Think of the ZeeMee digital video as a live resume for your college application. It’s an opportunity to introduce yourself, show your personality and share your story, as well as make a more personal connection with your application reader. The student story, says ZeeMee co-founder Adam Metcalf, “has defined us as a company.” A former high school teacher, Metcalf says he is “very passionate about each student being seen as more than a score.”
However, says Metcalf, 80% of the several hundred thousand students who built a ZeeMee page last year “indicated difficulty in creating video and unique content that allowed their story to come to life.” And college partners told ZeeMee they often received a video that was partially or completely blank. To remedy this, ZeeMee made some changes for the 2017-18 application season.
All About the Smartphone (No Web)
The free Zeemee video is now created exclusively using the ZeeMee App on an iOS or Android smartphone. (It can still be viewed — in fact, it is intended to be viewed — on the web.)
“Our students consistently asked for an easier way to share their story through mobile,” says Metcalf. “The idea of posting a video on the web was foreign to Gen Z.” By eliminating the web platform, ZeeMee can focus on how to improve the student story via their smartphone app.
Furthermore, this means access to ZeeMee is now uniform and equitable: all students will use the same platform to create their video. “Students who don’t have access to professionally edited videos can share their story just as easily as someone who does,” says the ZeeMee team. “We needed to create an experience where everyone was on equal footing…. it is less about shooting an award winning film and more about being authentic and true to who you really are.”
Pre-recorded Prompts to Scaffold Videos
“Students also asked for an easier way to know what to share,” says Metcalf. “As a result, we introduced question prompts.” The prompts are asked on the Chat tab of the app — just tap on Questions. Students will occasionally receive push notifications for a new prompt they can consider, such as: Talk about a time you accomplished something you previously thought you couldn’t or wouldn’t do. Or: Who would win, Superman or Batman?
Students can skip over prompts until they are ready to record their answer to a question they prefer. They can change their minds or rerecord their answers as many times as they wish. They can also create their own questions to answer. The idea is for students to answer the one or more prompts they think will best showcase their character and values.
Responses to prompts will be limited to 26 seconds each. This may seem arbitrary, but the ZeeMee team says, “The response time was informed by data we collected as to average viewing time of videos.” The takeaway here is to keep your points succinct. You want your video to be viewed; the enforced time limit will make that more likely to happen.
Captions Can Be More than Captions
Previously, activities were described using up to 350 characters in one section; and photos with short captions were presented in another section. But colleges reported to ZeeMee that many times either the content would be redundant; or students might provide great detail in their activities section and then skip the photo captions, leaving viewers to wonder what was going on.
In response, ZeeMee has merged these two sections by eliminating the activity section while expanding the writing space for photos to as many as 5000 characters. “Thus,” says Metcalf, “the ability to write, to add photos and to create video are all still an integral part of the ZeeMee process.”
How to Deal
Students who have already opened a ZeeMee web account can download the app on their smartphone to access their accounts. ZeeMee has not deleted any video or picture content; to restore access, students just need to link their old account to the app.
When linking accounts, students must select their high school from a drop-down menu. The list is being updated, so there is a chance a student might not find their school. If trying an alternate spelling does not help, ZeeMee director Ethan Lin offers this workaround: select an available high school to proceed through linking the accounts; once that’s completed, immediately open the student profile to switch back to the correct school. “I recognize that’s not a perfect solution,” says Lin, “but it should work in the meantime and will help students get into their account.”
Another possible hangup: while students who had already completed the now deleted activities sections can still get access to their text, they will need to contact ZeeMee in order to do so. The ZeeMee team is online for live chats via the App’s My Story tab — click on settings (the gear icon) in the top left corner, then click on Contact Us. Also on the settings tab — an FAQ with answers, explanations and instructions. (This same information is accessible at ZeeMee.com, as well, via the Support tab.) For further assistance, ZeeMee’s Discover tab features prerecorded instructions about the transition; and information about upcoming capabilities, such as how to delete video.
So far, the ZeeMee team is pleased with student response to their new platform. “For this period of time in August, compared with last year, we have had many more students create video through the new experience, which we believe speaks to the ease of the content creation.”
“Students want their story heard,” says Metcalf. “We strongly believe that… the new experience is absolutely the right step for students being able to share their stories.