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Demonstrated Interest: Signaling Behavior in College Admissions

Some four-year colleges extrapolate an applicant’s likelihood to attend the school based on a measure called ‘demonstrated interest.’ Calculations using the number of on-campus visits and activities an applicant participates in help the schools guess the likelihood that the student will actually attend, in order to accept those who would raise yield rates. A study by James Dearden, Chad Meyerhoefer, Muzhe Yang, and Suhui Li, appearing in the journal Contemporary Economics Policy, found that the emphasis placed on demonstrated interest disproportionately disadvantages low-income applicants who do not have the time or money to participate in on-campus activities. To the colleges who take demonstrated interest into consideration, the paper recommends subsidizing campus visits and taking family income into consideration when calculating the ability to show demonstrated interest. Hopefully these changes will work to minimize the discrepancy in acceptances between high- and low-income students.