Settling in over breakfast yesterday with the Sunday Boston Globe (yes, I actually still read my hometown newspaper in print), I was intrigued by a story featured prominently on page 1 , detailing how Tufts University, a highly-selective college in the Boston area, has encouraged freshman applicants to submit one-minute "video essays" of themselves. Of the 15,436 applicants this year, over 1,000, or 6% submitted one.
Talk about a college in synch with the YouTube/Facebook generation. Not only does the idea cater perfectly to what kids today are already doing a lot of online, it provides the admissions office with an unvarnished insight into the kids, talking about what makes them special, in their own unique and creative way.
Video is an emotional medium in ways that text simply is not. That has never been truer than with these submissions. I looked through all the videos that the Globe added to its gallery (you can also go to YouTube and enter "Tufts admissions" to see more) and they are priceless. There's aspiring engineer Michael Klinker flying a styrofoam elephant he designed (Tufts' mascot is the "Jumbo"), to the music from Disney's "Dumbo." And Amelia Downs, whose interests are math and dance, showing the moves she's invented to simulate different math concepts. Then there's Conor Buckley, pianist and Rubik's cube solver-extraordinaire, pursuing both of his passions on split-screen.
The videos are endearing and authentic. Most seem to have been made on a shoestring budget, featuring 17 and 18-year old kids just being themselves, doing what they love. And if you were thinking that the one-minute video idea biases toward wealthier kids, the Tufts director of admissions said that at least 60% of the videos that have been viewed were from kids applying for student aid. With video-ready digital cameras and cell phones, ubiquitous Flip videocameras plus ubiquitous low-end editing software, kids today are more video-capable then any generation in history.
I relate the Tufts admissions videos to Unigo, the Trip Advisor-like site for high school students to check out colleges through videos made by the students themselves, which I wrote about here. Both are perfect examples of what I've called "purpose-driven" user-generated video ("UGV"). What I mean by that is with millions getting comfortable making short videos just for fun and then posting them at YouTube and elsewhere, there's an opportunity to tap this experience, but direct it into specific pursuits. Other UGV examples include the Doritos Super Bowl ads and ExpoTV's "Kitchen Table Conversations" research service. I'm sure there are plenty of others.
I expect many more organizations will leverage purpose-driven UGV going forward.
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