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College Admission Video Essay On Actors

When it comes to applying to college, 18-year-old Christian Holmes has become a pro. The Darien, Conn., high school senior has written multiple essays, submitted letters of recommendation, and sent a transcript to each of the 10 different schools to which he applied.

But one school asked for something different: a video.

Tufts University, outside Boston, is one of the first higher-learning institutions to provide an option on its official admissions application for students to submit a video essay if they choose to. And some students say these videos have made the admissions process much more enjoyable.

Lee Coffin, dean of admissions at Tufts, says applicants are asked to submit a one-minute video that "says something" about themselves.

"They're still writing three other essays as part of our application. We're not abandoning writing. This is something extra," he said.

Out of the 15,400 applications Tufts received this year, about 1,000 of them included a video. Some sent a DVD while others, like Holmes, uploaded their video to YouTube and included the link on their application.

Students Submit Unique Videos

Coffin said they evaluate each video on its content, not its production value.

Nevertheless, some applicants have produced brow-raising videos in order to help tell their stories.

They are as creative as they are diverse: from stop-action photography to building and flying a remote-controlled elephant (the Tufts mascot). One applicant performed a card trick. Another performed a rap song.

With no prior video editing experience, Holmes spent four hours on his mother's webcam-equipped laptop splicing clips of James Lipton, the host of Bravo's "Inside the Actor's Studio," interviewing a guest. He then replaced the guest's answers with video clips of his own.

Now the Tufts admissions committee knows his favorite and least favorite words, what profession he'd like to pursue, and what he hopes God says to him when he reaches the pearly gates of heaven.

YouTube Supplements College Admission Materials

"I tried to convey my personality the best I could," he said. "It's hard to do that in a minute-long video. I think it's even harder to do that in a 250-word essay."

It is yet another example of how social media is working itself into the college admissions process.

Yale University's admissions office recently produced a 17-minute video for prospective students. The admissions staff at William & Mary College in Williamsburg, Va., won an award for a video they produced to inspire students as they fill out their applications.

Henry Broaddus, dean of admissions at The College of William & Mary, helped produce the video that greets students before they write their essays, introducing them to the probably-not-who-you-thought-we-were admissions review board.

But Broaddus said William & Mary does not require nor specifically encourage applicants to send in their own videos.

"This isn't 'American Idol,'" Broaddus said. "This is still an evidence-based review in which we have a very specific record that we have sought: the transcript, the essays, the recommendations. There's a way that this all fits together."

Coffin says that at Tufts: "All of those things are still here. But who says those are the only things a college can consider?

"This is an individual," he continued. "It's not just an SAT score. There's a kid here who is expressing interest in this university and I find it refreshing. It seems to be refreshing to applicants, too."

Video: Great Idea or Slippery Slope?

Holmes said it was nice to see a college application asking for something different.

"I think it's a great idea," he said. "It's definitely original."

But Broaddus thinks the students they see in the application videos may not be acting like their true selves.

"Video, I think, has a dangerous tendency to encourage the kind of packaging that a lot of us really lament, where students really see this as a competition, as a way to try to pitch themselves as a product instead [of] as curious students," he said.

Lina Juozelskis, 17, of Middleton, Mass., is one of those curious students. She hopes to get into the engineering college at Tufts.

Another Option for Self-Expression

Juozelskis spent three days writing a song about her love for calculus. Then she turned on her video camera, picked up her guitar, and sang her heart out to the audience that is the Tufts admissions committee.

"This gave me a chance to express a side of myself that Tufts wouldn't have seen otherwise," Juozelskis said.

Tufts admissions officials aren't the only ones watching.

Holmes' and Juozelskis' videos have each been viewed more than 1,000 times since they were uploaded to YouTube at the end of 2009. Some viewers have even rated them and left comments, a striking shift from the traditionally private arrangement of the college application process.

But having part of a college application open to public scrutiny doesn't seem to bother the generation that grew up with YouTube.

"After I posted my video, I looked at others. I saw some good ones. I saw some bad ones," Juozelskis said. "I got to see my competition."

