Could YouTube Be the New Essay in College Applications?

Colleges’ soliciting of video in applications causes questions over economic divides and privacy.

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However, others argue that video technology is widely available to young people these days. "The accessibility of tools to do online video are common in phones, cameras, and classrooms," Flagel of George Mason says. "I very much doubt the access to this is more significant than access to essay support and the ability to hire consultants for essays and standardized tests."

To further level the playing field for all students' accessibility to multimedia in college supplements, Steve Metzman founded, a company that provides video cameras to high school students, allowing them to create videos and digital portfolios to send as supplements to colleges. Currently, the company has partnerships with several large public school districts, including inner-city schools in Philadelphia and Chicago, and he says over 250 colleges have viewed the students' online supplements at Students can create videos about their experience growing up in inner-city neighborhoods. For students who don't have the money to travel for college trips, these videos enable the students to introduce themselves to college admissions counselors, Metzman says.

Deborah Carrera, the principal of Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School in Philadelphia, said she signed the school up with to offer her primarily Latino and African-American students the chance to show colleges their diverse backgrounds. "We want to afford the students this opportunity to present themselves in a creative and 21st-century way," she says. "These videos paint a story of resiliency. They show hopes and aspirations and put a face and a story to the application. "

Jonathan Drullard, a senior at Kensington, created a video with He will be the first in his family to graduate from high school and the first go to college. Drullard will be attending the Community College of Philadelphia this fall. "The program was a great way to show kids how can you be more than just a piece of paper," he says. "It gives kids a voice."

Some high school counselors worry that videos add further pressure to an already stressful application process. John Boshoven, a counselor for continuing education at Community High School in Ann Arbor, Mich., says, "I hope it won't add a whole flavor of show biz to the application process. There's enough competition as is." Likewise, Marjorie Jacobs, director of college counseling at SAR High School in Riverdale, N.Y., says, "These videos are truly adding a degree of stress, pressure, and an unrealistic set of standards for young people."

Despite their critics, applications with videos may become common. Shirley Bloomquist, an educational consultant in suburban Washington, D.C., says she thinks that in five years, the vast majority of colleges will allow videos as an option. "These videos are going to transform admissions," she says. "This is the medium where young people are right now. The videos are an opportunity to provide a window of insight and depth into the person, and can give the written word some vitality."

Tufts University
George Mason University
college admissions