Starting this fall the University is offering prospective students the option to submit a video testimonial in place of the traditional alumni interview as part of their application. The video testimonial aims to lighten the volume of requested alumni interviews and to give students the chance to have more control over their application, said Dean of Admission Logan Powell.
While the applicant pool increases 8 to 10 percent each year, the pool of alumni interview volunteers does not grow at the same rate, according to Powell. Out of the early decision pool, which grew by 20 percent this year, 82.5 percent of applicants requested an alumni interview, 9.1 percent chose the video testimonial and the remaining 8.4 percent selected neither option, Powell said.
“We want the applicant to be able to convey to us who they are in their own words,” Powell said. He hopes the video testimonial will be a “reasonably stress-free, unscripted process” that will allow applicants to share things with the Admission Office that they may not be able to in an interview, he said. Powell noted that most alumni interviews just confirm what the Admission Office already knows about the student.
Though peer institutions such as Bowdoin College and the University of Chicago offer a similar video alternative, the Admission Office’s decision to offer a video testimonial was made independently, Powell said.
The video testimonial is capped at two minutes. Powell explained that students should not be professionally producing their video content and they are not expected to rehearse or read through a script. “Any student with a camera phone can do this,” Powell said.
Although the video testimonial and alumni interview do not singularly determine an applicant’s admission decision, they help the Admission Office understand the applicant more, Powell said.
Sara Harberson, an independent college counselor, sees the video testimonial as a “big, bold step for Brown. … I love the fact that they are giving students the option,” she said. But she believes that “not a lot of students will take advantage (of the video testimonial) because it’s so new.” If students choose to do a video testimonial, they “have to stand out from the very start” because applications are read through so quickly, Harberson said. “If the student is a very dynamic speaker and does well in front of the camera, the video gives them a chance to stand out in the applicant pool much better than in an interview.”
Kamran King ’22 said that if given the option he “would still prefer an interview over submitting a video” so he could meet alums “and ask them about their experience.”
Sammie Halem ’22 agreed that the interview provides “fresh insight to Brown” during which she “could relate to the interviewer and get a better sense of the school.” But the option to do a video testimonial “gives everyone equal opportunity,” especially for students who do not have easy access to alumni interviews, she said.
Dorian Arber-Kornowski ’22 is against the video testimonial option. The video will allow students to “show the Admission Office who you want to be but not who you really are.” Arber-Kornowski, who completed an alumni interview during his application process, said he “wouldn’t have been able to show that (he) can think on his feet” had he done a video. But Arber-Kornowski acknowledged that a video testimonial could allow a student to share an “interesting personal story that wouldn’t come out in a typical interview” and “reduce stress from an interview.”
The video testimonial is a “bold step for students who take advantage (of it), but usually the bold students are the ones who benefit in the end,” Harberson said.