Follow-up on Goucher’s video applications: high acceptance rates for diverse group of creative students

Olivia Mitchel, Staff Writer

After the test run of Goucher’s video application, the results are in. The video application was introduced to applicants last fall as an optional alternative to more conventional application processes like the Common Application and the Universal College Application, which are both accepted by Goucher admissions.

Students who chose the new option were asked to create a video no longer than two minutes, showing and discussing how and why they saw themselves at Goucher. Additional application materials consisted of a digital application, a $55 application fee, a signed statement of academic integrity, and two works from their high school, including one graded writing assignment. Unless they wished to apply for financial aid or merit scholarships, students were not required to submit any transcripts or test scores with the video application.

On Goucher’s website, students had access to the rubric on which their video applications would be evaluated. The main criteria on which video apps are assessed include the levels of thoughtful content, organization, and clear communication. These relatively broad guidelines left room for students to showcase their creativity by venturing in countless unique directions.

The school recently welcomed a new president, José Antonio Bowen, in July 2014. With the addition of the new video application and President Bowen, who doubles as a passionate jazz musician, Goucher seems to be “shifting back to a more liberal arts kind of vibe with a lot of engaged and active students who are self-motivated,” remarked Andrew Packard, Urban’s theater tech director and a 2004 Goucher alumnus.

Bowen described the new video app as a step towards “repairing the broken college admissions process.” Stress and socioeconomic inequalities pervade the conventional college application process. With an emphasis on creativity and individuality, the video app strives to combat these barriers by reaching out to those who might otherwise be marginalized.

According to Goucher officials, by the video application deadline, the school had received 64 applications from students in over 60 high schools across 20 different states. The video applicants displayed a diverse range of backgrounds and interests, representing nearly 30 different speculative majors. In addition to a large pool of majors in the arts, video applicants also showed interest in majors in communications, biology, pre-med, business management, and international studies. 

Of the 64 applicants, 24 sent in transcripts, wishing to be considered for financial aid. The average GPA of these students (3.11) was only minutely lower than that of students who applied through more traditional means (3.18).

While minority groups represented just 41.5 percent of Common or Universal College Applications received by Goucher this admissions season, the pool of video applicants was made up of 52 percent members of minority groups and a significant majority of women.

“From an equity standpoint, it certainly doesn’t expand beyond who has access to the technology to make (a video),” explains Packard. Access to equipment has been a primary concern with the new option. However, Goucher admissions counselor Christopher Wild notes in an article in New Republic that the video applications were relatively “simple in terms of production quality. They generally come off as very authentic.” Authenticity has certainly been a leading goal in this creative endeavor. Packard, who worked briefly in admissions during his time at Goucher explains that the job of an admissions officer is “to get as big a picture of every applicant as you can.”

 At this stage, no video applicants have been rejected. Of the pool of 64 applicants, 75 percent have been accepted thus far, already topping the 72 percent acceptance rate for students submitting traditional applications. Due to technical complications, 2 video applicants are being assisted in resubmitting their applications and 14 students have been asked for additional materials to further inform final admission decisions.

As technology continues to advance, schools must remain up to date and adaptable. President Bowen explained to the Washington Post that video is becoming a much more standard medium, particularly in the lives of young adults.

While other schools have caught on to the test-optional track, the Washington Post reports, “there is virtually no chance that the Goucher video app, or anything like it, will displace the Common Application or other pillars of the admissions industry anytime soon.” However, the video app has the potential to remain as a supplementary component to college applications.

Packard sees the video app and other application materials as “pieces to a whole.” He concludes, “It’s never going to be a perfect process unless you sit down and have a day-long conversation with every applicant.”