and a fit for you. So to your point, when they are, instead of looking at demonstrated interest as checking boxes for the college, but figuring out fit for themselves. Once they’ve a confirm fit, they’re going to be able to express that through the supplemental essays like why are college why your major? What’s your favorite extracurricular? What might you be involved in here? So that they’re really positioned better on the application than other students?


Sylvia Borgo  16:52  

Yes. And if they’ve also been intentional with the coursework, that they’ve taken, the clubs, the extracurriculars, basically, their whole life, their whole high school life experience, then they will be able to understand why they match at certain colleges, or why those colleges have programs and offerings that match them, I think it will be very authentic for them to say, I’m really interested in your ethical computing department. Because in high school, this is what I’ve done in high school. This is what I focused on. These are some of the classes that I’ve taken, these are some of the programs that I’ve been involved in that confirm that I am really interested in, for example, ethical computing.


Lisa Marker Robbins  17:30  

Let’s talk about timing, like, is there an age at which it’s too early to start demonstrating interest? What do you think is the appropriate time to do so?


Sylvia Borgo  17:40  

Yes, absolutely. I think you do talk about this as well, Lisa, ninth grade, just explore have fun, make sure that you’re comfortable in your high school environment, you do well in your classes. That’s the foundation 10th grade, some students are taking honors classes, maybe a couple of APS that first year. So still focus on your academics, I would say maybe the second half of 10th grade is kind of the sweet spot to start beginning. Some very easy peasy demonstrated interest if there are schools in your local area. For me, I live in Southern California, whether that be San Diego or just Southern California, just going to visit a few of those schools and understanding well, what’s the difference between this medium size, large college, small college helping to just form your first initial perception of what those might feel like? And then junior year, exploring the major exploring the classes within that major exploring possibilities to either minor? And then also understanding what does the department offer? And by the way, if some students are feeling like I don’t even know what a major is, or I haven’t decided I love everything. It’s totally okay. Absolutely fine. Just go ahead and research some of the other programs that you think you might be interested in, for example, study abroad? Oh, yes, for sure. I’d love to try study abroad while I’m there. What does the school offer? Would it be easy for me to do that? If I’m an engineering major, or I’m a bio major? How easy is it for me to engage in some of the things that I think really like highlight? Well, I


Lisa Marker Robbins  19:06  

think, you know, in going back to what I was saying about that module four in my course, where we talked about curated experiences. One of the things that I suggest to students is when they are looking at college majors, that is a way to get clarity on the careers because a lot of schools will talk about here are the possible career pathways with this major. Here’s the coursework well, that can start to give you clues even on like to your point. There’s a lot of kids as a sophomore, they have no idea what they want to study, but just in a general sense, start doing it. One of my favorite sites I wish every college did this is the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign is website where they lay out for every college major like what matters most for getting admitted to that program. What are the possible grad school programs, possible careers that the students are at it is like on steroids as compared to some other schools have you been on there?


Sylvia Borgo  20:04  

I have that. And I also love Asus website because it says your one, this is what you’ll be taking your to, this is what you’ll be taking. And these are your electives. You can choose from these seven or six electives. And all of that research, I have students who have said to me like, Oh, I love finance. Great. Let’s look at that finance track. Oh, wow. But I didn’t know you were have to do you know, the obvious math or I mentioned global health. I was working with a young lady a couple of weeks ago. And she was deciding between global health or biochem. And she saw that in global health, she needed to take a foreign language. And I’m like, because Global Health Hello, like, Oh, my goodness, that’s not my forte. So Okay, now let’s look at the other bio track. Is that a little bit more comfortable to you? And this is so powerful, because I almost like shiver when kids say like, Oh, I just chose some majors. Like when I went on the common app, I just shows whatever. It was like, oh, shivers. Oh, gosh,


Lisa Marker Robbins  20:56  

Hathaway? Absolutely. Well, this has been fantastic. I always say to parents, your family. This is a family journey, not the outcomes for the student. But as a family journey, we want to make informed decisions. But don’t ever forget that you’re the consumer. And I think that you’ve given us a great way to think about demonstrated interest, not just in, I’m checking the boxes for the college to increase my chances of getting in which yes, that can happen with demonstrated interest, but to instead really think of it as a consumer. I’m becoming educated to make an informed decision for us, for my student for our family. And when we think about it that way, I think that makes a big difference. Yeah, this is all


Sylvia Borgo  21:45  

about the students journey. If I could have them in the driver’s seat and have them feel empowered and intentional throughout the whole process. I feel like they feel successful no matter what, no matter if they get a yes here or no there. They will feel successful. They’ve done everything they can to take this as seriously as possible with the time allotted in their busy lives.


Lisa Marker Robbins  22:07  

Yeah, well, you did something as a family that I suggest to all of our listeners, and you’ve probably heard me talk about it on the podcast before. You said every Sunday, your now college student was going in and kind of that was a Sunday ritual to clean out the email, get rid of the schools he wasn’t interested in are the ones where demonstrated interest wasn’t going to matter, and do that filing. And so this is a great reminder to our listeners that you are practicing this as a mom, you are practicing this with your clients. I suggest it to all of my listeners, that you carve out intentional time, typically on the weekends, but you do it every single week. So it becomes a ritual of practice. Students become more open hearted and open minded through that. And then you’re doing it with intention, and you’re not going to fall behind. So bravo, Sylvia,


Sylvia Borgo  22:56  

thank you so much. And then Mondays, by the way he would open up his college portal email, is there anything else I need to know that? Because then you’d be able to walk in on Monday morning or Tuesday morning and say, Look, I need a transcript or I need this. So Sundays and Mondays, we’re just getting it all done.


Lisa Marker Robbins  23:13  

Yeah. And listeners, just find the day that works for your family. But make it a practice, make it a ritual and try to keep the other days of the week as a college bound free zone so our kids can concentrate on all the other things that they’ve got going on. Sylvia, thanks for making time today. I know this is going to be very helpful. Where can our listeners find you if they want to keep in touch.


Sylvia Borgo  23:35  

I am actually a big fan of Instagram. So I am at DJ underscore educational consulting on Instagram. I’m also on Facebook, also DJ educational consulting my website. And by the way, DJ is not necessarily like music DJ, everybody asks exactly the initials on my son’s names. So when is it? Yeah,


Lisa Marker Robbins  23:56  

I love that. That’s sweet. I love it. Well, we’ll put that in the show notes to make it super easy to find. Have a great day, Sylvia.


Sylvia Borgo  24:03  

Thank you so much, Lisa.


Lisa Marker Robbins  24:07  

After we recorded I realized you all probably need a bit more guidance on how to use the common data set. I filmed a quick video and put it on the resources tab of the Florida website. Just head over to flourish coaching co.com to find it. It’s also on my YouTube channel. Your college bound challenge for this episode is by the end of this very next weekend, to first learn how to use the common data set to figure out if a college even cares if your teen demonstrates interest. Discovering this will actually create some freedom for you and not feeling pressured to open or reply to every single email. That’s a huge win. Additionally, have your team do something this week and every single week in the future to demonstrate entrance to a college that they are interested in and that college is tracking interest. While you’re at it, delete the emails that don’t matter and head to the recycle bin with the mail you no longer need. If today’s episode was helpful to you, please share it with a friend who needs us to your friends might just be trying to reply to every single email when you now No, it’s unnecessary. They will thank you for sharing. Thank you for listening to College and Career Clarity podcast where I help your family move from overwhelmed and confused to motivated clear and confident about your teens future