Film Might Be the New Essay In College Admissions

One university is breaking from tradition and students are responding.

Feb. 23, 2010— -- Across the country, college admissions officers are in crunch time, reading through huge stacks of applications, deciding which high school seniors will make the cut. But now, officials at one university aren't just reading, they're watching too.

This year, Tufts University, outside of Boston, became the first college to encourage students to submit one-minute YouTube videos of themselves doing pretty much anything. Could a video about flying elephants be the ticket to college?

Or a rap? Something along the lines of "I want an education that stretches my mind, 'cause I'm ready to change mankind."

How about a video delivery of a bad joke?

Yes, these videos of songs, dances and science projects are part of real-life college applications.

A New Kind of Essay

Amelia Downs from North Carolina brings the ability to -- as she calls it -- do the "Math Dance"

Conner Buckley from Washington, D.C., shows how he can multitask.

And Emma Bloksberg shows Tufts how she sure canjump rope.

The videos are NOT required, and Tufts says they will be just one piece in the entire application process.

"We're not judging it on the qualities of the production values," says Lee Coffin, dean of admissons at Tufts. "We're not looking for Oscar-winning short films. What we're really hoping to get out of these videos is another part of the puzzles that make up this 17-year-old person."

In fact, he says, "We've seen some awful videos. Some are charming in how awful they are. But we chuckle and move on."

Too Much Pressure?

Some educators worry there are dangers here. Harvard's dean of admissions, William R. Fitzsimmons, said it might favor the rich: "Families with substantial financial resources are in a better position to provide such materials."

And what of the additional pressure on kids?

Laura Chipman from California sent a video with her horse. We asked her if she feels it's just more stress added to the already stressful application process.

"It was pretty nerve-wracking," she says, "but I thought it was a way to enjoy the application process -- if that was even possible."

What's more, a majority of the videos are on YouTube's Web site for all the world to see.

Tufts University Accepts YouTube Videos From Applicants

But with so many kids on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, Tufts thinks getting to know their digital lives may be a key to getting to know them.

And for applicants, it can be the chance to make a case -- with just the right note.