Ayo technology! YouTube comes to the Office of Admissions

I thought it was pretty modern that I got to fill out my college applications on the internet. Today, young folks get to do so much with their applications, including submitting a YouTube video. Tufts University is leading the way by offering applicants to the Class of 2014 (wow, typing that made me feel old) the option to submit one-minute videos about themselves. More than 1,000 videos have been uploaded to Tufts. Check out a few here.

At first, I thought the vids would turn out more like applications for The Real World instead of a well-respected university. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they offer the admissions committees a sneak peek into each applicant’s personality – something that’s often hard to communicate via standardized test scores, a meticulously crafted essay or even a stressful interview. Now you can see the potential student’s creativity and learn more about who they really are.

Of course not all students are as technologically inclined and let’s face it, most people are neither charismatic nor interesting enough to make videos that would get them a seat at freshman orientation. The admissions folks at Tufts say that this won’t give the YouTube students any application advantage over those who choose not to send one but I find that hard to believe. After watching this kid play the piano and KILL a Rubik’s Cube, I want to admit him to Tufts. There are also the comments to consider. YouTube commenters can come out in droves. What if your admissions video is panned and clowned to high hell? Not that this is American Idol or admissions by getting voted off the island, but isn’t that stuff hard to ignore? Nope, says dean of admissions, Lee Coffin. “It’s just one more thread we get to knit into the student’s story… The video might be great, but if you’re a C student, you’re still not getting in.’’ Fair enough.

On the positive, this may be another way for students who don’t have many resources to showcase themselves. If you can’t put together a professional portfolio, maybe you can record yourself doing live art. Most students should be able to get access to the internet and laptops/mobile devices with cameras. “Some of the best videos are rather crude or simple in terms of their production values but they feature an appealing narrative or clever conceit that introduces us, more deeply, to an individual student,’’ Coffin said.

Oh the young people and their technology! Of course the traditional elements of a college application must be fulfilled in addition to the optional video (3 essays, letters of recommendation, test scores). Tufts is really distinguishing itself in a time when prospective students and their families are acting as consumers looking for the best education and environment for their dollars. Kudos. Now all ye high school students…befriend your local A/V geek and get started!