The Video in College Admissions

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Apparently the idea of letting applicants submit videos of themselves as part of their admissions packages is becoming more popular. According to a piece by Jenna Johnson in the Washington Post:

Videos have been a small part of the admissions process for years, especially for students applying to arts programs. But as cameras and editing software get cheaper and easier to use, the videos have become more technically sophisticated and feature clips spliced from a number of scenes, voice-overs, music and simple special effects.

And increasingly, it’s not just arts students participating – prospective English majors and engineers are using their cellphones, webcams and point-and-shoots to make their cases for admission.

While the article is careful to point out that the videos rarely matter much in terms of admission decisions, at least one reader thought the idea as a little disturbing. “How soon until wealthy applicants just hire other people to write, produce, and direct their videos?” the reader asked. “I bet some are already doing this.”

Furthermore, the skills are irrelevant. Students will spend most of their time in college writing papers and studying for exams. They will likely never need to produce a short movie for a class, unless they’re taking a very specific and unusual course.

But then, schools that allow students to submit videos (Tufts and Virginia’s George Mason University are two schools mentioned) may not be particularly interested in the video production. They may have just thrown in the video option because they’re unwilling to put in significant time and effort to actually get to know the students.

As the article explained, “GMU used to conduct face-to-face interviews with many of the few thousand students who applied each year. But as the number of applications multiplied… the college had to phase out the program.”

The dean of admissions at Mason said that he “hopes the videos will help his office put faces with names.”

As opposed to, you know, hiring a few more staffers and actually meeting the faces. It’s not really clear Mason had to stop interviewing students. The school is also in the midst of a $900 million construction campaign. What’s affordable depends on what’s important. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer