12/17/2012 12:05 pm ET Updated Feb 16, 2013

Tell 'Em You Love Them, but DON'T Fall in Love Yourself!

As if today's high school seniors don't already have enough on their plates, last week the National Association for College Admission's (NACAC) State of Admission report offered high school seniors yet another admissions factor to worry about: "demonstrated interest." This is a "tip factor" in the admissions process, according to NACAC. Although schools never even considered "demonstrated interest" until 10 years ago, now 59 percent of colleges assign some level of importance to a student showing interest in attending their school.

According to NACAC, demonstrated interest is "... the admission offices' evaluation of (a) student's commitment to attending the institution if accepted." In other words, colleges want evidence that you love them. NACAC even spells out some ways in which you can show schools that you do, including:

How to Show Demonstrated Interest

  • Making a campus visit (and checking in at the admissions office)
  • Saying positive things about the school in one or more essays
  • Contacting admissions offices (by email, phone, fax, regular mail, or possibly some social networking means)
  • Having recommenders make comments about your level of interest in a particular school.
  • Applying Early Decision or Early Action

Let me add: take time to research schools when asked in an application or supplemental form, "Why this school?" so that you can give specific examples that are unique to each school. As I said in my last blog, you need to let every school on your college list know that you are interested in them if you want to want to get accepted.

Why You Shouldn't Fall in Love
Now here is the flip side. Given the uncertainty of any given college accepting you (even if you are among the most qualified of applicants), while you need to show colleges that you love them, try not to fall in love with just one. Of course, you're going to have favorites, but don't put all of your emotional eggs into one school's basket.

Right now, students are getting answers from their early admissions applications, and I'm seeing how difficult it is for those who are being denied by their "one-and-only." To help applicants avoid this situation, I encourage them to develop a college list that includes a number of schools they would be happy to attend, because if they get their heart set on just one school, the risk is getting it broken.

That said, if you receive a rejection letter from your favorite college, besides feeling sad, you have a lot of choices about how to think about the situation and what to do about it. Here are a few:

How to Get Over a Rejection Letter

  1. Don't dwell on the rejection or focus on the "what if's." It happened; chances are that you were as qualified as many of the accepted students, but somehow this time it just didn't work. Stop yourself from going over and over the rejection. The truth is, college admission is often a matter of luck -- having your application read at the right time by the right person who decides to advocate for your acceptance.
  2. Take a look at your application materials and with the help of your college counselor, a teacher and/or parent, see if there is anything you can improve in applications you have not yet sent.
  3. Ask your college counselor to call the college from whom you received the rejection to get feedback about your denial. Have the counselor ask what you might do to improve your acceptance chances at other schools. Sometimes an inquiry of this kind works and you get good advice and at other times you get nothing back. You have nothing to lose by trying.
  4. Rather than focusing on your sadness, get yourself moving on all of the other applications that are left to complete. Make your applications -- especially the essays -- as good as they can be. Get yourself into a positive, take-charge mood.
  5. Do whatever it takes to get the best grades you can. Colleges are very interested in your GPA for first semester, senior year. This alone, could make or break your admissions chances.

In sum, not getting into one school that you applied to early can give you information and motivation to do things differently for other applications. Turn a negative situation into a positive opportunity. Remember, no college is going to be perfect, even one you think you love.

Next up: Early applications can result in acceptances, deferrals and denials. In my next blog, I will tell you exactly what to do if your receive a deferral.