I have a confession to make: Because of the recent college admissions scandal, I now spend a significant portion of my days and nights on YouTube, watching teenagers vlog about college.
I am not alone in this. Two million others are especially enchanted by beauty vlogger Olivia Jade Giannulli — daughter of guilty parents Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli. Her cartoonishly attractive visage and well-decorated USC dorm room are equal parts enviable and upsetting. I spent a full ten minutes and 55 seconds of my weekend watching her tasteful Urban Outfitters haul video, for example, which inspired me to add (and then remove) a leopard-print bandeau top to my cart like a senile lunatic. Spring break!!!
Anyway, Olivia Jade’s videos were the gateway drug that lead me down a college YouTube K-hole. She opened my eyes to the countless other college students vlogging their way to graduation, sharing everything from their “College Morning Routine!” (Olivia Jade drinks a lot of smoothies), to “The Truth About Sororities” to how they “Fight Unproductivity.” It’s such a growing phenomenon, I would venture to guess that each class of 2023 will have at least one vlogger in their midst. I invite you to search your alma mater, as I did, but only if you’re okay with feeling very old.
Many college vloggers started their YouTube channels in high school, so they go as far back as the admissions process. Some of my favorite videos are ones with titles like “College Acceptance Reaction,” followed by, “College Decision Reveal.” Acceptance reactions involve a lot of screaming and crying, and are generally fun to watch. Decision reveals, however, are for the real fans.
Yes, students are indeed sharing their colleges of choice like they would the gender of a fetus. Cupcakes are a popular prop, and YouTubers will stick little handmade flags into them representing the various schools they’re deciding between. They’ll then eliminate each cupcake, providing sometimes-harsh reasoning like, “There was never really anything attracting me to it.” The rejected cupcakes are not eaten on camera, however, which is arguably the strangest part about it.
In one college cupcake reveal I found, a YouTuber goes as far as baking the letters of her college choice into the batter. She then cuts the cupcakes open and digs the letters out with her fingers, arranging them on a plate to spell out … Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it! The resulting video is messy, strange, and impossible to look away from.
We’re currently in the thick of college admissions season, and you can find a fresh batch of reveal videos online. As the Times reported this weekend, elite schools like Harvard, Yale, and USC had record low admissions this year, which means a lot of kids didn’t get into the school of their dreams. Maybe they didn’t get into any at all. (And still vlogged about it.) What I love about these decision-reveal videos, though, is that they almost always find a silver lining.
In general, decision-reveal videos are meant for those who subscribe to a vlogger’s channel, and have followed them from the beginning — from SAT prep, to applications, to acceptance-letter reveals. They want to know where they’re headed next. But from an outsider’s perspective, they hurdle me back to a time to when I felt like the decision of where I went to college — or any decision, really — would shape the rest of my life. Watching them, I’m reminded that I actually still have my whole life ahead of me, and that college was only one tiny part of it.
Perhaps I will vlog about that.