For nearly a decade, the Universal College Application (UCA) has offered students the opportunity to include on their applications a “live” link or URL to online content such as YouTube, LinkedIn, personal websites, blogs, etc. In this regard, the UCA was way ahead of the competition, offering an option that both colleges and students seemed to want. Despite repeated calls to include a similar field on their application, the Common App opted to strengthen partnerships with outside vendors like SlideRoom (frequently charging applicants a separate fee) and resisted signs that colleges were increasingly transitioning to inclusion of digital credentials as part of the admissions process.
With the debut of the Coalition platform, the idea of making digital media available as part of the college application became more institutionalized. Videos, audio presentations and pictures can be easily uploaded to the Student Locker and transferred to applications for colleges requesting them. And most Coalition colleges opted to also use the upload function for the personal statement—something the Common App dropped a couple of years ago in favor unwieldy “text boxes,” which definitely limit an applicant’s ability to control format, embed live links and use different characters or pictures as part of their essays.
As the Coalition built on a precedent established by the UCA and opened students to the possibility of introducing colleges to their digital sides, the Common App responded by creating a relationship with ZeeMee, originally an online resume-building site high on visuals and low on written content. In the spring of 2016, the Common App introduced the new partnership with an “infomercial” at their annual conference and offered colleges the opportunity to have a field dedicated to ZeeMee included in their “member questions.” A number of colleges accepted the offer, some by stridently advertising for and recruiting students to the ZeeMee platform. Others were moderate in their requests and still fewer (one or two) suggested that students could include a link to ZeeMee or other online media if they chose.
But the times are changing. Without any promotion or advertisement from the Common App, many member colleges adopted the more “generic” URL field in their 2017-18 applications and are using this opportunity to encourage students to provide links to any site—not just ZeeMee. In fact at least 45, or about six percent of Common App members with live applications at this point, intentionally give students a wider opportunity to provide a link to a website of their choosing.
For the record, an additional 125 Common App members (as of this writing) appear to limit their requests to or provide dedicated fields for ZeeMee URLs—some with very strong marketing language.
But this welcome application development seems to have largely gone unnoticed. Perhaps it would be even more welcome if the link were “live” and a reader could click on the URL and go directly to the site—an opportunity the UCA has offered students and admissions readers for close to ten years! Unfortunately, the current state of Common App technology apparently requires readers to copy and paste the URL into an internet browser to access content. Nevertheless, the inclusion of a more general question in the bank of member questions is an acknowledgment of the value of this information to the admissions process.
Here is a sample of Common App members electing to move away from promoting a single site to opening their application to the inclusion of any URL:
- Antioch College
- Brown University
- Centre College
- Colorado College
- Earlham College
- Eckerd College
- Florida Institute of Technology
- Florida Southern College
- Hampshire College
- Kenyon College
- Lafayette College
- Marist College
- Occidental College
- Pepperdine University
- Pitzer College
- Texas Christian University
- Union College
Franklin and Marshall, Hamilton and the University of Mary Washington make similar requests on the Coalition application.
And while the URL requests are fairly generic and don’t steer applicants in any particular direction, the award for best wording by a Common App member goes to the University of Mary Washington:
“Some applicants maintain an electronic profile (such as ZeeMee) that exhibits talents, creativity or other information to share with the Admissions Committee. If you maintain such a site, and would like the Admissions Committee to view it, please enter the URL here.”
The cleverest college award goes to SUNY Purchase, which gets around the deficiency in Common App technology by instructing applicants to be creative about uploading a document containing a link:
“For video submissions, post your video to YouTube or Vimeo and submit a document here with the URL link to the video.”
Note: For the nearly one-third of Common App members providing for submission of fully-formatted résumés, you can include URLs on those documents, upload them as PDFs and assume the links will be conveyed as live, thereby providing direct access to any online content you wish readers to see. Click here for more information on colleges that welcome your résumé.