College applications should include YouTube videos

YouTube has changed the way we listen to music, watch the news and laugh at people. It has created dozens of bizarre celebrities, from “Star Wars Guy” to the kid who sings “Chocolate Rain.” In many ways, it’s like “America’s Funniest Home Videos” on steroids.

Now, it’s about more than entertainment. YouTube is changing our education system.

Tufts University in Massachusetts has given its applicants the option of adding a one-minute supplemental YouTube video to their applications. It adds a personal element to the usual process and gives potential students an opportunity to separate themselves from the thousands of other applicants. The best part, though, is that some of the videos are terrible.

The decision has led to an abundance of impressive slideshows of overachieving high school students, but, more importantly, there are also a few videos that make viewers shake their heads and laugh.

Tufts has turned into the American Idol of college applications. The university gets publicity from the wacky failures (card tricks, rap songs and improvised monologues), but they also get a chance to evaluate some serious talent.

Just when Tufts thought it couldn’t get much more free publicity (one video, titled “Math Dances,” has received over 79,000 views), The New York Times ran a story on the application process. When more people hear about a university, more people apply, and then when more people apply, more smart people apply. In short, Tufts has profited from this decision and it didn’t cost them anything.

Now it’s time for the phenomenon to spread. For years, schools have ignored the power of YouTube despite the fact that their own athletic departments were watching highlight videos of recruits. For some reason, no one made the connection. But after Tufts created such a spectacle, video applications could become commonplace, at least in addition to the traditional essays.

ASU calls itself a “New American University,” and now it’s time to embrace some new American ideas. There’s nothing to lose, and, quite frankly, admissions officers could use a little entertainment.

Many universities include interviews in their applications, so why not save some gas money and post it on YouTube?

Schools may always require essays, but a little diversity never hurt anyone. Five paragraphs can’t capture the vision of a budding filmmaker or the talent of a musical prodigy, but one minute can.

Let prospective students showcase their skills on an instrument or at a sport; let them recite a poem or sing a song; give them a chance to be creative. Today’s YouTube phenomenon might be tomorrow’s great scholar. It will be entertaining at the very least.

Jack is singing “Chocolate Rain.” Reach him at jlfitzpa@asu.edu


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