New Ways to Get In

In first year Goucher applicants may by judged on a short video and Bennington applicants by an application portfolio they design, both colleges report early signs of success.

January 13, 2015
A shot from Goucher's promotional video

It turns out that there are students who want to apply to college based on a two-minute video. These applicants may be more likely than others to be non-white and women. But it's also the case that, given the option, most potential students won't apply that way.

At least that's the early word from Goucher College, which this year decided to let students use that method to apply. Bennington College, which also introduced a non-conventional application system (in which students can design their own application portfolio) also reports early success with its new option.

The Goucher option, announced in September, attracted the most attention. Applicants can be judged simply on the basis of a two-minute video, although they also must submit two pieces of work from high school. Applicants need not submit test scores (Goucher has for some time been test-optional). But in an unusual move, applicants need not submit transcripts (those applying for financial aid must do so, although the information isn't considered in the admissions decision).

So far this year, the college has received 64 applicants through the video option, and admitted 48 of them. The remainder included 2 applicants whose videos couldn't be seen (and who are being helped to resubmit them) and 14 who were asked for some more information pending a final decision. So while no video applicants have been rejected, not all have earned admission.

The 75 percent admission rate (which could still grow in theory up to 100 percent) is slightly higher than the 72 percent rate for applicants who applied through traditional means. But Goucher officials say that the numbers suggest success beyond having 64 more applicants.

Whether from the attention the college received or other reasons, early action applications reached a record high of 1,761 (not counting the 64 video applicants) by the December 1 deadline. The figure for traditional application early action is up 12 percent over the total of each of the previous two years.

Of particular interest to Goucher is that there are signs that the video option is attracting more minority students -- particularly black students.

Of non-video applicants, 41.5 percent were members of minority groups, while the figure was 52.0 for video applicants. And while 18 percent of traditional applications were filed by black students, 39 percent of the video applications were.

Women make up a solid majority of Goucher's applicant pool so far this year (68.4 percent) and an even larger share of the video applicants (73.4 percent).

Further, by looking at the transcripts submitted by video applicants (but not considered in admissions decisions), Goucher officials say that the grades suggest a similar academic performance level to those who apply through traditional means. So thus far, Goucher officials are pleased with the experiment and hopeful about the rest of the admissions cycle.

Bennington's new option is called "dimensional" admissions, under which applicants themselves decide what to submit (and can opt not to submit traditionally required items like transcripts, although they may opt to send them as well).

As is the case at Goucher, Bennington is seeing good overall numbers this year, Early decision applications (only some of which use the new option) are up more than 60 percent.

To date, 61 people have applied through dimensional admissions, and 8 have been admitted, but many others haven't been reviewed yet.

For the two application periods for which deadlines have been passed, dimensional applicants made up 11 of 39 for early decision applicants and 31 of 345 early action applicants.

Hung Bui, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid at Bennington, said via email that, so far, the new option has "exceeded our expectations with regard to quantity and quality." He noted that 77 percent of those using the application applied in various "early" rounds of admission (Bennington uses early action and early decision). This indicates a "genuine interest," he said, as does the quality of the material submitted. Bui said that the new approach lets students share "more of their personality."


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