Years ago, students applying to U.S. colleges had to handle a lot of paper. Their applications and essays were typewritten or printed out and then “snail-mailed” to each school. When the schools sent decisions, those arrived on paper too.
Flash forward to today’s world of Facebook and Instagram, where photos, videos, and mobile phones rule. Today’s students want to share their credentials and personal stories in a more lively, three-dimensional way. Fortunately, new tools are making it easier for college applicants to use technology to show off their personalities, skills, and creativity.
One popular innovation is ZeeMee, a free mobile app that allows students to upload personal profiles and videos to create visual resumes for their applications. More than 220 colleges offer a ZeeMee option or link for prospective students.
The video aspect is especially appealing for international students, who may be more comfortable showing their unique stories than writing about them. ZeeMee co-founder Adam Metcalf says 10 percent of ZeeMee applicants to U.S. schools in 2017 were international students who used the app to set themselves apart. “There are a lot of international students, especially from China and India, so it’s important for the college to get a sense of who you are as a person — your character, your growth mindset, your grit,” Metcalf says. “For that international student who uses ZeeMee to bring their story to life via video, it’s a really fantastic way for them to showcase themselves.” ZeeMee has been used by students in more than 150 countries, Metcalf says.
One of those is Drexel University junior Vidya Golla from Hyderabad, India. As part of her application to Philadelphia-based Drexel and other U.S. colleges, Golla created — and starred in — a rap video. “The ZeeMee video I made was really fun,” says Golla, who is majoring in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “I basically rapped about myself. I made it up pretty much on the spot.” Golla also used the ZeeMee platform to create a personal portfolio. “It was just a link in my application that could show any admissions officer so many things,” she says. “It was pictures and videos and all of my writing. I thought it made the application a lot more authentic and creative.”
Tulane University in New Orleans was one of the first schools to offer ZeeMee to prospective students. “There’s been a shift in the world of college admission,” Jeff Schiffman, director of admission, explained in his blog. “We want to know your authentic story, beyond just your scores and your grades.”
THE COALITION ‘LOCKER’
Another tool comes from the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, a group that introduced an application platform in 2015 now used by 250 schools. The group aims to get students engaged in college prep early and to use technology to “encourage reflection and self-discovery” in the application process.
Students who sign up for the free platform get access to a digital “locker,” which they can use all through high school to save class papers, artwork, newspaper stories, and photos to share with colleges when they apply. Each student also receives private online collaboration space to connect with teachers and other advisors who can provide guidance.
The University of Washington in Seattle began using the Coalition application in 2017 to help high-schoolers get an early start on the admissions process. “Students may complete many of the self-reported academic fields before the senior year, allowing them to work on their application as they move through high school,” the school states on its website. The goal: to reduce “stress and frenzy” in the fall of senior year.