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March 24th, 2010
01:00 PM ET

Are You Smart? College essays via YouTube videos

Editor's Note: Think you're smart? That depends on what it means to be smart. And how do you become smart – if you're not there yet? This week, in our special series "Are You Smart?" our Alina Cho takes an in-depth look at all aspects of intelligence.

By Alina Cho, CNN

(CNN) – We all know that the college admissions process is competitive. You have to be smart, have good grades, good SAT scores, and if you're applying to Tufts University – a personal video can help too. It's actually part of the application.

So does a YouTube video measure a different kind of smart? You be the judge.

Tufts University near Boston is now accepting personal videos as part of the application process, among the first in the nation to do so. The videos do not replace essays, grades or SATS, but are meant as a supplement. The videos are not required, but students are getting into it.

Already almost 1,000 students have taken part out of the 15,000 applications submitted. Some on YouTube have been viewed by thousands. The videos demonstrate creativity in animation, wilderness survival skills, and in Rhaina Cohen's case, a twist on a familiar phrase: "walk a mile in my shoes."

"I wasn't trying to come off as, you know, Imelda Marcos, and say I have 3000 shoes,” says Cohen. “I just wanted to show a bit of who I am. I think what the goal is for applications in general is that these are humans looking at files filled with so many papers, and they're trying to discern who are you, would I want to meet you, would I be intrigued by you?"

“You really get to see these applicants in their adolescent best. You see their cleverness and their goofiness. You see who they are as human beings,” says Marilee Jones.

Jones, the former dean of admissions at MIT, calls the personal videos refreshing.

"It's very easy to fall in love with someone in one minute. It's also very easy to get turned off. So what these students are doing by providing these videos this year is a very high-wire act. They're taking huge risk, which is why I love them."

They show a kind of intellectual chutzpah to go along with the other credentials.

Tufts says it's still committed to the essay-writing portion of the application "no matter what." They say "it is important to be able to express yourself elegantly in writing."

The videos are a way to show that the university is media-savvy, too. So much so that the dean of admissions says he plans to put the very best"videos into a "Tufts Idol" contest once the admissions process is over.

Filed under: Are You Smart?
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. fred nitzche

    no civilizationation in 2500 years have won a "DRUG WAR" and that goes for China too. Prohibition does not work and the black market is the only winners as was shown in the 1920's. Imagine where our economy could be if the Billions of dollars spent on the drug war was spent on Drug Education and the left over could be redirected to something better like paying to increase to poor education systmen or even better, pay down the deficit; not to mention the tax revenue. Prohibition DOES NOT WORK; ONLY EDUCATION has a chance to change people minds about drug consumption.

    March 25, 2010 at 8:44 am |
  2. hans

    Sure seems like "stupid pet tricks", to ME... I don't know that I ever want to have to sit up and beg, roll over and jump through a hoop for anybody, and I really don;t see why people would HAVE to "do" special little stunts or act a certain way just to be considered either legitimate human beings OR to get hired or to have relevance. True innovation and radicalism resides in the mind and thinking, NOT in some external forum or in appearance or trappings like tattoos, odd facial hair, funny hats clothes or piercings. too often it really seems like some ridiculous "look at me! look at ME! " shouting and jumping up and down and clamoring for attention. frankly , it's begun to get bothy very noisy – AND ... annoying. Now apparently we ALL have to do special stunts and juggle and be "celebrities? Nahhhhh... I don't buy it. Sorry.

    March 25, 2010 at 8:30 am |
  3. laura

    thank god for the democrats..finally a great president. these republicans are discusting..the news needs to start focusing on the people who are very happy with health care reform and intelligent enough to understand it...republicans need to go away.they are crazy and will never have power again...thank you obama and pelosi you will save many lives..most of the country is very happy lets focus on them not the crazy people....

    March 25, 2010 at 7:11 am |
  4. Blaine Norum

    I've had a lot of respect for the quality and independence of your stories as well as the people you interview to comment on them. However, when you chose Marilee Jones as your expert commentator on admissions policies I was appalled. Did you not know that she was dismissed from MIT for lying? By drawing on such a dishonest person for "expert opinion" you do serious harm to your network's credibility.

    March 24, 2010 at 2:23 pm |