Dartmouth YouTubers broadcast experiences to large audiences

by Cassandra Thomas | 5/17/19 2:05am

Plummeting acceptance rates, viral “Ivy Day” reaction videos and the recent college admissions scandal that spotlighted bribery at top institutions are all indicative of a nationwide fascination with prestigious colleges and the lives of the students who attend them.

Though some criticize this magnetism, students have tapped into an audience of viewers interested in the “Dartmouth lifestyle” using their video-making capabilities on YouTube. A small but well-known cohort of Dartmouth students has made a niche for themselves in the YouTube community, amassing hundreds of thousands of views combined and giving insights into the Dartmouth experience through their own unique lens.

While most YouTubers on campus created their channels before becoming Dartmouth students, their acceptances incited them to change gears towards college content. For most, their new Dartmouth-related content caused an increase in views, subscribers and internet popularity.

Joelle Park ’19, whose channel, Joelle, sits at about 6,900 subscribers, is one of the oldest YouTubers on campus. Park says she has watched new trends in the vlogosphere reflected in new Dartmouth students who began producing college content well before she would have as a high schooler. Park said that the idea of sharing personal information like standardized test scores, lists of extracurriculars and prospective schools was a “foreign” concept to her. As a freshman, she didn’t even reveal what college she attended to her channel.

“I would never have dreamt about sharing that with people because that’s so very personal,” Park said. “Ideas of privacy and security are very different now. I’ve learned to be okay with sharing more.”

Younger YouTubers like Hannah Burd ’22 and Josh Ocampo ’22 began producing college-related content as high schoolers, guiding their viewers through the admissions process with tips, personal narratives and recounts of college tours. Burd’s channel, called Hannah Likes Science, has around 13,000 subscribers, while Ocampo’s heyitsjoshco has around 7,000. According to Ocampo, a successful college channel is defined by “milestones” like standardized score reactions, college decisions and videos related to college essays. 

As Burd and Ocampo recorded their college admission journeys, their channels began to swell with popularity and a few videos went viral. Ocampo’s video called “Underrated Colleges You Should Apply to Based on Your Dream School” received 82,000 views and Burd’s reaction to being accepted into Dartmouth garnered over 300,000 views.

Burd, Ocampo, and Park each described the careful balance it takes to run an account that is heavy with college content without being an official admissions representative. College YouTubers take on the challenge of creating videos seen by thousands without the expertise of a professional filmmaker or admissions counselor. 

“I’m at the point where I’ve been trying to figure out for a long time the kind of content that I want to make because I don’t think solely college content is sustainable or, to an extent, moral, because I’m not a college admissions counselor,” Burd said. “People ask me for advice all the time, but I’m not very qualified to give advice. So that becomes kind of a moral dilemma for me.”

In addition to creating videos that are useful and interesting for their audiences, student YouTubers must figure out how to balance videomaking with the normal demands of college life. Park said that she has put herself on a strict schedule and does her best to push out one video per week.

Burd has also acquired creative techniques to keep making videos while taking a STEM-heavy course load.

“[On weeks with light school work] I try to bulk-record, bulk-film and edit when I have the chance.” Burd said. “So, a lot of the videos that I post end up getting scripted or filmed at the same time — I just change my outfit and maybe change the angle a little bit.”

In her videos, Burd gives her viewers an insider’s perspective into the life of a Dartmouth student, offering advice and information that is often overlooked. In her video called “Things You Forgot to Consider When Picking a College,” Burd reflects on the advantages and drawbacks to going to school in a rural area, Dartmouth’s alumni network, and the party scene – all things which are “relevant and significant parts of the college experience”, according to Burd’s video. 

Besides sharpening her filmmaking and storytelling skills, Park also feels that, as an Asian-American female on campus, it is important to share her story to diversify the voices of Dartmouth YouTubers.

Park said that her sister, who graduated from Dartmouth in 2017, passed down many valuable pieces of advice that she carried closely throughout her college experience. She hopes that her channel can be a way of “paying it forward,” standing in as the same kind of guide that her sister was to her.

“One thing that I love about YouTube is the accessibility and visibility for minorities,” Park said. “I am very open to talking about the things I don’t like, especially with issues of race and privilege. I’m very vocal about those issues on my channel because you’re not going to hear them from an admissions director.”

Delving into issues of race and privilege, Park published a video called “Things I Hate and Love About Dartmouth.” In the video, Park outlines her experiences with lack of action by the administration, “institutionalized social exclusion” in spaces such as Greek houses, and racism.

“There are some cases of people saying or writing the most abominable things,” she said. 

Aside from their online presence, Dartmouth YouTubers see tangible effects of their channels play out on campus. According to Burd, every day of orientation week in the fall, multiple people approached her having watched her videos. 

Ocampo recalled an instance when a girl reached out to him who had discovered her university through his video, “Underrated Colleges You Should Apply to Based on Your Dream School,” and attended on a full ride scholarship.

“I’ve come to realize how many people you can influence with YouTube, and with a channel,” Ocampo said. “I’ve gotten so many messages from students who were going through the application process about how I influenced their decisions to come to Dartmouth or apply to Dartmouth.”

Similar to Park’s acknowledgment of her struggles at the College, Ocampo also addressed negative aspects of attending Dartmouth. In his video “Dartmouth Freshman Winter Term Reflection,” Ocampo delivers a play-by-play of what he called “the worst term of [his] life” due to sickness, falling behind, and the intensity of his first New England winter.

Though all Dartmouth YouTubers struggle to juggle their popular channels with busy lives on campus, they said they keep making videos as creative outlets that can positively impact their viewers.

“It’s really nice to have a community who will listen to you,” Burd said. “It’s easy to shout into the void of the internet, but when you have a community already there who’s willing to listen and interact with you, eventually you recognize the same names. You get to know people and get to help people, and that’s just a really great feeling.”