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College Experiments With Transcript-Free Applications

With a video of students tearing up their high school  transcripts, one college is shredding the book on how to handle college applications.

Under a new applications policy beginning this year, Goucher College will give the option to dispense with an ordinary application and seek admission by sending the school a two-minute video.

Students relying on a video can ignore just about every other component of a standard application: No SAT or ACT scores, no transcript of high school grades, no application essay.

Instead, students must only include a single graded writing assignment from high school, as well as one item representing their “best work” in high school, such as a work of art.

Students who are more comfortable sticking with a conventional application are free to do so.

Many schools allow for videos to supplement conventional application materials, and many others have made things like standardized test scores optional as well, but Goucher, a 2,300 student institution in Towson, Maryland, is the first to take the full plunge of building an entire application around a video.

Jose Antonio Bowen, the school’s president, said in a video announcing the change that it was made in response to an “insane” college application system.

“When parents are worried about their three-year-old getting into the right preschool, we have a broken system,” he said, adding that traditional applications disadvantage many talented people. ”Some [students] have learning disabilities, some of them are late bloomers, you may just not be good at tests.”

The video application, he says, will allow capable people to stand out without being held back by subpar academics.

“If you’re a dancer, or a scientist…maybe testing is not the best way to demonstrate that,” Bowen said. “Higher education should be about potential, not about privilege.”

Beyond rhetoric about increased opportunity, there is a business angle to Goucher’s decision. Bowen told The Washington Post that the present competition among colleges for applicants are a reason for the new system.

Colleges around the U.S. seek to raise as high as possible the number of admitted applicants who enroll, a number known as yield.

While a top-tier school like Harvard may have yield over 50 percent, Goucher is like most other colleges in having it be much lower, in this case under 20 percent. Applicants who bother creating a completely unique application video for Goucher are more likely to attend if admitted, Bowen believes.

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