Video-only college application process is flawed

Kevin Griffin

Perhaps one of the most stressful parts of college life begins before students ever step foot on campus.

It is a process that takes years of preparation, from the hard work done in high school to ensure satisfactory grades to the submission of transcripts, test scores and essays.

Then there is the stress of awaiting an answer from the institutions.

Goucher College in Baltimore has devised an unorthodox approach to this common routine. Students applying to Goucher will no longer be required to submit test scores or transcripts.

In addition to the more traditional application, students will have the opportunity to apply by submitting a two-minute video and some samples of high school work, according to NPR.

Goucher President Jose Antonio Bowen said the purpose of the change was to eliminate the bias in the process that comes with consideration of SAT or ACT scores, as well as to give students with special areas of interest a shot, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Attempting to eliminate bias is certainly something with which colleges should be concerned. A 2010 study by the Harvard Educational Review suggested that the SAT is unfair to black students.

Even though students may go the more traditional route, the fact that a student could apply and be accepted based on so little is problematic.

Still, using video as a means for judging applicants presents obvious issues. The natural tendency would be to rate most highly those whose are attractive, have good video skills and  are outgoing.

Though Bowen insists that the videos will be judged based on its contents rather than its quality, all of the aforementioned factors would still play a role. Bias is not always conscious.

Unfortunately, bias of some sort will always play a role any time individuals are evaluated. The important thing is to minimize the bias by considering a wide range of factors and using metrics that do not discriminate against potential applicants who could make worthwhile contributions.

A number of colleges are making some changes to the traditional admissions process. More than 800 colleges nationwide have dropped the SAT as a requirement, according to USA Today.

Video can certainly be a part of a number of other metrics used to analyze an applicant, but it should not be the only or one of the few metrics as it is in the case of Goucher.

Looking beyond the established, traditional method of appraising students in order to consider a greater variety of applicants is noble.

However, Goucher’s methods are itself too narrow. Relying solely on a video and some schoolwork goes nowhere near providing a full picture of a student’s personality and potential.

The college admissions process should change, but following the track Goucher has chosen would be a mistake.

Griffin, a junior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.