Image from Pexels

Image from Pexels

I remember when I was applying to UChicago, and even after being accepted, I loved rewatching the student vlogs from UChicago Admissions YouTube page. They told me about the house traditions we have that I could anticipate joining soon, words of advice to keep my feet on the ground amidst the whirlwind of college freshman year, how snow can mask the campus in this uniform white that I personally relish in beholding. If you ask me what is the thing I’m most impressed about our admissions office, it is the fact that they make the best effort to reach out to students, and that we can feel a connection to the school by different means than a generic brochure riddled with facts and figures. I think that student vlogs are probably the most beautiful thing that colleges can help create for their prospective applicants.

To begin with, student vlogs are accessible and informative. They are shared online for free, so every student can watch them as they wish. As an international student, I felt less of a deficiency that I was not able to visit campus in person because I could watch the vlogs. The vlogs are also a great resource if you are looking for a more exclusive scope into student life. Arguably, the students will talk about the most distinguished qualities of the school compared to other colleges; they will answer frequently asked questions regarding housing, picking classes or participating in clubs and non-curricular activities. But they are likely to mention aspects that truly matter or considerations that are significant but sometimes overlooked. Watching the student vlogs may not be the most comprehensive method of enquiry, but it is certainly much more stimulating that paddling among blocks of information that seem to have melted into a daunting unit of abstractness.

There are quite a number of promotional videos made by my college, but there is a difference between the student vlogs and the purely informational, documentary-style videos. I’m not diminishing the amount of information I acquire from watching interviews of faculty members talking about the value of the humanities in the educational trajectory of the College. I’m not denying that it somewhat factors in my decision to apply and attend the school. But I’m saying that they cannot give me an impression of myself being part of campus, leading a new chapter of my life in a new place that I’m supposed to identify as my college in the next four years. It is fortunate for me to receive exceptional higher education that accommodates my interests and opens pathways for me to know myself better. But when I think about who I am in the future, I’m less inclined to say that “I’ll be attending a prestigious institution” than I am to imagine the experiences I will collect, the sceneries that I will immerse myself in, and the people I will surround myself with. I can see and I can feel them more clearly thanks to the student vlogs.

Student vlogs are essentially current college students sharing their experience in an honest, relate-able way. The human connection, although virtual, is so remarkable because someone is stepping out of their way to tell you what they think you should know, or at least, what they feel like sharing to a public audience. It can be immensely difficult letting other people peak into your personal life, all the thoughts and feelings very unique to yourself, especially on social media. But I think it is meaningful to face the arbitrary vastness of the Internet once in a while for the possibility that another person can see something clearer for herself by listening to you. In this sense, student vlogs are a wonderful existence in the communications sphere of college admissions not because they serve some unique purposes. They just are by nature.

Personally speaking, college admissions can be discouraging in many regards. I don’t like how standardized testing is sometimes taken as a measurement of a young person’s intelligence, capacity and degree of self-worth. I don’t like how higher education can become a privilege rather than an option. Before I am a college student, I am also this young person who is trying to see the world for herself and grow, so I am more interested in tangible experiences rather than factual information about my college. What I know about my college is indubitably the conditions of my experience, of my self-growth, but I would see it as perpetually insufficient to promote one and not the other. That is why I love student vlogs and wish there were more out there for prospective students.

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Chi Thuy Le likes to think she lives bi-continentally while writing out of Chicago.

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