The Optional College Essay: YouTube Videos
Ladies and Gentleman. Presenting potential members of the Tuft’s graduating class of 2014.
Two weeks ago, NPR ran a feature on their popular program “All Things Considered” looking at the rise of video submissions as part of the college application process. And these students were not applying to select film schools or large universities that have excellent film departments; they were applying to schools such as Tufts and William and Mary.
With the rise of YouTube, high school students have an opportunity to showcase hidden talents, passions, or simply help admissions officers put a face with a name. A verbal essay full of creative juices, a silver bullet to sway over admissions officers who might be on the fence regarding a particular applicant, these YouTube videos would appear to help students make a great case for the talents they could bring to those selected schools.
However, these videos present a logistical and ethical dilemma for many college admission departments.
Admissions officers are already under the gun to read through and then re-evaluate each application they receive. As NPR reporter Tovia Smith notes, “They [Tufts admissions officers] say they’re too busy reading and watching applications to comment further.” Even at 1 minute a piece, that’s an extra document an admissions officer must review when considering a student’s admission decision. Even worse, “It invites, yes, second guessing,” states Dr. Henry Broaddus, Dean of Admissions for the College of William & Mary.
Beyond the logistical issue, let’s consider the ethical issue. Not every student has access to a computer, a video camera, or video editing software to create, edit, and upload a cute vlog on why they should be admitted to a particular school.
Additionally, I would think that some of these videos were not entirely made by students themselves. Some students may have turned to outside, professional sources to create these pieces. And with national unemployment levels still north of the double digits, not every family has extra cash set aside to help their child create a 90 second clip highlighting how he / she will be an engine of change on campus. In other words, this whole process could get way out of control.
Interestingly enough, submitting a video as part of the college application is not a relatively new trend. High school athletes, with the hopes of taking their game to collegiate level have submitted highlight packed videos for years! So, what’s the difference between the high school athletic tapes and the optional video essay submissions?
High school athlete’s are attempting to showcase their current skill set to coaches with the hopes that they will earn a scholarship. In this case, a game video would serve as a better medium to showcase an athlete’s basketball IQ, relative to the high school athlete trying to explain those skills in words. For students who simply who seek admission to University / College of _____, a video does not serve the same purpose. While a video certainly offers a great opportunity to leverage creativity, it does not reveal anything that could not be expressed in a personal statement or interview.
So, should students be required to submit a video with their college applications? I do not think so. Do I think it’s a great gesture that colleges are making video essays optional? Absolutely!
What’s your take? As always, your 2 cents is welcome in the comments section below.