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"Show them you care."

No, it's not a new Hallmark tagline, it's important college advice. Letting colleges know you're interested in them can sometimes serve as a tipping factor, and at some schools it is considered more important than an interview. In the world of college admissions, showing you care has a name: "demonstrated interest."

Demonstrated interest is a new and somewhat surprising phenomenon. In the National Association of College Admission Counseling 2008 Admission Trends Survey, 59.6 percent of colleges and universities rated demonstration of interest as either considerably important or moderately important. A student's demonstrated interest ranked seventh in the highest category of "considerable importance."

Here are the top six:

1. Grades in college prep courses.

2. Strength of curriculum how rigorous are the courses you're taking .

3. Standardized test scores ACT and SAT .

4. Grades in all courses.

5. Essays or writing samples.

6. Teacher recommendations.

Even if a college or university doesn't factor demonstrated interest into its decision mix, admissions officials do appreciate when a student understands why their specific college is a good fit for them.

With the increased popularity of the Common Application -- which allows students to easily apply to multiple schools -- colleges want to know if a student is really interested in them. Additionally, demonstrated interest does provide the college with a better assessment of who will actually accept their offers of admission.

>What some colleges say

Here are what various colleges say about demonstrated interest, according to Allen Grove at About.com.

Emory University in Atlanta is very clear with its prospective applicants. "We carefully note demonstrated interest during the admissions process and expect candidates to have done their homework on us: Have you met us at a college fair, ordered the Emory video visit, attended an information session, or perhaps visited campus? Most importantly, have you clearly and specifically articulated in this application why Emory is a good match for you?"

Rhodes College in Memphis is a believer in demonstrated interest. "Your overall campus visit indicates demonstrated interest and will play a considerable role in the admissions decision-making process."

Duke University in Durham, N.C., lets applicants know that showing you care won't make a difference. "Duke does not take demonstrated interest into account when evaluating applications. Although we are glad that you may have visited our campus or asked us questions about the school, demonstrated interest is not an advantage in the admissions process."

Stanford University in California does not encourage students to demonstrate their interest.

"We offer campus tours and information sessions to provide you with the information you need to make an informed college choice, not to evaluate you. And we welcome calls and e-mails for the same reason. Please do not feel compelled to contact us to demonstrate your interest in Stanford; we know by the very fact of your applying that you are seriously interested in Stanford. We don't keep records of prospective student contacts with our office."

Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, visit www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com.