For a tiny liberal arts college, Goucher generated an impressive number of headlines in September when its president announced that applicants need not bother with transcripts, SAT scores, or letters of recommendation anymore. Instead, this year’s high school seniors were given the option of submitting a graded writing assignment and a two-minute video responding to the question: “How do you see yourself at Goucher?”
Goucher isn’t the first college to make test scores non-compulsory or let applicants include a video. Over 150 colleges, including Wesleyan, Middlebury, and Bowdoin, don’t require test scores. Since 2010, Tufts has encouraged candidates to upload a YouTube video as part of their application, and applicants to most colleges can submit videos of dance or theater performances as supplements. Goucher, though, is the first to go all the way and let a video to stand in for grades and test scores altogether.
For second-tier schools with first-tier price tags—Goucher charges over $40,000 per year and accepts about 73 percent of applicants—getting attention and attracting students can be a challenge. Some commenters assumed this fall that the video application was a publicity stunt.
If it was, it may have worked: Goucher has drawn 2,465 applicants this year, a record high, up from 2,183 last year. Sixty-four of those applicants—about 2.6 percent of the total pool—used the video application.
But it also might have had a less mercenary effect. Goucher President Jose Bowen said he hoped the new process would attract a more diverse group of applicants, and it seems to have been a success in that regard. Fifty-two percent of the video applicants self-identified as students of color, compared to about 30 percent for the general applicant pool. They also leaned female, with women making up about 75 percent of video applicants versus 65 percent of the general pool. Though the most popular intended majors were creative—like communications, dance, and theater—they also included pre-med and biology.
So far, the admissions committee has accepted 48 students based on their video applications, and requested more information—like transcripts and letters of recommendation—from 14. (Two had technical issues.) No one who applied with the video application was rejected outright.
Admissions counselor Christopher Wild considers the experiment successful so far, though he and the committee will reevaluate at the end of the next academic year. “Students took all kinds of different ways to convey the message,” he says. “A number just got in front of the camera and told their story. Some did a narration over still images. Some cut together a number of different videos. For the most part, they’re very simple in terms of production quality. They generally come off as very authentic.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, for students choosing to apply with a sort of video selfie, Wild says students “did a good job of talking about themselves.” The main weakness? Sometimes, they forgot to answer the question.