March 2010 Newsletter
On Tufts University’s supplemental application there are several choices for the optional essay question. This essay is in addition to the three required essays on the supplement, and the two required essays on the Common Application. Optional essay choice #6b, states: “Share a one-minute video that says something about you. Upload it to YouTube or another easily accessible Web site, and give us the URL. What you do or say is totally up to you.” Out of approximately 15,000 applications that Tufts University received for their Class of 2014, about 1,000 applicants chose #6b.
Tufts University is not the only college to offer YouTube videos as an essay option. Applicants to St. Mary’s College of Maryland have a choice of either writing an essay or submitting an original video. On SMCM’s application, it states: “St. Mary’s College is casting for the incoming class. Send us your audition tape via the Web or DVD. Please provide us with the site for posting. Selection of this option will stand as your college essay. Consider your audience.” At George Mason University, the originator of this novel concept, in addition to a personal statement applicants are asked: “Submit a video essay that you would like to be considered as part of your freshman application. In 2 minutes or less address Why is Mason the right school for you?” Then somewhat more private than the YouTube platform that Tufts is using, GMU directs students to upload their videos onto the university’s site. But with Mason requiring that “by submitting a video you acknowledge that you give permission for your video to be viewed by the admissions committee and potentially selected for public viewing,” the student runs the risk of admissions counselors from other colleges viewing his or her video. And what’s worse, for this video with the theme, “Why is Mason the right school for you?” the student faces the additional dilemma of letting other admissions counselors from colleges to which he or she applied think that if admitted, the student would choose Mason over their college.
How easy it can be to avoid writing another essay! Yet, just because this is one of the choices, doesn’t mean that you should opt to do it. It’s also possible that what you’re trying to convey can be better demonstrated in a well-constructed essay. So before going through the motions of making a video, applicants need to ask themselves if this video is the best medium to employ. In watching a dozen or so of these videos, I found some that creatively exhibited the applicant’s positive attributes. A couple of my favorites are Laura Chipman who features her horse Mason, and Mike Klinker who demonstrates how his model elephant “Jumbo” flies to the tune of Disney’s “When I see an elephant fly.”
For years Ivy Coach has been encouraging talented students to send supplemental material. Our students who are vocalists have sent CD’s, our thespians have submitted DVD’s, and our athletes have included sports videos along with their applications. These students have voluntarily submitted this material, and it added an additional dimension to their application. The application process should remain a dignified and private way to convey to an admissions committee the positive attributes and accomplishments of the student. A YouTube video can take the dignity out of this process, and it certainly isn’t private.
While Amelia Down’s video on performing math dances is very clever, I question what it really says about her, and with over 91,000 views, I’m also concerned about how a private matter of applying to a particular college, evolved into a public forum with viewers commenting on her video and either rooting for or against her gaining acceptance. Obviously, Rhaina Cohen thinks that by submitting a video entitled, “In My Shoes” featuring all the different pairs of shoes she’s worn at different functions and times in her life tells Tufts something about her, because otherwise she wouldn’t have done it. Maybe she just wanted to get the point across that in a pair of open-toed pumps, she stood next to Hilary Clinton. I wonder how Imelda Marcos could edit her video down to one minute! Did Emma Bloksberg think that her talent in jumping rope was just the thing that was going to get her in, especially when she collapses on the floor for the last 20 seconds? Did Dylan McCarthy feel that his card trick could be the magic that he needs to get accepted? And what was Mark thinking when he submitted a video to GMU entitled “Accept me preaseeee”. Donned in his underwear, he wakes up from an after school nap and talks about how sleepy he is, how he has bed head, and apologizes for making a video that’s unplanned as well as “long, boring and dry.” He actually says all this! I have to wonder why these students submitted these videos in the first place. Did they not think of asking an adult to critique their work? While I realize that it’s difficult for parents to give their child an objective opinion, I question why these students didn’t show their videos to their counselor or teachers before they clicked ‘submit’.
For someone who can demonstrate a particular talent, a YouTube video may have its benefits, but what does a student who’s involved in science research do? Does this student have to stand at the lab table behind some bubbling gases and sing “Monster Mash”? I can just see it – “I was working in the lab late one night when …” Will a YouTube video make this potential cancer researcher a stronger candidate? I think not!
No doubt a YouTube video can be fun and it can even demonstrate a student’s ingenuity and personality, but how much weight should it actually be given? Admissions counselors often talk about leveling the playing field but now in their next breath they offer the video option. Seems to me that this is just a bit contradictory. Obtaining the necessary equipment is only one issue. I can just envision affluent parents hiring a production company to develop their child’s video.
I have the utmost respect for admissions counselors, and many of them are friends. In the evenings and on weekends during “reading season” much of their own time is spent reading applications. No doubt it can be a grueling task, especially when students write essays that are “long, boring and dry” as our “eloquent” friend Mark commented about his video. But at the end of the admissions cycle once the decisions are mailed, I can’t help but imagine that to celebrate another year’s work, admissions counselors at these colleges will have a celebration where they view the worst videos submitted and vote on the top ten. Maybe that’s the point to this absurdity!
Read our March 8th blog – “More on Youtubing the College Admissions Rapids”.