Despite the ease provided by the Common Application and technological advances that allow students to apply online rather than by mail, applying to college has become increasingly stressful over the years. Once considered a golden ticket to success, a college degree has almost become a necessity for decent-paying entry-level jobs.
As such, more and more students are applying to college than ever before. Elite colleges have grown even more competitive; acceptance rates are lower at many state school due to lack of funding and budget cuts.
While thoughtful, well-written essays are often considered the best way for students to help themselves stand out from the crowd—at least in the eyes of admissions counselors—several colleges and universities are beginning to accept videos to supplement students’ applications. The videos are intended to be a way for students to add a bit more “personality” in addition to their test scores, transcripts, and general information.
As reported by US News in 2010, George Mason, Tufts, and St. Mary’s College of Maryland were among the first schools to allow video submissions. George Mason and St. Mary’s applicants could create videos as an essay supplement or an essay substitution—a video in lieu of written words—while the videos were considered application supplements at Tufts.
Lee Coffin, the undergraduate dean of admissions at Tufts, told The New York Times that the idea struck after watching a YouTube video someone sent him. “I thought, ‘If this kid applied to Tufts, I’d admit him in a minute, without anything else,’”he explained.
Just as an increasing number of schools are allowing students to submit videos, more students are taking advantage of the chance. Many creative college application videos even gain an impressive YouTube following, such as Tufts applicant Amelia Downs’ Math Dances. Her homemade YouTube application video achieved over 165,000 views.
Application videos are still optional for most students, but many colleges and universities are beginning to require video interviews for international students due to widespread applicant fraud.
Inside Higher Ed reports that the number of Chinese students attending American schools has increased by a staggering 139 percent in the last five years. And although international students are an important source of revenue at most colleges and universities, applicants have been known to submit fake letters of recommendation along with purchased transcripts and test scores and even falsified immigration paperwork or passports.
Colleges began catching on after noticing identical transcripts from numerous students from the same country. According to Inside Higher Ed, experts claim that international higher education fraud is a $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion business.
Video verification interviews can help U.S. colleges and universities get a more accurate portrait of their international applicants. In addition to demonstrating how well they can speak English, the students are asked specific questions about their school and the classes listed on their transcripts.
Some colleges are turning to professional for-profit interview vendors or non-profit organizations like CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange to conduct and evaluate the interviews, which are then cross-referenced with the applicants’ TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores. Other schools are conducting their own assessments via Skype.
While the process is relatively new, it may help combat the problem of cheating in applications from international students.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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