Demonstrated Interest: Signaling Behavior in College Admissions

28 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2017

See all articles by James A. Dearden

James A. Dearden

Lehigh University

Suhui Li

George Washington University

Chad D. Meyerhoefer

Lehigh University

Muzhe Yang

Lehigh University - Department of Economics

Date Written: October 2017

Abstract

In college admission decisions, important and possibly competing goals include increasing the quality of the freshman class and making the school more selective while attaining the targeted size of the incoming class. Especially for high‐quality applicants who receive multiple competing offers, colleges are concerned about the probability that these students accept the offers of admission. As a result, applicants' contacts with admissions offices, such as campus visits, can be viewed positively by the officers as demonstrated interest in the colleges. We provide empirical evidence on the effects of demonstrated interest on admission outcomes. Specifically, we use unique and comprehensive administrative data, which include all contacts made by each applicant to the admissions office of a medium‐sized highly selective university during two admission cycles. We find that an applicant who contacts the university is more likely to be admitted, and that the effect of the contact on the probability of admission is increasing in the applicant's Scholastic Assessment Test score, particularly when the contact is costly to make. We also use a numerical example to explore policies to reduce the inequity associated with the use of demonstrated interest in admission decisions, examining in particular the subsidization of costly demonstrated interest by low‐income students.

JEL Classification: D83, I23

Suggested Citation

Dearden, James A. and Li, Suhui and Meyerhoefer, Chad D. and Yang, Muzhe, Demonstrated Interest: Signaling Behavior in College Admissions (October 2017). Contemporary Economic Policy, Vol. 35, Issue 4, pp. 630-657, 2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3026727 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/coep.12216

James A. Dearden (Contact Author)

Lehigh University ( email )

621 Taylor Street
Department of Economics
Bethlehem, PA 18015
United States

Suhui Li

George Washington University ( email )

Chad D. Meyerhoefer

Lehigh University ( email )

621 Taylor Street
Bethlehem, PA 18015
United States

Muzhe Yang

Lehigh University - Department of Economics ( email )

621 Taylor Street
Bethlehem, PA 18015
United States

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