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This application season, I’m asking my students to create a ZeeMee.

In my years as a college counselor, I have seen many bright students struggle with the questions asked by individual colleges outside of the personal essay for the Common App or Coalition App. There are many reasons, ranging from lack of confidence to lack of targeting. Even when teachers are asking students to formulate and support a thesis in other academic tasks, that theoretical knowledge can fall to the wayside as students put together their college applications. Yet now more than ever, I’m focusing on the supplement as something that is vital, fun and powerful for students.

During the last application cycle, I became interested in ZeeMee, a platform launched in 2015 that looked like a video portfolio. ZeeMee is unique in the world of application supplements because it was created specifically for admissions and is endorsed by hundreds of colleges. According to the people at ZeeMee, their focus is “helping students bring their authentic video story to life for college application.” Colleges benefit from having a consistent format that helps them review applications more quickly. At the same time, students can interact intuitively from their smartphones. Easy! Knowing that ZeeMee is an ad-free space and also free for students without an up-charge model—I checked on both of those—I started encouraging my students to take it for a spin. As I plan for the upcoming application cycle, I am sharing three tips to the community that are helpful for students using ZeeMee.

Three ZeeMee Tips for Your Students

  1. What are 2-3 things a college doesn’t know about you? One benefit of ZeeMee is that it can highlight messages that don’t come across in the general application. Perhaps a summer job or family situation was particularly meaningful to a student, but it was only lightly mentioned in an essay. Or maybe a student wants to share—and show—a passion for the arts, poetry, or engineering! They can highlight this in a deliberate way as they create a ZeeMee. A trick students can use is creating a checklist with about 10 things they want admissions officers to know.

  2. Reflect upon and showcase your character strengths. This piece of advice also holds true for essays and interviews in addition to the very electronic ZeeMee. Students can call upon a resource like Character Lab’s strengths to pinpoint what best defines them and share examples from their lives that demonstrate those strengths. The message to students: Grit, growth mindset, curiosity, and optimism are traits that will serve you well in college!

  3. Choose the right number of videos and questions to answer in the ZeeMee App. Keeping in mind that colleges may not have time to review all components of an application, including a ZeeMee, I always remind my students to make their applications and ZeeMees consumable. While ZeeMee’s platform now allows students to create an unlimited amount of videos, I recommend keeping it within the range of three to seven videos, using a mix of ZeeMee prompts and students’ own videos. Again, have students refer to Tip #1 and focus on what colleges don’t already know. (That’s the same reasoning I’ve often used when advising a STEM student to write about a non-academic interest.)

A student gets ready to respond.

ZeeMee and the Supplement: A Targeted Approach

Take a look at the college-specific chart I made for students who are submitting their ZeeMee to maximize impact. It features supplemental questions of three ZeeMee partners: Tulane, Marist and Delaware. ( Here is a link to ZeeMee’s partners.) But if a ZeeMee is really strong, I want that student to share it with other colleges that are not official partners, which is easy to do. For example, the Common App includes an Additional Information box that a student may well have left blank. Or, if a student has already targeted that space for something else, it’s easy to include the link when writing to an admissions officer or when thanking an interviewer. (Communicating important information and showing appreciation are more life skills that I seek to instill in students.)

CollegeWhat’s Included in Supplement

How ZeeMee Could HelpTulane“Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences.”Provides visual linked to extracurricular activity

Sheds light on other activities not addressedMarist“Why do you believe Marist is a good match for you?”Highlights aspects of character and interest not addressed on written appDelaware“Anticipate what it will be like for you as a student at the University of Delaware. Both in and out of the classroom, where do you expect to feel most comfortable and where will you need to stretch?”

“Relate a personal experience in which you were denied an opportunity or treated unfairly. How did you resolve the situation? If that were to happen during your college experience, what would you do?”

“Describe an accomplishment that took a great deal of time and/or effort on your part. What motivated you to persevere when it got challenging? Who or what did you turn to for support, and how was that helpful?”Provides a very different side of the applicant or shows other areas where the applicant also feels comfortable.

Tulane is among 200+ ZeeMee partners.

Learn more about Supplementing the Supplement, my 2017 guide to application supplements.

While awaiting the 2017-18 admissions cycle, I created Supplementing the Supplement, an ebook available on iBooks and through my website. Here’s what College Confidential’s Sally Rubenstone (“Ask the Dean”) had to say:

“Since you’ll probably be spending a bundle on your daughter’s application fees (not to mention on college itself), I recommend that you shell out an additional $3.99 to purchase an extremely helpful eBook called Supplementing the Supplement. Written by college counselor and curriculum consultant Nina Berler (founder of UnCommon Apps), it provides clear, step-by-step suggestions on how to tackle essay prompts—especially those that turn up the most often—and on effectively using ZeeMee ….”

Recommended by College Confidential!

Here’s to a creative admissions cycle! I hope to see many of you next week in Boston at the 2017 NACAC Conference.


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