I have a secret that, ironically, I am about to share: I have a YouTube channel.
Once in a while, I check my analytics. With views ranging from 544 to 14,000, my channel’s definitely not famous, but I wouldn’t call it unknown, either. Since analyzing my own channel’s progress, I have come to the conclusion that my channel — namely, the videos that receive more attention than others — highlights our natural tendency to think myopically. When making a decision, humans are brashly obsessed with fulfilling their short term needs. Here’s why.
Since making my first video in the summer after Andover accepted me, three videos have gotten the most views: “Boarding School Applications: What You Need to Know,” “The Essay that Got Me into Andover” (although maybe that’s not the most accurate title), and “My Stats.” On the other hand, my vlogs about Andover — videos with answers to most commonly-asked questions, and videos where I give advice — have gotten one-fourth of the attention (measured per month). Personally, I enjoy the videos that have gotten fewer views more. While reading an essay and revealing my test scores have appealed to the wider audience, the videos that illustrate the person behind the camera are made with more sincerity and heart. If I’m being honest, I wish the views were reversed; that my videos about my application got less attention than my reflections, regrets, and achievements of my Andover life.
Evidently, the videos that were immediately fulfilling, extremely specific, and only applicable during a certain window of time appealed to my audience more. This tendency paralleled my own. When I was applying for Andover, my heart was set on getting in. I thought that if I could just get accepted first, I would have the choice of whether or not I would go. I would always have time to hunt for what Andover is really like. Having no connection to the school, I often went to College Confidential, a website designed to help kids with their college and prep school applications, to search for the statistics of past applicants. While I still learned about the “Andover experience,” I spent more time inundating my life with numbers and lists; test scores, activities, essays, and rankings. From my own channel’s statistics, I saw that this idea of “first getting in” was a common, natural, approach. And, from the questions in the comments, I realized that people truly only wanted to know how to improve their test scores, impress the admission officer, and have a successful interview. The short term need.
Let me point out that there is an inherent gap in this logic. Assuming that a student gets accepted and is about to say “yes” or “no,” I doubt that the joy of acceptance won’t creep into their decision-making process, no matter how objective they’re trying to be. After intensively searching for ways to curate a stellar profile, what information will naturally be fed to you: reviews from past students, or more videos about tests and essays? Breaking my own promise, I never even bothered to search for others’ honest experiences. If I did, however, I know that I would have invalidated the negatives, choosing to believe only in the positives. Indeed, I romanticized Andover, believing in a mysterious force that would repel all potential difficulties. Ultimately, that was an illogical belief.
At Andover, both positivity and negativity, ease and hardship, righteousness and unfairness, welcomed me. At an institution so filled with people, I ironically felt alone, hoping that loneliness would in turn grant me courage. In retrospect, if I had bothered to find (and believe) the opinions that were always there during my application — some encouraging, others discouraging — I do believe that I would have hesitated before saying “yes” so quickly. Perhaps I would have still come, but with less certainty. I now realize that my desire to fulfill my temporary need of getting in tainted my ability to fairly measure the school and how well I would fit in. I knew more about getting into Andover than about Andover itself, and I now fear that my subscribers are falling into the same hole.
So… what now? The realization that our instinctive desires can be spontaneous and brash is the first step to thinking more holistically. I’m in my Upper Year, and college has been on my mind. I have no doubts that while statistical information does exist, information similar to my own video reflections exists too. This application season, I will put more thought into the school itself and less into painting the perfect profile. After all, my four years will be spent at a school, not in an admissions office. Similarly, to this year’s high school applicants, I encourage you to find the place to thrive not simply by the acceptance letters you are sent, but also by the experiences you want to witness and replicate.
For my YouTube channel, my dilemma still persists: how do I promote the “deeper” videos, my personal favorites, to appear more on the “Recommended” page? The only solution right now seems to be making more videos that appeal to the audience to increase my account’s general popularity. When the time comes and an answer floats into my brain, maybe I’ll write another article. For now though, I still don’t know.
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