I’m on my way to the Association for College Admissions Counseling national conference where a massive amount of time will be spent (one might say wasted) on technology issues.  There are a slew of sessions on the use of technology, and, of course, a whole bunch of companies that claim to offer THE NEXT BIG THING.

Of course it’s assumed that we already have the basic technology – a decent (frustrating and cumbersome) online application system and some kind of (not very attractive or impressive) web site. The big topic this year is Twitter.  Yes, I know that the data says that high school students really don’t use Twitter…but we don’t let the facts get in the way of THE NEXT BIG THING. 

About four years ago THE NEXT BIG THING was supposed to be blogging, and a lot of offices jumped on that bandwagon, with readers by the…dozens. As a result I suspect there are some deans out there writing far more eloquently than I, yet sadly, few will ever read their musings.  Well, maybe I’m not all that sad about it, but that’s not my point.  As I recall, YouTube was the hot topic three years ago.  Many colleges started YouTube channels only to find that students really aren’t all that interested in college channels on YouTube. 

Then last year the hot topic was Facebook.  I can only imagine how many of you, when surfing for information on a school, stop and think, “I was totally disinterested in this school, but now that they created a Facebook app to tell me what food they are serving in the cafeteria, I am SOLD!”

The sad truth is that admissions offices tend to be way behind our prospective students when it comes to THE NEXT BIG THING.  It’s incredibly frustrating to know that in other buildings on our campus they are probably building THE NEXT BIG THING which, if I’m not mistaken, will run largely on cheese. Or geo-solar, nuclear energy.  Or a hamster treadmill…I should probably pay more attention to the briefings, but that’s not important right now.

What is important is that universities are often the centers of technology development.  Mason had the first doctoral programs in the world in information technology and in computational science, and we’ve been among the world leaders in those fields.  I’m practically on top of THE NEXT BIG THING.

So why are admissions offices so far behind?  First, many of my fellow deans are, if you’ll excuse the expression, OLD.  Second, for years we’ve hired admissions officers that can do a great job at a college fair.  If they happened to know technology, that was a coincidence.  As a result, most colleges and university admissions officers wouldn’t know THE NEXT BIG THING if it “friended” us. 

Here’s a good example, and a shameless plug to boot: Students always complain that admissions is all about numbers, that we don’t get to “know them.”  One of my staff members suggested we let our applicants submit videos as part of their application.  In YouTube.  And let anyone see them and rank them.

Let’s be clear.  That FREAKS ME OUT.  No chance ten years ago anyone would have considered in any way sharing information that applicants submit with other applicants.  So I said, “No.”  Then they ran a test with our Student Ambassador applicants, and I had to admit that, just maybe, I was wrong.  Just. This. Once. 

So now we’re the first university to incorporate YouTube into our application process.  And just maybe we found THE NEXT BIG THING.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go tweet about it.  Be seeing you.