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    Lights, camera, college. Helping launch a breakthrough in the college application process.

Completing all of the steps required to apply to selective colleges is a rite of passage for many Americans. Transcripts. SATs. AP or IB test scores. SAT IIs, probably. A personal essay or two, or more, possibly; and for each school. Applying to college has become a part-time job for students who spend their nights researching schools on tablets and smartphones, researching their options on college review sites—even working with professional editors to wordsmith their applications.

Goucher College President José Antonio Bowen had an idea: make all of that optional. Goucher would become the first institution in America to say: “Forget the SAT, forget transcripts; just send us a three-minute video of yourself for your college application.” Bowen and the Goucher leadership team believed that the video-only application would also help the college achieve two important goals: both increase and diversify the applicant pool for its incoming freshman class.

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“Forget the SAT, forget transcripts; just send us a two-minute video of yourself for your college application.”

— José Antonio Bowen,
    Goucher College President

Our advice and counsel before, during, and immediately following the announcement generated enormous media visibility in leading national media outlets, and also positioned the school for multiple rounds of flattering follow-up: first, once admissions data were in hand; and second, acknowledging Goucher as a pathfinding institution in higher education as other schools followed Goucher’s lead and debuted new admissions strategies.

Goucher drew a record-high number of applications in the first year of the video application.

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Media Relations

Hager Sharp designed and implemented a short-term media relations strategy to maximize coverage of the announcement. We started with intake interviews with key members of the Goucher community, including admissions officers, faculty, and staff, to inform the core messages, platforms, and approach. We mutually decided early on that the message frame would be Goucher’s history of innovation and its distinction as a liberal arts college focused on the whole student. This also helped identify priority audiences and the corresponding media outlets best-suited to reach them.

The first days following the announcement, we earned placements in top-tier national media, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and the PBS NewsHour, which positioned the video application program for long-term success and viability. And same-day pieces in leading trade outlets, including The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed, established Goucher as the undisputed leader in innovative admissions methods.

Goucher drew a record-high number of applications in the first year of the video application, with scores of applicants used the new video application. Fifty-two percent of the video applicants self-identified as students of color, compared to about 30 percent for the general applicant pool. They also leaned female, with women making up about 75 percent of video applicants versus 65 percent of the general pool. Overall, applications increased nearly 10 percent—with a more diverse set of applicants.

Overall, applications increased nearly 10 percent—with a more diverse set of applicants.