I’m finally back in my dorm room after a full day of classes. I throw my bag down, grab my laptop, and get comfortable in my luxurious twin sized bed. It’s time to start my daily, after-class ritual that I’ve been following for years: going on YouTube and watching college admission reaction videos. I watch as high school seniors compile their college admission decisions and open them all at once in a video for the world to see. We are invited into their homes and into their lives. We get to see both their triumphs and their shortcomings.
While watching one of these videos during my second semester into college, I wondered why I was still drawn in by the same clickbait-esque titles and eye-catching thumbnails that attracted me as a high school student. Why do I care? I don’t know these people. Their acceptances and rejections do not affect my life in any way, yet I feel a responsibility to watch, to root for these seniors, and to find out if they got into their dream schools. And apparently, I’m not the only one. These videos have a massive viewership online, reaching millions of views on YouTube. Once again, I find myself asking “why?” Why are these videos so popular when we are just strangers watching other strangers?
As humans, we like to live vicariously through other people, especially when they partake in activities that we ourselves would like to do. In this current age of social media, this is a pretty easy task. Want to witness a fairytale love story first hand? Tune into The Bachelorette and watch Hanna B. navigate her way through love. Want to travel around the world and engage in cultures a lot different from yours? Turn on The Amazing Race and explore a place that seems worlds away.
These shows are no different than college admission reaction videos. These seniors apply to the nation’s most prestigious schools, usually Ivy League and other top-level universities, and we are right there with them. We feel their excitement and anxiety. We find out their decisions at the same time that they do. In a way, we are these students getting notified of our own college acceptances. The excitement viewers feel when that kid gets into Yale or Princeton after stressing about it for months is similar to that of our own college journey, when we ourselves found out which school we would be going to.
Simply put, the college process is putting yourself, your accomplishments, your grades, your experiences, and your voice, on a piece of paper and sending it off. Then you wait, and hope that someone across the country looks at it, essentially taking a look at you, and says “yes, we want that.” The process of being chosen by not just a person, but by an institution all together can be overwhelming yet exciting. We all want to be chosen for who we are, whether it’s a right swipe on Tinder, a position on the E-Board of the club you are involved in, or your first job after graduating. The college process allows us to be selected out of thousands of students and told that we are wanted and we find comfort in other people being told the same, even if they are strangers to us. We want other people to be chosen for who they are, and being able to see this again and again reminds us that every person has value and can contribute something special to the world, a timeless and empowering message.
Probably the most heartwarming of these reaction videos are the ones where the senior’s parents are there, learning of the admission decisions at the same time as their child. These acceptances are met with tears of joy, hearty laughs, and the occasional happy-dance by the whole family. While online viewers can’t physically be there with these families when the student gets into college, technology allows us to look in and feel the excitement with them. We care for and want the best for the students, even if they are just strangers to us. Their success is our success, even if we had absolutely nothing to do with it.
There may be hundreds of more reasons as to why these videos are so extremely popular online. But the next time you stumble upon a college admission reaction video, enjoy it. Use it to remember the day that you opened your admission decision and were told: “We want you.”
words & photo_myles griffith