Your Pictures Are Worth At Least 1,000 Words

Ever since humankind created its first writing implement, it has sought to record its history in ever-evolving modes of storytelling. From cave wall pictograms to Facebook Live, three principal components have endured for millennia: spoken, written, and visual expression.

Whereas in the past, schools relied almost uniquely on students’ writing abilities to make decisions about their academic strengths and special qualities, over the last two years, colleges have increasingly encouraged the integration of pictures and videos to determine who gets a spot in their next class.

So, what are these new forms of storytelling that you need to become familiar with? And how can you get ahead of the curve?


Introduced into the college application mix in the 2015-2016 cycle, ZeeMee is essentially an online, multimedia résumé for college applicants. Through it, you can showcase what makes you special with a nice blend of text, pictures and videos.

ZeeMee breaks down into two main sections: My Story and My Activities. In My Story, you have the opportunity to give admissions committees greater insight into who you are as a person, in much the same way that an interview or your main college essay does. You can get creative, such as by tracking a week in your life, adding your favorite music, and including animation; or, you can sit and talk to the camera like you see in a reality TV confessional.

In My Activities, you should highlight your passions and commitments just like you do in your résumé, but rather than telling everything, you can show everything. To do that, you only need to upload photos and videos of your activities and hobbies and explain their meaning to you, which will allow admissions committees to see how talented you are. It’s one thing to say that you’ve produced twenty surrealist paintings in the style of Salvador Dalì, and another to let the college gatekeepers see your work. So whatever your talent is, don’t miss your chance to get recognized for it.

One important note to bear in mind is that not every college wants to see your ZeeMee account. Check within your applications or on ZeeMee’s website first, before you spend time creating one.

The Coalition Application

In an effort to entice a wider array of students to apply to college, over ninety public and private colleges and universities across the country banded together to create the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success. Out of it came a new application platform that softly launched for the Class of 2017 and will gain momentum over the years to come.

One of the best elements of this competitor to the Common and Universal Applications is that it encourages you to include multimedia materials through your Locker, its online, file storage unit. There, you can keep copies of your best work from freshman year onwards, which you can then choose to share with colleges when you’re ready to apply.

Some colleges, like Yale University, even developed separate essay questions for the Coalition Application, which allow students to take advantage of these more audiovisual features. This means that you can create montages of video or photography to show off what makes you special.

While the Coalition is overall more difficult to complete than the Common Application, it can provide clear advantages to students who are willing to go the extra mile.

Beating the Curve

This shift in storytelling media has certainly made reviewing college applications more interesting, but it does come with one major drawback: it frankly takes a long time to put together strong visual materials and match them with equally compelling written ones. That’s why you should start collecting photographs and videos now. If you don’t have anything from past years, then ask your friends, teammates, coaches, and teachers to dig through their files and see what they can find. Plus, you should start whipping out your iPhone to capture your activities from this point forward. If you’re like me, however, and you’re just not a “picture-taking-kind-of-person,” ask your parents or friends to help you.

For What It’s Worth

So what is the value in creating a ZeeMee account or in using The Coalition Application? While no one has accumulated enough data to precisely quantify how much of a benefit these platforms provide, you can count on the fact that the more you make your talents obvious to colleges, the more they’ll want to admit you. Your pictures are worth at least 1,000 words, if not more.

Posted on February 1, 2017 at 9:00 am

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