Once again, Tufts has made headlines for marching boldly along its own path.
This time, it's the optional essay portion of the undergraduate application that's grabbing national attention.
The story, which first appeared in the Tufts Daily on February 6, caught the attention of the Boston Globe, who published their story on February 21. By the morning of the 22nd, the New York TImes had caught on too, and soon it was starting to make waves on social media sites such as Mashable and Twitter.
The new portion of the application, part of the Supplement to the Common Application (link is a PDF), reads:
Share a one-minute video that says something about you. Upload it to YouTube or another easily accessible Web site, and give us the URL. What you do or say is totally up to you. (Unfortunately, we are unable to watch videos that come in any form other than a URL link.)
Tufts, and its applications process, is known for running things a little differently than most. Take the Ex-College, for example, the first of its kind. And in the fall, Tufts-related headlines were more mocking than admiring when changes to the university's residential policies earned scoffs from news outlets across the country.
But this particular new idea seems like it might have implications for many other schools, and the college admissions process across the board. Several of the articles imply that Tufts is simply leading the curve on adapting the college application process to 21st century students, most of whom are tech- and web-savvy from an early age.
"Kids who are 17 and 18 are very facile with new media, and one of the challenges for colleges right now is to stay ahead of that curve,” Lee Coffin, dean of undergraduate admissions, told the New York Times.
Tufts, however, isn't exactly known for keeping up with the most current technological advances. While its newest dorm facility, Sophia Gordon Hall, was one of the first "green dorms" in the country, the university has annually resisted installing campus-wide wireless access.
It spent $1.3 million to renovate the patio atop the Tisch Library roof, but only recently announced a decision to expand its Merchants on Points program, while many universities have had similar, much larger systems in place for years. Perhaps then, this step by the Admissions office will put pressure on the university at large to keep up with its increasingly forward-thinking student body.
More worrisome, however, is that the public nature of these admissions videos, posted as they are on YouTube and other public video sites, will put the admissions officers in an uncomfortable position. Some of the videos have gained a very public following, one reportedly getting more than six thousand views. Current Tufts students have posted comments of support on the clips they like, meaning that if those applicants fail to get in, their disappointment is that much more public.
Still, only time will tell if the new optional "essay" is the way of the college admissions future, or just a nice experiment.
Click to watch the video submissions on YouTube.