Don’t be stealth – show them your love

“Stealth applicants” is the term colleges and universities use to refer to those students whose first communication with a school comes via their admissions application. Essentially, these students haven’t shown any interest in the school via webinars, virtual tours, visits (when it was possible), etc.  An increase in these “out-of-the-blue” applicants has thrown off schools’ ability to accurately predict the number of applications they will receive and has caused some schools to adjust their traditional admissions practices.

The ease of “pointing and clicking” on the Common Application to add more colleges to your application list has increased the number of stealth applicants at schools across the country. Think about it, if you were an Admissions Dean and you had two students whose stats were similar; you’d select the one who had demonstrated more interest, because you felt there was a great likelihood that they would choose to attend your school. Colleges and universities often purposely track students’ interest to help predict the number of applications the admissions office will receive. Every box that gets “checked” helps colleges gauge students’ “demonstrated interest,” which the school uses as a predictor of how many students, if admitted, will actually enroll.The percentage of students who accept a school’s admissions offer — referred to as a yield ratio — is a critical measurement for admissions offices deciding on the number of acceptance offers they should send out and on how they should apportion their available grants, student loans and other limited financial aid funds.

However, as more students apply without warning, schools’ yield ratios are becoming less predictable. An increase in stealth applicants makes it difficult for admissions officers to discern a student’s real interest in the school, which is typically measured by the extent of a student’s contact with the school.Internet conveniences allow students to apply to more schools with little additional effort.

Here are some suggestions of ways to demonstrate interest:

  • Follow each of your colleges on social media
  • Respond to their emails if given the opportunity
  • Visit the college if possible. It shows you’ve invested the time to visit the campus. While there, take the tour, arrange to sit in on a class, if possible, and talk with students.  If you’re interested in majoring in a specific department, arrange to meet with a professor or students in that department and ask questions.
  • If you cannot get to the school, arrange to visit with the college admissions staff at a local or national college fair. You can check out national college fairs at the National Association for College Admissions Counseling website,
  • Identify the Regional Admissions Officer at each college on your list. This is the person responsible for applications from your state.  Get to know this person through both E-mail and phone conversations.  Ask this person to help you decide if the school is a good fit for you.
  • Let the college know if it is your first choice.
  • Attend a prospective student day.
  • Participate in online chats.
  • Watch online videos and take virtual tours.
  • Email well thought out questions and spend time on the college’s website on a regular basis. Colleges keep track of how often you contact them and visit the site.
  • Make sure that when you respond to the “Why this college?” essay prompt that you answer thoughtfully and with specifics.  (see my earlier columns on “Why this college?”)
  • Once you’ve sent in your application, check back with the admissions office to make sure they have everything they need and that your application is complete.

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