Social media platform brings a non-traditional option to the college application process | Education

ST. LOUIS • Imagine if the college application process were not about test scores and grade-point averages.

Well, the industry isn’t quite there yet.

An app that several Missouri colleges have adopted is pushing the envelope though, introducing some nontraditional means for students to express themselves to traditional institutions.

The app is called ZeeMee, and it’s infiltrating the local college market. There’s some personalization flavor to a person’s ZeeMee page that feels like a mixture of Instagram and LinkedIn.

One student user, who identifies herself as a recent graduate of Francis Howell Central High School, uses her profile to highlight her creative side. She’s a Thespian, a pianist, a chorus member and an actress. Topping off her profile though, is a video.

That’s one of the main draws to ZeeMee. Students such as this Francis Howell Central alumnae can post videos highlighting what they want the colleges they apply to to know about them. For this particular student, it’s her creativity. She sings an original song about herself in her video.

Others analyze writing, some use slam poetry and many more use it to tell their own stories.

Adam Metcalf, one of the co-founders of the app, said he and his college roommates started ZeeMee because colleges “rely too much on test scores and transcripts.” The co-founders believe what makes a student is more than that, and started ZeeMee as a way to offer a more “holistic” view of the applicant, offered by students themselves.

“Ten billion videos will be viewed on Snapchat today,” Metcalf said. He points to that type of social media use by so-called Generation Z as an example of their expectations and thoughts toward technology.

To these incoming students, the college application process looks antiquated, he said.

Right now, ZeeMee is free to students. They create an account and build their profile.

ZeeMee partners with about 200 institutions, up from six when the app launched in 2015. The size of the partner colleges varies from such smaller schools as Fontbonne University to large research schools such as Washington University. St. Louis University is another local partner.

Those are all private schools, but Truman State University is the first public school in Missouri to give ZeeMee a try.

“We care about more than test scores and grade point averages,” said Amanda Shreves, an admission counselor at Truman State. “We look at grade trajectory, involvement, leadership and work obligations. So we wanted to bring as much of that to light as possible.”

About 1 percent of applicants for fall 2017 submitted links to their ZeeMee profiles, she said. It’s a small number, but a start.

It helps counselors connect with students in ways that might not seem immediately obvious.

Shreves uses a particular example of a student who is homeschooled. He used his video to show his learning environment — his couch — and share a bit about his personality.

“Often students will think their résumé has to be super professional and only show national awards and Girls State and the Missouri Scholars Academy,” she said. “While we certainly appreciate that, a student who’s really proud of their portfolio of art, or a person whose side hustle is playing with a string quartet is also really exciting to us.”

Metcalf calls Missouri a solid market with a significant amount of buy-in for what the app offers.

When students finish their profile, they submit the hyperlink to the partner school they’re applying to through what’s otherwise a typical application process.

It’s free for colleges to partner with ZeeMee, too, for the most part. The cost comes in when schools opt to participate in a premium service called “ZeeMee Community.” Metcalf describes that as a way to connect applicants to colleges and admitted students to each other. Schools can send push notifications to their applicants with reminders, among other things.

Metcalf said his team works with high school counselors to make the creation of a ZeeMee profile part of the curriculum. An app update will allow students the chance to respond via video prompts such as “What does perseverance mean to you?”

“This helps you learn more about the students’ grit,” he said. “That is a much greater indicator of success. … Maybe they don’t have great test scores, but they have gratitude, grit, they’re intellectually curious and have a growth mindset.”

Those, according to Metcalf, are better indicators to colleges that the applicant is more likely to be successful and graduate.

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