The video application essay

College applicants are trying to wow admissions officers with personal videos, reports the Boston Globe. Tufts is the first selective college to encourage video submissions as an “optional essay.” More than 6 percent of 15,436 applicants sent in a one-minute video; many are on YouTube.

Amelia Downs performs a series of dorky dance moves named after math terms like the scatter plot and the bar graph. Sam Zuckert plays a song made solely from the sounds of a piece of paper ripping, crumpling, and waving in the wind. And then there’s Mike Klinker, using a remote control to fly a Styrofoam elephant — with his name on it — through a clearing in the woods.

Tufts students and alumni are commenting on their favorites on YouTube.

Lee Coffin, Tufts’ dean of admissions, says the clips showcase a creativity and personality that would be hard to convey on paper. The idea is part of an effort begun by the university in 2006 to evaluate aspects of applicants’ intelligence not reflected in SAT scores and grades.

. . . The videos are judged as one part of a whole picture, with a student’s academic record still weighing the most, Coffin said. Production value will not be a factor, nor will public comments be considered in the admissions team’s decision, he said. What counts, he said, is creativity and wit, something that shows a student’s voice or talent – that can answer, “What spark do they bring to the class?’’

While other selective colleges don’t solicit videos, applicants often submit them along with blogs and personal websites.

Harvard College has for decades asked students to submit any supplementary materials — art portfolios, manuscripts, music recordings, and films — that display exceptional talent. But Harvard’s admissions dean frets that video applications may give an unfair edge to students from affluent families.

At Tufts, Coffin said more than 60 percent of the videos were submitted by financial-aid applicants.  “Access to video capabilities — via computers or cellphones, even — among teenagers is almost universal,’’ he said.

I worry more that flashy extroverts will edge out shy, nerdy students.

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