It’s All About Appearances

The University of Chicago on Thursday morning announced that it was dropping the requirement that all undergraduate applicants submit SAT or ACT scores. . . In addition, the university announced a new program in which it will invite students to submit a two-minute video introduction of themselves.

The videos are needed to make completely sure applicants are not Asian, I guess. Or is the school too dumpy to discriminate against Asians?

I truly pity the poor admissions folks who’ll have to go through thousands of videos made by teenagers about themselves. Are they unionized and is the union doing anything to get them compensated for severe damage experienced in the workplace?

18 thoughts on “It’s All About Appearances

  1. As far as I can tell, admissions videos started with this idiot:

    He’s the President of Goucher College, and he did a good job of garnering plaudits for it:

    I once went to a conference where he was the keynote speaker. (I dunno why I went; it seemed like a good idea at the time.) He said that we need to update our teaching so that we can compete with videos like this:

    He’s a buzzword wrapped up in a TED Talk wrapped up in a HuffPo column wrapped up in a consultant’s pitch.


    1. I’m terrified of these people. And it’s especially scary how they manage to bamboozle so many of us with their faux-progressive rhetoric.


    2. \ Colleges Make It Easier for Students to Show, Not Tell, in Their Applications


      The title is funny since videos are exactly the opposite – 100% telling instead of showing / proving real knowledge via scores.


  2. What an incredibly bad idea. Having to watch videos of people trying to pitch themselves? Christ… As if the college essay weren’t absurd enough. Besides, this is of course going to be another way for poor people to be discriminated against. Their video quality will be terrible compared to the people whose parents have tons of money and will hire someone to come do cinematography. UGH!


  3. Videos will favor the following types of kids:
    1) The telegenic, i.e. people with charisma and stage presence.
    2) Kids who went to schools that each video editing and whatnot.
    3) Kids whose parents can afford professional video editing.
    4) (To give this a progressive veneer) Kids whose videos demonstrate an identity that helps the school hit diversity numbers.

    The last one will be used to legitimize this project, but let’s not kid ourselves: They’ll let in just enough to make themselves look good, but the rest of the slots will go to the popular kids, the kids who went to good schools, and the kids whose parents pay for professional video editing.


      1. Absolutely. The video will be shot in a living room that is tasteful but sparse, to suggest modest economic means. They will have a diverse group of friends present, they will demonstrate a suitably interesting set of interests, they will get footage of suitably virtuous community service, and if there’s any way at all to make a white applicant’s ethnicity seem ambiguous the production team will do so.


          1. Higher ed is doomed. Maybe it’s time to give up on academic work and put everything into finishing that novel 🙂


        1. \ if there’s any way at all to make a white applicant’s ethnicity seem ambiguous

          Presenting an ambiguous looking aunt seems a good strategy. 🙂


  4. Making a video for college admissions would’ve caused my entire family to freak the hell out.

    I pity anyone who is neurodivergent, has any kind of eating or anxiety disorder, who isn’t physically conventionally attractive who has to film one of these high stakes videos. I’m shocked the University of Chicago’s offices aren’t filled with complaints about “triggering” applicants.


  5. I want to give a simple survey:

    1) On a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 is “Strongly Agree” and 1 is “Strongly Disagree”, how do you feel about replacing standardized test scores with videos for college admissions?

    2) On the same scale, do you agree that unconscious biases lead to discrimination against minorities and other members of marginalized groups?

    I predict that the correlation between answers would be very close to -1. Everyone I know who wants to get rid of standardized tests and screen for “non-cognitive traits”, to allegedly select more Happy Shiny Diverse Good People, also strongly believes that unconscious biases affecting decision-making are a major cause of disparities in society.

    But I don’t think they’re contradicting themselves. I think they need that visual evidence so that they can practice affirmative action. Hence the videos.


    1. I’d rather live in the world where affirmative action was unambiguously legal, so we could just select the minority kids with the best grades and scores. It would be affirmative action, but it would be affirmative action that nonetheless acknowledges a role for traditional measures of smarts. Instead we play games that favor cool kids, and justify it in the name of diversity.


    2. I believe there are unconscious biases, conscious biases, and all sorts of biases in between. I also believe it’s problem number one million nine hundred eighth three in higher ed. People make such a fuss over these trivialities because they don’t want to address things that are really wrong.


      1. Thanks, I loved Gladwell’s essay, though “too many Jews at Harvard” problem was unpleasant to read about. Well, I live in Israel where it won’t happen.

        Clarissa, I remember you writing about college athletics. The article talks about athletes at Harvard too.


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