The Future of Admissions Essays?

By Ryan Hickey + updated on May 12th, 2010

This past admissions season may have represented the dawning of a new era in the age of admissions essays. Although video and other multimedia technologies have been around for a long time and are practically second nature to many applicants today, they hadn’t yet caught on in the admissions realm… until this year.

The most widely reported instance of multimedia admissions “essays” occurred at Tufts University, where applicants were offered the chance to create and upload a one-minute YouTube video to supplement their applications. The prompt for this option was extremely simple – they simply asked for a video that “says something about you” – which combined with the new creative medium meant that each video submitted was remarkably unique.

The New York Times was among the many major news outlets that covered this development in the college admissions world. You can check out one of their articles exploring this new twist to the admissions process here.

In addition, because the students who elected to create these videos uploaded them to YouTube, they are actually viewable by the public at large. Most have been viewed thousands of times, and one has even received over 130,000 views!

You can sample these videos by going to YouTube and searching for “Tufts Optional Essay.” In doing so, you’ll quickly see the enormous variety encompassed by these submissions. From songs, to personal stories, to stop-motion animation, the applicants who chose to respond to this essay prompt put enormous effort into their videos.

While video essays remain relatively uncommon, it is highly likely that the option to create some sort of multimedia-based essay will find its way onto more and more applications in the coming years. Nowadays, technology is an integral aspect of applicant’s daily lives; they grew up around computers, cell phones, and social media. YouTube isn’t a novelty, it’s something that many use on a daily basis. It’s thus only logical that colleges and universities begin recognizing this and finding ways to incorporate it into their application processes.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be using the EssayEdge blog to take a closer look at this new admissions trend. We’ll examine what’s happened so far, look at where things may be headed in future application seasons, and provide advice that will help those of you who may be creating just such a video later this year. If you have thoughts or questions about this new trend in application essays, feel free to post them in the comments – we’d love to hear from you and start a discussion about this development!

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Ryan Hickey

Ryan Hickey is Managing Editor of Peterson's & EssayEdge and an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants. He enjoys sharing his knowledge to aid others in achieving their educational goals and, when he gets a break, loves hiking and fly fishing with his wife and two border-collie mixes.

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