by William Moultrie
Charleston – One of the country’s oldest colleges is turning to one of the world’s newest technologies in an effort to attract more technologically ‘hip’ students. The College of Charleston is currently testing a process that would allow students to complete part of their initial enrollment application via twitter.
“Succinct is the new in-depth,” said assistant deputy admissions director, Chip VanDerveld. “Anybody can make a case for admission if you give them the time and space to do it; the real challenge is to convince us that you belong at the College of Charleston in 140 characters or less. The current online applications asks for a 250-word personal statement, but in the real world, you rarely have the luxury of 250 words to make your case. By screening prospective students in this way, we’re not only preparing them for the future, we’re rewarding those who are already prepared.”
The program is still in a testing phase, but VanDerveld expects to start implementing it in a limited roll-out sometime in March of 2010 for students seeking admission for the following Fall. He predicts that it could be several years before the old application process is abandoned entirely, but that this project is likely to influence the current process during the transition.
“We are all very excited about this,” said VanDerveld. “Not only will we be able to attract students better-equipped to function in the world of social media, but it will save countless hours of reading admissions essays. Of course the entire application won’t be boiled down to a single ‘tweet,’ but it’ll be how some of these kids get their ‘foot in the door,’ so to speak.”
The proposed system will use a Twitter account to which prospective students will be able to ‘tweet’ their case for admission. When an admissions staffer at the college reads a tweet that interests them, they will then ‘follow’ the ‘tweeter.’ Once the student and the admissions office are ‘following’ each other, they will then be able to send private messages through the system, ensuring that sensitive details remain private.
The College is encouraging the public to help out with the testing phase of the program.
“If you’d like to help,” said VanDerveld, “post a tweet @CofC_Admissions saying why you would be a good addition to the student body at the College. I want to emphasize, though, that this is just in the beta stage right now, and until we actually launch the program — hopefully in the spring — none of your tweets will be viewed as an actual application for admission. But please, give it a shot. Until now this has been a strictly in-house beta test and we’d like to see what responses from the real world look like.”
Some members of the faculty were not enthusiastic about the program, though some seemed excited about the prospects.
“I suppose it’s part of our inevitable march to mediocrity, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy the ride,” said Prof. Allen Rostager, a long-serving member of the Classics faculty. “When I started here, an application was written long-hand and included a personal essay that sometimes reached twenty pages. It has slowly whittled down over time to this meaningless online version they are currently using and I have no doubt this ‘tweatie’ (sic) thing will come to pass as well. Do you know you that you do not even have to affix your signature to your application for enrollment anymore? In my day, we were able to infer quite a lot from a person’s handwriting, but now, it could be written by a computer for all we know.”
“Really? Sweet!” said Marc Yarbin, of the Computer Science department. “I gotta post this. Later.”
The College of Charleston is older than the United States, having been founded in 1770.