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.


11 Responses

  1. thanks for the post.
    The Next Big thing is always on the horizon it would seem, and it is up to anyone and everyone to make the decision if they should jump on the band wagon.
    As for the YouTube process being part of it? If given an opportunity people complain about anything that doesn’t work in their favor. However, I can understand, at this time, you’d move this way for now.
    Next they will complain because you didn’t like the color of their hair. It could be a slippery slope!

  2. Here’s the next big thing.

    Be seeing you.

    • YES!!!! Somehow, however, I fear that it will pale compared to the original…but I’m sure that won’t stop me from watching!

  3. Using Youtube in admissions is ridiculous, quite apart from the issue of sharing information with other applicants. The admissions officers shouldn’t ‘get to know’ the students – decisions should be made on academic ability and not, as Bobby points out, extraneous information.

    • I see a GWU tag on your email, and I note that they make heavy use of interviews in their process, notably less reliable than video or written essays…
      THe sharing with other applicants is fascinating to me, and I look forward to seeing how it impacts the process. Applicants, of course, have complete control over whether we share their video, and then we can also choose in the YouTube channel which ones to share, so this isn’t quite opening up applicants’ files to the world.
      Of course the bulk of the decision remains on academic record, and always will. Essays, recommendations, and now video essays offer students a chance to demonstrate leadership, creativity, and motivation, all stronger indicators of success in college than standardized tests (see Sedlacek’s research, for example). Try your best not to be too terrified of something new, just because it’s new…but yes, Bobby’s concerns are not unreasonable.

  4. Technology is definately changing everything, including college admissions. Twitter, facebook and YouTube has its place with social networking, but it is still the old fashioned measurement of grades, essays and other acomplishments on a student’s resume that is really considered. Who is to say what the next big thing is when technology is moving as fast as it is.

  5. I am a parent of a HS senior and my opinion is that incorporating Youtube into the admissions process is one of the dumber ideas I have heard in a while. Maybe it shows creativity and a little bit of motiviation, but I do not see how it shows leadership or the likelihood of success in an academic institution.

    • I suppose it depends on what students submit,and how an institution elects to untilize those submissions. You can assuredly ask the same question of interviews, not to mention the way most essays are used in the admission process. What I’ve found is that students appreciate a chance to express themselves in the process, and that, whether essays or video essays or interviews, when used well these outlets can provide insight into applicant’s motivation and creativity. This by no means indicates that those submissions are as important as academic records, but they can play a reasonable role in the process.

      The videos so far have been very creative and shown a great deal of enthusiasm, so I’m hopeful that this mechanism will prove positive for both the applicants and Mason. Hopeful, but still reasonably skeptical.

  6. […] and possibly make some use out of it. That’s why I enjoyed this post I found over at the blog Not Just Admissions. It makes me realize that librarians aren’t the only ones in higher education that are always […]

  7. it seems technology has also helped in college guidance tools. For example, I used with my kid to match their academic profile with colleges to find potential matches.

  8. […] three, are trying something new (sort of): including videos as part of the admissions process. I wrote about this way back in […]

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