Even students who are already enrolled at Tufts are taking a look at their possible future classmates.

"On campus, our undergraduates have started watching them and commenting and there's a rooting section," Coffin said before quickly adding, "We're not paying attention to any of that because it's not part of our admissions process.

"The medium may be different than what you used to apply for college or I certainly used to apply to college, but it doesn't mean that new media isn't legitimate."

Holmes, along with most of the other applicants, will find out if they got in to Tufts on April 1. Until then, his mock conversation with James Lipton is on YouTube for all to see.

"I think at some point you have to say, 'This is me and the Internet can view it and I don't care what anybody else thinks.'" Except, perhaps, the Tufts admissions committee.

ABCNews.com contributor Miles Doran is a member of the University of Florida ABC News on Campus bureau.

Illustration by Tyler Hoehne

Record, upload, submit. That’s the new path to getting into at least one college these days.

Goucher, a liberal arts college north of Baltimore, announced its new video application process earlier this month. Officials set only a few ground rules: Look into the camera, say your name, and state where you’re from. Then spend two minutes or less answering the following question: “How do you see yourself at Goucher?”

Film programs, and even Georgetown’s law school, are on board with the video approach, offering supplement application questions that prospects can answer with their own unique mini motion picture. Tufts University in Massachusetts received national attention in 2010 for allowing YouTube attachments to applications.

But Goucher claims to be the first in the United States to make videos the primary part of a future student’s pitch to attend. Trouble wading through the alphabet soup of standardized tests—SAT, ACT, and AP? Don’t worry. Lackluster transcript? No problem, either. The video can be submitted in lieu of those standard materials. (Don’t worry, camera-shy applicants, the traditional application is still available.)

“We know that video is an incredibly popular and important new form of communication,” Goucher president José Antonio Bowen said in his video announcing the new application option. “Students may feel more comfortable with this, but it’s also something students will need to do in the future.”

A couple caveats before you whip out that smartphone or video camera: Admissions officials also require one graded written paper and some other work sample from high school to complete your application. Consideration for a merit scholarship will require additional documentation.

Half of the video evaluation score covers “content/thoughtfulness,” with the remainder divided between “structure/organization” and “clarity/effectiveness.”

For those of you already on the early admission hustle, consider the three following examples from these brave Tufts applicants.

Single shot — perfect for the outspoken tech novice

What to do: Park yourself in front of your laptop’s webcam and state your case to the admissions office.

The case for: There’s a difference between writing an essay and vocalizing one. Take advantage of what video has to offer and show off your unique voice. And as an added bonus, no editing required!

The case against: There are so many thespians, singers, and young dancers out there, so unless you have a unique voice, poem or—in the case of the video above—rap, your application may not stand out as much as you hoped among thousands of other similar submissions.

Drawing board — perfect for the artist who can bring everything together

What to do: Buy a decent-sized whiteboard, if you don’t already have one. (That whiteboard in your locker just won’t do.) Put your video camera on a tripod for some image stabilization. Start drawing.

The case for: Illustrate your life, instead of being that person who pulls out a camera to “remember” every moment. With the proper narrative, earn a perfect score for “structure/organization.”

The case against: Aside from showing your face in the beginning, the video will largely cover your handwriting and drawing. Are those up to par? And in a two-minute video, there’s only so much ground you can cover. Figure out what you want to share and practice until you can sketch your video in your sleep.

Day in the life — perfect for the on-the-go overachiever

What to do: Go out, live your life and pull out your smartphone along the way.

The case for: If you’re already swamped with extracurriculars, homework, and AP U.S. History protests, this is the option for you. Demonstrating that you can survive an arduous schedule is a more than reasonable answer to the prompt.

The case against: Two minutes is nowhere near as long as the usual video blog, or vlog, you’ll find on YouTube. Come in with a strategy on what you’ll shoot to avoid gathering hours and hours of footage. Otherwise, you’ll agonize over cutting your well-executed karaoke solo due to time.

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