University Encourages Applicants To Submit YouTube Videos

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Online video is slowly continuing its takeover of society.  Sunday’s Boston Globe ran an article about Tufts University’s new admissions process that allows for and encourages prospective students to send a video essay about themselves and why they want to attend college there.  Out of over 15,000 applicants, about a thousand chose to send a video. That’s pretty awesome.

We’ve already been reading articles for years about how employers and universities are digging into applicants’ Facebook pages and other online accounts to see if that person has any dirt on them.  It makes perfect sense to simply begin making that online activity part of how one goes about applying.  Save the institution the trouble of hunting you down online and just send them what they want.

You can see some of the Tufts admissions videos on the gallery set up by the Boston Globe… and some of them are quite creative and endearing.  Watch a few and you’ll instantly recognize why this is a good idea (and one that’s probably long overdue).  I’m not sure how any of the students who chose to skip the video option and just send a paper application have any prayer of getting accepted.

There’s an added layer of nonverbal communication that video brings that can cover a multitude of things that the written word cannot.  I have long cursed the fact that emails and instant messages make it impossible sometimes to determine if the person you’re communicating with is serious or telling a joke.  Written (or typed) words can’t account for tone, inflection, innuendo, double meanings, or a host of other nonverbal hints that often aid in understanding a person’s message.  One of the ways that video is flexing its muscle these days in terms of business or professional communication is its ability to convey the physical communication alongside the actual words.

For the last few years, many universities have had some measure of video involved in how students are able to be educated—many are able to watch classes online… some even in real time.  Just the other day I read an account online of a student who missed class, but quickly instant-messaged his buddy in the classroom for help.  The student in attendance then turned his webcam-enabled laptop around and pointed it at the teacher, and viola… the student who had overslept was now able to watch the lecture.  That’s huge!

Now, I’m part of the wired generation—I was in college the year they were running cable and Internet to all the rooms and every student got an email address for free—but even I’m impressed with how technology is changing the college experience.  Between the ability to interact with fellow students and professors in an online environment and the onslaught of e-readers, it’s safe to say that college isn’t what it was even 10 years ago.

And I think that’s a good thing.

Today’s high school seniors are more wired than any of us were at that age.  Most of them are fully immersed in a lifestyle of constant Facebook updates and video diaries.  Allowing prospective students to submit video applications is the most logical next step I can think of.  It allows them to use their own voice and personality, while also allowing the school to see them as more than a name on a piece of paper.  It’s a win-win, particularly for a selective school like Tufts, where many applicants struggle to stand out and only a handful of students are accepted.

What else is online video changing in ways like this? Anyone out there interviewing for a job via Skype video chat?  Probably.  Anyone using YouTube to put video resumes out there?  Almost certainly.  Churches are broadcasting live services to online congregation members who are at home in their living rooms.  In a few weeks, I’ll watch the March Madness tournament games and then the Masters golf tournament online… from the confines of my office at work.

What’s next? Doctor/patient health discussions via video chat?  YouTube responses to the Census?  If you remember my excitement about YouTube possibly streaming the Proposition 8 court case in California… this is exactly the kind of revolution that I was talking about.  Online video is slowly changing how we act and interact, in almost every facet of life.

I can’t help but wonder how many interviews or jobs I might have gotten if the hiring manager had been able to see a video resume of mine instead of the boring paper version that probably got lost amongst the hundreds of others.  This move by Tufts University—while probably not the first of its kind—represents a significant moment in the growth of online video.  It’s not that hard to remember what YouTube was used for four years ago compared to now, and to see how much its users have grown since then—they’re using the service for more and more serious applications.  It’s about time the business and educational communities caught up to them.


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