On Camera at the yff10 Student Filmmaker Day
Image by erica.hargreave via Flickr

Newsweek recently covered a new phenomenon in the college application world:  the YouTube supplemental application.  Sound crazy?  The writing has been on the wall for years.  More and more often, videos created by students are getting seen by hundreds of thousands of people, leading to job offers, internet fame, and other opportunities.  It’s why media literacy is such a critical lesson for students to learn.   But several universities have taken this idea to a new level.

As a supplement to the regular forms, schools like George Mason University, outside Washington, D.C., Tufts University, outside Boston, and the College of William & Mary, in Virginia, are giving students the option to stray from the traditional essay and advertise their best qualities on YouTube. “Say something about you,” reads the Tufts application. “Anything goes,” prompts William & Mary.

Let’s face it, in the traditional college application (or job application) there isn’t much room to demonstrate exactly who you are as a person.  Does a list of your activities really demonstrate who you are?  Does it allow them to hear the passion in your voice or see the depths of your commitment to the things you’re interested in?  Not really.

Allowing for a video submission creates an open platform for students to really demonstrate what they’re all about.  That’s a good thing.

However, it can also have the complete opposite effect.  I’ve seen some bad digital stories.  Heck, we’ve all seen some notably awful videos on YouTube.  What kind of effect will a bad video have on an application?  The whole idea raises a slew of questions.  Would a video of a shirtless student twirling fire help or hinder someone with borderline SAT scores?  Will a short rap be enough to put a student over the top in the eyes of an admissions department?  And beyond all that, what about application videos that go viral?   Are they to be judged based on views in part?  How long do you think it will be before an application video leads straight to job offers, bypassing the college entirely?

We’re entering into a completely new era right now.  The tools are becoming so simple and convenient that every process we take for granted is being re-examined.  The tricky thing is that we need to be preparing our students for THIS world.  Whether you agree with the changes or not, I’m guessing they won’t be going away.  Right now it’s colleges.  Soon it will be jobs.

How long will it be before you have the option of turning in a YouTube video when you apply for a new teaching position?  And are you prepared to do so?