For a second year, YouTube application ‘essays’ stream in, showcase individuality
Published: Monday, February 7, 2011
Updated: Monday, February 7, 2011 07:02
With admissions season already in full swing, high school seniors around the country are biting their nails and asking themselves what they could have done differently to be distinguished from thousands of other applicants. The answer may lie in one of several optional essays that Tufts applicants may submit alongside the required supplements.
For the second consecutive year, applicants were able to upload a short movie to YouTube or other video-sharing websites to express their personalities in a way not evident via the traditional paper application.
Despite the nationwide publicity focusing on Tufts' decision to offer the video option, which went into effect for the Class of 2014, the role that supplemental videos play in an applicant's admission — or rejection — may be smaller than some would expect.
"The video is a very small, optional element of our undergraduate application," Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Lee Coffin said. "In fact, only six percent of the applicant pool has submitted one in each of the two years we included it in our supplement."
While evaluating the undergraduate applications, admissions officers try to glean a complete and detailed image of the individual behind the application, according to Director of Public Relations Kim Thurler.
"Tufts looks at many elements in a holistic admissions process that seeks to get as full a picture of an applicant's abilities and talents as possible," Thurler said. For this reason, the video option is only ever considered in moderation — appreciated if beneficial to the application, glossed over if not.
"The ‘success' of the video option is equal to the ‘success' of the other parts of the application," Coffin said. "It is one small aspect of a holistic and most selective admissions process. Some students do it well, others do not, the same as a written or visual essay."
St. Mary's College of Maryland offers a similar supplemental option and has given students the choice to submit a video since the days of VHS tapes. St. Mary's, like Tufts, has a similarly low rate of applicants who choose to make a video.
"You don't get extra kudos for doing a video," Director of Admissions for St. Mary's Richard Edgar told the Daily.
It's a given that the students applying have strong writing skills, he said, but a video supplement demonstrates something extra.
"I know they can write, but we're looking for how creative they can be," Edgar said. Coffin also believes that the video option can provide an indispensable way to evaluate the creativity of an applicant.
"Regardless of the format — words, video or visual — the responses to the optional questions are evaluated for creative expression and originality," Coffin said. "If it achieves that goal, that evaluation enhances our overall understanding of the applicant."
Edgar pointed out that even the written essay isn't only being evaluated for writing skills.
"The purpose of the essay is not necessarily to see how you write; the purpose of the essay is to see how you think," he said. Given that, providing a video option is just another way of allowing students to demonstrate their thought process in a more creative outlet.
Production of a video can be an extremely time-consuming process for the student applicant, which Edgar believes is related to the low submission rate for video supplements.
Submission of a video represents a risk that does not go unnoticed in the admissions office, according to Edgar. "When we get a video, that young person has really put their foot out there," he said.
Edgar hopes that the video option makes the admission process less stressful. "It's about finding a home and so students have to have an enjoyable time going through this process," he said.