The Ivy Coach Daily

December 30, 2020

Video Prompts on College Applications

More schools, like Brown University, are offering applicants the chance to upload videos (photo credit: Chensiyuan).

Equity isn’t just a buzzword in elite college admissions. It’s the name of the game — as, of course, it should be. “Need-blind” admissions policies (and, yes, we put the term in quotations). “Test-optional” admissions policies (yes, the quotations were intentional again). Boasts about the percentage of students who will be the first in their families to attend college. Boasts about the diversity of each incoming class. Boasts about how students hail from all 50 states in our union. And so on. So why in a year in which admissions officers at our nation’s elite universities are particularly mindful — due, of course, to the pandemic — of foster equity in admissions are more elite schools asking applicants to upload optional videos?

As an example, at Washington University in St. Louis, applicants are instructed, “High school seniors applying as first-year students for the fall of 2021 will see the option to upload a 90-second video when they log in to the WashU Pathway. This video is not intended to be a professional-quality production or rehearsed audition. Simply capture a quick video of yourself (cell phone is fine) telling us about something important to you…The video allows you to add another dimension to your application – something that we might not learn by reading your transcript or your personal statement. Be creative, be yourself, and have fun with it!”

As another example, at Brown University, applicants are instructed, “Once logged in to your Brown Applicant Portal you will be given the option to submit a 2-minute personal video portfolio. The video portfolio gives you an opportunity to tell us more about yourself, in your voice, beyond the information you provided in your application. Sharing a two-minute personal video is a helpful way to show us who you are and why you are interested in attending Brown.”

And it’s not like Wash U and Brown are alone in offering optional video uploads. But it seems, at least to us, that such optional videos fly in the face of the stated mission of equity. After all, some students may feel they’re at a disadvantage — even though they most certainly are not — if their videos are poorly produced. Some applicants may not be so proud of their surroundings (their fears are misguided as it’s fancy surroundings that are the enemy in elite college admissions but they don’t always know this to be true). Some applicants may also not have access to smartphones. And if colleges were worried about inconsistent wi-fi access for low-income applicants during the pandemic, as they so claimed, well, then what’s with the fancy schmancy videos uploads?

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