YouTube.com has been around for several years now, hosting thousands of videos of skateboarders falling down, amateurs dancing to “Single Ladies,” and baby pandas sneezing, but this year several colleges have entered the virtual media fray as part of the college admissions process.

This past application season, one of Tufts University’s optional essays on the Common App supplement asked students to choose from a variety of unusual prompts; one option was to
share a one-minute video that says something about them and upload it to YouTube. About 6% of applicants actually took them up on the offer, and many of these videos have hit counts in the thousands (of course, articles in the Boston Globe and in the New York Times have probably helped those numbers).

Here’s a sample video that has been particularly popular. Do you see the charm?

Applicants are forced to wonder whether they’ll be at an advantage for going out on a limb to make a mediocre video (at least I tried to be different!) or whether they should just stick to the familiar territory of Microsoft Word. Will admissions officers appreciate your step into the unknown, or will some shudder at the thought of having to watch another minute of off-key singing or thinly veiled boasting? As there are thousands of kids out there without webcams or the desire to broadcast their faces to the all-knowing (and all-archiving) World Wide Web, I’m betting you’ll be just fine if you go for a fun and creative one-pager instead.

The Tufts Admissions Office isn’t the only college getting in on the YouTube action. In January Yale released a video entitled “That’s why I chose Yale” on the popular video site. The video features an infosession-gone-broadway as a Yalie begins to sing in response to a student’s question, “Why did you choose Yale?” The video has been immensely popular with enthusiastic Yale applicants, students and alumni (those already predisposed to the university), but what effect has it had on the uninitiated?

Check it out for yourself:

Reactions certainly range from rolling eyes to memorizing lyrics. Will the video be a gamechanger in swaying undecided applicants towards Yale? In the opinion of this blogger, probably not. Will the video prompt other admissions offices to come up with new ways to strut their stuff online? Only next year’s application season will tell.