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Alan Kotok , ,

Videos Enliven University Admissions

A story in the New York Times tells how Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts now accepts videos as optional supplements to the traditional application forms and essays. Some 1,000 of the 15,000 applicants took up Tufts on the video offer, including some clever mathematics and engineering candidates.

The article quotes Tufts’s dean of undergraduate admissions, Lee Coffin, who got the idea last spring when watching a YouTube video someone had sent him. “I thought, ‘If this kid applied to Tufts, I’d admit him in a minute, without anything else,” Coffin told the Times.

In the past, Tufts has encouraged unorthodox thinking in their application essays, and this year applicants used the one-minute videos to demonstrate their creativity, as well as expertise with the medium. Many of the videos played on the elephant theme — the school mascot is an elephant — but engineering candidate Michael Klinker took the idea further. He built a miniature remote-control helicopter shaped like an elephant and filmed it — technically, his father did the filming — as it flew around his back yard.

Applicant Amelia Downs sent a video that combined her passions for mathematics and dance, with choreographed representations of common statistical charts such as bar graph, scatter plot, and (my favorite), pie chart.

Coffin says the videos are optional, and the only way they can hurt an applicant is if, in Coffin’s words, “there was something really disgusting.”

One of Tufts’s concerns was that the videos would give one more advantage to affluent applicants — yet two-thirds of the submissions were sent in by financial aid candidates.

The Times includes 12 samples of the Tufts videos with the article.