The Two-Minute College Application

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September 3, 2014; Washington Post

Students seeking entry into Goucher College’s class of 2019 can eschew the traditional path of standardized test scores and pages-long forms and instead display their creativity and cleverness through creating and uploading a digital video through the liberal arts college’s new—and, so far, unique—application system. Although other universities have long accepted video submissions from students as part of their applications (as shown in this story from 2010 about Tufts University), Goucher is, according to its blog post on the subject “the first college in the nation to create an application option requesting student-submitted videos as the decisive factor for admission.”

Here’s how it works: Students have two minutes before the camera to answer the question, “How do you see yourself at Goucher?” The application provides a few different prompts to get the prospective entrant started: “Tell us about your combination of talents and what makes you different. Do you think you might change your major multiple times…? Let us know how you fit into our community of learners, thinkers, and doers.” The production quality of the video itself isn’t taken into account—a cellphone or laptop camera will do fine—and the candidate will also need a signed statement of academic integrity and two works created in high school, at least one of which must be a graded writing assignment.

Goucher president José A. Bowen describes this as a means to even out the inequities of higher education, providing an entry for those for whom traditional secondary schooling was a bad match or those baffled by the labyrinthine process of applying to colleges. “I’m convinced we are leaving talent on the table in this country because the process is so complicated and stressful,” said Bowen. “I want to level the playing field.”

However, as the Washington Post points out, there’s a hidden upside for the college as well. Bowen, who took the presidential post in July, has an interest in boosting Goucher’s enrollment numbers, and in particular the percentage of applicants who actually attend the school after being accepted. That number is called the yield, and Goucher’s is pretty small: “For the class that entered in fall 2012, Goucher had 3,615 applicants for undergraduate admission and admitted 72 percent of them. Of those admitted, 16 percent enrolled.”

Applications for next fall are due by December 1st, 2014. If you’re interested in pursuing this avenue into college, or know someone who is, you can access the Goucher Video App here.—Jason Schneiderman