The Yale Office of Undergraduate Admissions will produce a new admissions video to replace the 2010 YouTube sensation “That’s Why I Chose Yale,” which outlines the features of undergraduate life through song and dance.
According to Director of Outreach and Communications Mark Dunn ’07, who is coordinating production of the video with former Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions Andrew Johnson ’06, the current draft of the script features over a dozen campus locations, including residential colleges, cultural centers, the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design, science laboratories, seminar rooms and athletic facilities. Plans for the new video do not involve any of the former music from the original video, Dunn added.
One week of filming is tentatively scheduled for early September 2017, postproduction work will occur in fall 2017 and the video will premiere this winter, according to the Admissions Office. The video will be available to recently-admitted students in the class of 2022 in addition to prospective applicants beginning their college search.
The update will not include solely cosmetic changes — according to Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan, the new video will also showcase Yale’s generous need-based financial aid policies.
“Affordability and Yale’s extraordinary financial aid policies are central parts of the Admissions Office’s outreach effort,” Quinlan said. “Although I was not working in the Admissions Office in 2009–10 when ‘That’s Why I Chose Yale’ was produced, my understanding is that its musical-singing structure made it difficult to fit in a message about affordability.”
And while Quinlan noted that the creative team is still deciding how to make this financial aid message fit with the new video, he is confident that it will be “compelling and memorable,” adding that he believes “a large and diverse audience will receive an important message about Yale’s affordability” if the new video proves to be as popular as the original.
Johnson, a professional composer, helped create the original “That’s Why I Chose Yale,” serving as the video’s writer, composer and producer. The video will be directed by Kurt Hugo Schneider ’10, whose music video-driven YouTube channel, with 8.5 million followers, is one of the most subscribed pages on the platform. Schneider also ran the video and sound editing for the original video.
Dunn also said that, by being a part of the original creative and production team for the original “That’s Why I Chose Yale,” he has seen how such a video can make a powerful impression on prospective students. Dunn said that even now, seven years after the video premiered, application readers in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions still routinely read applications from students who say the video inspired them to apply.
Still, Dunn thinks it is a time for a change.
“Although ‘That’s Why I Chose Yale’ continues to be very effective, our communications team in the Admissions Office felt that it was a good time to work on an updated video,” Dunn said. “A lot has happened at Yale since we filmed ‘That’s Why I Chose Yale’ in the fall of 2009,” adding that the team was eager to showcase the new residential colleges and other renovations and additions to the campus.
Dunn noted that he believed having Yale students and alumni working on the project would make the finished product “authentic and memorable.”
Students who spoke to the News agreed that the original video was popular and enjoyable, but some thought it might be due for an update. Grace Wynter ’20 described the original video as “really ridiculous, in a truly perfect way.” She added that she was delighted by the fact that a prestigious school like Yale was courting prospective students with something so ludicrous as a musical video.
“When I arrived at Yale for the first time, I trooped up Hillhouse Avenue and I was intimidated by the old bricks and perfect lawns,” Wynter said. “Then my admissions officer stuck me in a room full of tourists and showed me a full-blown Yale musical. I felt pretty out of place in that room, because I was cackling to myself in the front row in a room full of stone-faced tourists, but the Yale in that video was a Yale I wanted to be in.”
Wynter, however, was not entirely supportive of the creation of the new video, calling the original version “lightning in a bottle” that, if updated, would likely be derivative.
Tim Lind ’18 said that while he arrived as a freshman having never seen the video, which was around one year old at the time, everyone was talking about it. Lind said he watched it for the first time about three weeks into the semester, and loved it.
“‘That’s Why I Chose Yale’ represented everything about Yale that drew me here, especially the collaborative, ultracreative student body,” Lind said. “It was also incredible to realize that nearly everyone involved was an undergrad, several of whom I worked with at varying levels either my freshman year, when they were seniors or juniors, or later, through our shared extracurricular groups.”
But while Lind was hopeful about the prospects of a new video, he was also wary that a new version might not use the reboot as an opportunity to express more varied undergraduate experiences. He said he hoped the update would include depictions of more unstructured social interaction, which he felt was an important part of his Yale experience, in addition to a broader array of the University’s diversity. New Haven and Yale activism should also be featured in the new video, he said.
“I’d … love to see greater inclusion of racial and social minority organizations and communities, rather than just mentioning the number of cultural houses and having Shades sing a short song,” Lind said. “They could also mention some of the umbrella organizations that are either made up of or work to help these groups, like the Women’s Center, the LGBTQ Co-op, the Chaplain’s Office or Dwight Hall.”
For Ephraim Sutherland ’20, the original “That’s Why I Chose Yale” video was one of his only sources of information about Yale, since he did not have the opportunity to visit campus or attend Bulldog Days before committing.
But while he praised the video’s union of entertainment and informativeness, Sutherland still welcomed the production of a new video.
“While I enjoyed the video, I think it is definitely time for an update and am excited to see what the new video will look like,” Sutherland said. “I know a lot of my friends thought it was a little cheesy and painted Yale with an image they found unappealing. I personally think the video appealed to a niche audience.”
The Admissions Office told the News that it is working with the Yale Drama Coalition to solicit interest from performers who would like to play various roles, adding that any interested students are welcome to reach out to Dunn in advance of the filming in September.
Schneider and Johnson plan to be on campus April 29 to May 2, 2017, to scout out specific locations for filming and to generate interest from current undergraduate students. Both are also scheduled to participate in a College Tea at 4 p.m. in Jonathan Edwards College on May 1.