Yale Serenades Prospective Students

Jan 22, 2010 2:26pm

ABC News on Campus reporter Matthew Nojiri blogs:

Andrew Johnson thought it was time for Yale to produce a new admissions video. 

The video the university had been showing incoming students was stale and outdated, he said.  Students in the video were rollerblading around campus.  Others were wearing baggy shirts and “high-waisted jean shorts.”  Three of the people interviewed in the decade-old video had died and some of the professors had left the university.  “The fashion sense of the people in the video was noticeably different,” Johnson said. “Distractingly different.”

Last year, Johnson, a 2006 Yale graduate now working at the university’s admissions office, pitched a new idea to the dean of admissions:  “How about we produce a new video to replace the old one?”

Johnson and nearly 300 current Yale students, faculty members and recent alumni came together to produce an epic 17-minute tongue-and-cheek campus musical titled, “That’s Why I Chose Yale.” Released one week ago, the video now has nearly 200,000 views on YouTube.

“It’s been an amazing process,” Johnson said. “I was thrilled with the fact that people from the beginning were willing to entertain kind of a ridiculous idea.”

The admissions video follows a wave of popular musical-themed movies and television shows like “Glee” and the “High School Musical” franchise. But Johnson said he wasn’t trying to capitalize on the growing popularity of musicals among teenagers and young adults when he originally pitched the idea.

“I hadn’t seen ‘High School Musical’ until the day before we started shooting,” Johnson said. “(The recent musical craze) didn’t really weigh into our decision to make the video, but it has definitely had a subsidiary effect on how many people have come to watch it.”

The video, which was first reported by the Yale Daily News, begins with an admissions officer answering questions from wide-eyed high school students and their parents.  “When was Yale founded?” one visitor wonders. Another prospective student raises her hand and asks, “Is it true that all Yale professors teach?”  Finally, a girl in the back row asks, “Why did you choose Yale?”

The admissions officer, played by Kobi Libii, a 2007 Yale graduate, lets the question sink in for a moment and then begins a lengthy musical explanation about why he and others “chose Yale.” The students sing and dance through the school’s residential colleges, dance studios, laboratories, libraries and concert halls.   Sam Tsui, a junior at Yale whose own You Tube a cappella videos have millions of views, sings about the diversity of the student body.  Even NBC News anchor Brian Williams makes a surprise appearance (his daughter, Allison, attends the school).
Jeff Brenzel, the dean of undergraduate admissions, said he’s been contacted by a number of admissions deans who say their students want to produce musicals of their own.  Brenzel has been following some of the commentary about the Yale video on message boards and news Web sites.  He said most of the audience has embraced the video’s campy tone.

“Most of the audience seems to get that the students were doing at least three different things: making a tongue-in-cheek version of the traditionally deadly-serious college video; having some fun with great music and performance; and also conveying a lot of information about what is truly terrific at Yale,” Brenzel said in an e-mail.

The video is admittedly dramatic and over-the-top, Johnson said.  One of the students sings, “Last year, I spent the summer abroad, I helped monitor a foreign election. And now I volunteer at a law school clinic on human rights protection.”

Some commentators and bloggers have questioned whether the video is too cheesy for an Ivy League school like Yale, but Johnson disagrees with this criticism. 

“This isn’t the only way, we’re trying to present Yale, it’s one way,” Johnson said.  “We wanted to take something that was outdated and make it fun and interesting.”

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus