There are a number of great reasons to visit a college. It’s my favorite way to research a school that is on your list. You get the feel for the place that no amount of reading and watching videos can replace. But this question is not about whether visiting is a good way to learn about the college (it is). This question is about whether it somehow improves chances of admission. My answer to that is:
Some colleges care if you are interested in attending. Others don’t.
To really get into this question, let’s first define Yield, Likelihood to Enroll, Demonstrated Interest, and Common Data Set
When speaking in terms of college admissions, yield is the the percentage of ACCEPTED applicants who actually enroll. Admissions offices admit more students than the number of spaces they need because students apply to more than one college. The ratio of admitted to enrolled is the yield. The higher the yield, the higher perceived demand for the school. In short, colleges want to admit people who will actually attend.
Likelihood to Enroll:
For each applicant, admissions offices often calculate a figure per applicant that they use internally often called “Likelihood to Enroll” – LTE. This takes into account a number of factors including family financial information, geography, other schools the student is applying to, AND Demonstrated Interest.
Schools may track the level of interest expressed by a student. This can be measured by overt ways like actually visiting the school and taking a tour, talking with admissions reps when they visit the student’s high school or at a college fair, signing up to be on the admissions department’s mailing list, and things like that. Colleges also have sophisticated tracking of emails including if a student opens the email, clicks on a link, and how long they spend on the colleges’ web site, and even that is just the beginning. (As an aside: Schools say that the ultimate demonstration of interest is to apply via the binding early decision process. That’s a guarantee that the student will enroll, thus helping them with their yield.)
Common Data Set:
Some colleges care very much about demonstrated interest and others don’t care at all. This often correlates with yield: colleges that have a lot of students apply and then not attend care much more about demonstrated interest. How can we tell if the college pays attention to demonstrated interest? We can either guess, or we can see what the college says in official reports each year. The most organized and easiest to read official report is called the Common Data Set (CDS). Most (but not all) colleges publish this basic information including at what level they pay attention to demonstrated interest. You can find the CDS per school by using google and searching: Name of College Common Data Set. Once you have a CDS report, you can find information on demonstrated interest in section C7. It’s called “Level of Applicant’s” interest. The college will indicate whether this is Very Important, Important, Considered, or Not Considered.
Of course, I share this information with students I work with as well once their list gets solidified.