Universities and the Trendy Video Essay


In today’s visual world with a generation obsessed with social media outlets like Facebook and YouTube that allow for a visual portrayal on a minute-by-minute basis, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that universities are starting to embrace this new fascination. However, the request to “Share a one-minute video that says something about you,” is probably something we would never have imagined seeing on a formal university’s application for admission a few years ago. And yet, this is exactly what Tufts University is now putting on their applications. They even go so far as to follow it up with this: “What you do or say is totally up to you.”

Along with Tufts, the College of William and Mary, George Mason University and St. Mary’s College have all jumped in and made video essays an optional part of their application processes. George Mason makes this very friendly request on their website:


You’ve heard all about the exciting things happening at George Mason University…watched our videos and listened to us tell you all about Mason. Now we’d like to hear from YOU, the future of George Mason University. Send us your videos and tell us (and the world) why Mason is the perfect match for you.

They even offer clips for you to view of real college students and their personal video essays. It’s tough to say if the entire concept of video applications is just a phase, or if we can expect to see this as the norm within a few years. That said, with the popularity of social media only escalating, chances are pretty certain, that though it may never be required, that it will certainly become an option in more and more universities in the next few years.

So where does that leave us? Do we all need to embrace this new trend? Does it make it easier/better to show who we are? On one hand, allowing students to speak as they speak and act as they do in normal life is a means of leveling the playing field. Not everyone is a writer, and for some, the chasm between how they normally sound and how they look when they attempt to put their thoughts on paper is fairly vast. But, you’ll always talk the way you talk, even if you can’t write the way you talk, right? But, what if you’re shy? What if the placement of a camera in front of you steals your thunder and you suddenly become nothing more than a quaking wanna-be-freshman with nothing to say? Then, we’re back to a playing field with mountains in the middle.

These universities are excited because they claim they really want to get to know you, outside of pen and paper. And, when the opportunity to conduct countless interviews isn’t realistic, this could just be the next best thing. They want to know what makes you unique, what makes you special, and, maybe more importantly, what would make you right for their campus. Can you do that more effectively in a video? In some ways, yes! Your voice, your mannerisms, your creativity all have an outlet and a way of shining through in a video that’s nearly impossible to convey with a keyboard. Writing down that you’re a star tap-dancer just doesn’t have quite the same pizzazz that it does when you tap your way across you town’s largest parking lot for a video.

If writing isn’t your thing, then toss your pencil and go for it! Start planning now for a short video blurb that conveys who you are and what you’re all about. That sounds generic, right? Okay, show them what excites you, what you feel passionate about. Is it dancing? Is it staring into beakers full of smoking chemicals? It doesn’t matter what it is, it matters that you can convey how much it means to you. But, remember, these universities are looking for stars. They want to know what you’re going to add to their campus, and hopefully later, to your community,(the world?). They want to have the next George Washington Carver sitting in their classrooms, so give them a glimpse into how your love of animals will eventually take you into the heart of Kenya where you will work with the endangered elephant shrew. Make it evident by who you are and how you act why it is that this particular university meets your personality needs and interests. As the College of William and Mary claims, they want to know, most importantly, who you will become.

Author Bio:

Tara Alley studied English Literature and Spanish and graduated from Montana State University summa cum laude. Now a freelance writer, she currently works for Coffee Home Direct and spends her free time working on her own book. You can reach her at: alley[dot]tara[at]gmail.com and follow her on Twitter @hopesiempre.

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