Every year without fail, I get tons of questions about demonstrated interest. What does it mean? How does Tulane use it? Is it just “checking boxes”? Why do you call it “engagement” now?

I’ll be the first to admit that using student interest in the admission process is less than ideal. It can lead to inauthentic box checking, extra stress, and confusion. Students who attend less-resourced schools or who are first in their family to go to college may be unaware that interest is even a factor being used (more on that later). I totally understand the skepticism and fair criticism of its usage in admission at all.

Here’s the thing: at Tulane, we simply have more qualified students applying than we have space for. Last year, we had over 43,000 applications, and we can only comfortably house around 1,850 first-year students in our residence halls. Therefore, we have to be careful when admitting a class so that we do not enroll too many students. Engagement allows us to predict enrollment more accurately, as we can see who would seriously consider attending Tulane if admitted. We try to be as transparent as possible with students, parents, and counselors when we say that engagement is a major factor when it comes to Tulane. Read on to learn more!

Gibson Hall

What is “engagement”?

Engagement (also known as demonstrated interest) is the process of keeping an eye on a student’s interactions with a school. Many schools use it as a part of a holistic review process, since a student who interacts with a school during their application process is generally more likely to come to that school if they are admitted. We started to refer to this as engagement rather than demonstrated interest to try to emphasize that we are looking for more than just “checking the box” and going through the motions. We absolutely want students to attend our events and do research, but it is about how you use that research to write a great Why Tulane essay and explain why you are a good fit for Tulane, and Tulane a good fit for you. We want students to actively participate in their search.

The example I always share to explain the difference between “demonstrating interest” and “engaging” came from a college fair a few years back. A student walked up to me at a college fair and literally said “I’d like to demonstrate my interest.” He filled out a card to share his information and sign in for the event. While he was doing so, I asked him if he had any questions about Tulane. He said no, handed me his card, and walked away. It was very bizarre and a prime example of what I’m talking about. Sure, his application reflected that he took the time to swing by the table at the college fair, but he did not actually do anything to learn more about Tulane or use it as an opportunity to add some humanity to his application. See the difference?

How can I engage with Tulane?

The good news is that there are tons of ways to interact with Tulane. From campus tours to virtual events, we have you covered. You do not need to physically visit New Orleans to prove that you are interested in Tulane. Of course, we appreciate it if you do, but it is NOT the only way to show interest. Our counseling staff also travels extensively, and we’re hosting Tulane info sessions around the country and visiting high schools. Basically, any time we are taking down your name and email address, we are making a note in your file that you attended an event. This way, when we go to read your application later, we can see that you’ve spent time with us and have invested time in Tulane. You are also welcome to email your admission counselor to ask questions. Try to ask those questions that cannot be found on a quick Google search!

Remember, you then need to use all of this research and turn it into a great Why Tulane essay! Engagement is not a competition to see who has attended the most Tulane events! It is much more of a binary question of if a student is taking us seriously or not. You do not need to attend 18 Tulane events to show us that you are!

How does Tulane use engagement?

Engagement is a very important factor in our admission process. Since we have more qualified students applying than we have space for, we have to use more than just academics to build our class. One analogy I use a lot is about high school dances. Would you ask someone to go to the dance with you if you knew they were going to say no? Probably not! The same goes for us with a hypothetical student who didn’t attend any events or write the Why Tulane essay. Engagement can absolutely be a difference-maker in the application process.

However, we know that using engagement is not perfect. Not every student knows that it is a factor, or attends a high school where they are close with a counselor that can clue them in. That is why engagement is not a one-size-fits-all metric. We understand that a student from a rural public high school who is the first in their family to go to college may not have the same tools available to them as a student who attends an independent school that costs $35k a year. We don’t just blindly use engagement without context. We try to use it in an equitable way that does not solely benefit the most privileged students in our pool who know a lot about the admission process.

Isn’t this just “yield protection”?

This is a question that I’ve gotten more and more recently. I think someone heard the term and posted it all over the applying to college subreddit and folks ran with it.

The idea of “yield protection” that I hear a lot is that students hypothesize that Tulane and other schools automatically defer/deny very high achieving students. Their theory is that schools assume these high achievers are going to go to the Harvards and Stanfords of the world, so we don’t bother admitting them. This could not be more wrong. We absolutely admit and enroll students who performed at an elite level in high school.

We do not automatically deny anyone, but having elite grades and/or scores does not entitle anyone to a spot at Tulane. High achieving students have to show us that they are taking their application seriously just like everyone else. And when they do show that, they’ve got a great chance of getting admitted! We want to build a class and a community of people who are not only strong students, but also people who are excited about Tulane and New Orleans.

Final Thoughts

I know this was a longer post, but I hope y’all found it helpful. I fully admit that engagement is a funky thing and is far from perfect. However, I’m glad we are able to peel back the curtain and explain to y’all how it is used.

I like to think of admission to Tulane as 3 big hurdles that everyone needs to get over: academic, personal, and engagement. It is quite hard to get into Tulane if you miss one of the three hurdles. We need to see that you are a capable student, that you will bring something to our community, and that you have shown that Tulane is a school you are seriously considering. Unfortunately, crossing all 3 hurdles does not guarantee admission, but covering all 3 elements of your application can seriously help your chances of getting in.

As you go through your applications this year, be aware of which schools track engagement and which don’t. Be respectful of your own time and be strategic about what schools you visit in the fall versus which ones can wait until the spring. Don’t let these events take over your whole life!

Thanks so much for reading, and hope to see y’all on the road!