Law School Admissions Should Allow Video Statements
At least one undergraduate admissions program, Tufts University, has started accepting YouTube videos as part of their application process. Law schools still use old school teaching styles like the Socratic method, but will admissions programs take advantage of technology?
Paper applications contain a large amount of information. Applicants list schooling, honors, achievements, work experience, etc. Letters of recommendation are another opportunity to reveal more details about an individual. Personal statements, however, are an individual’s opportunity best, and limited, chance to showcase their personality. For many applicants, showcasing their personality in writing is a difficult, if not impossible, task. Instead of writing something interesting, many applicants just rehash their resume.
Some schools require interviews and and others do not have a formal interview process. Some schools schedule campus visits, or will arrange for private tours if you request them (which may turn out to be a de facto interview). Prospective students who are willing to pay for a visit across the country to meet with admissions officials have the opportunity to promote themselves face to face. For the majority of applicants, showcasing their personality will help their application. For some students, the visit may hurt their chances.
Not all applicants, however, can afford a plane ticket and/or hotel costs to visit schools. While a face to face meeting is ideal, a video is a better way to establish personality compared to a written statement.
For cost conscious applicants, submitting videos is an extreme money saver. Rather than flying across the country to get some face time, you can spend your time making a video that shows your personality. Showcasing your personality on video can be difficult. But for applicants who prefer video to paper, why not give them the opportunity? The video does not need to be an action film, it could simply be an applicant talking about why they want to go to law school, or describing a meaningful experience that will make them a good lawyer.
Much like personal statements, schools can set parameters for the video. Each video must be under three minutes. The video can only show the applicant, and should not be a three minute remake of Star Wars. The applicant cannot edit the video. Think of it like a casting call tape. Although this would limit the creativity to an extent, it also levels the playing field. Failure to create restrictions could lead to applicants spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on creating the most exciting applicant video.
Videos present a distinct advantage over personal statements because they are real. Applicants can hire someone to draft or edit their personal statement. A video is a much truer expression of who the applicant is, and what they are really like, compared to a written statement. This should allow admission officials to make more informed decisions.
Videos also present an enormous opportunity to shoot yourself in the foot. One person’s creativity is another person’s nightmare. But the same can be said for personal statements. Applicants who are adverse to cameras should still be allowed to submit personal statements. Although that could create a process that begins to favor videos over paper applications. Any school considering video submissions needs to craft procedures that minimize any opportunity for video favoritism.
Wave of the future
At first glance, video submissions are contrary to the typical admissions process. The practice of law, compared to other areas, is slow to adapt to emerging technologies and integrate them in meaningful ways. Reasoned analysis, however, suggest that video statements are a great way to bring something the law favors—equity—into the admissions process.