The Wash. U. vlogger: Keeping the college process real
Nathan Card is a freshman with a growing YouTube channel. Type “Wash. U.” into a YouTube search and his videos are currently the first that will appear. As a senior in high school, he used his YouTube channel to document his full college application experience. His “Ivy League Admission Decision Reactions!” video currently has over 46,000 views, and his channel overall has received over 300,000 views. Now, he’s begun to do more vlogger-style videos, in which he takes his camera around campus and documents his everyday experiences as a Wash. U. student. I sat down with Nathan to learn more about his YouTube life. Here are some excerpts from the conversation that ensued:
Maisie Heine: Tell me about your YouTube channel and how you got started making videos.
Nathan Card: At the beginning of senior year I was like all the other applicants, kind of freaking out a little bit; so, I went on YouTube and looked for someone who had written down or recorded their whole college application process from start to finish—how they decided to apply to schools, what their essays were about, all their test scores and, ultimately, how they got in—and nobody had done that. I’d been wanting to start a YouTube channel for some time. I thought, ‘Why not this?’ So, I started recording everything starting in June before senior year, and I recorded all my decisions. They’re all out there, which is a little weird, I guess. But it was cool for me because by the end I had a little community of people who were following along.
MH: So, you wanted someone who had shown the whole process, and because you hadn’t found that, you decided to make it yourself?
NC: Yeah, I wanted that and nobody had created this. So, I thought, ‘why not? It would be cool if I were able to produce this, and somebody else can get use out of it.’ It seems like it’s helping a little bit. I get comments of people saying thank you. International students especially seem to have a lot of trouble finding information about the college application process, so, I get a lot of international views, which is pretty cool.
MH: So, people have generally told you that they find it helpful?
NC: Yeah, it mostly calms the nerves because even though I’m not putting tons of information out there, I think it’s nice to be able to see that I turned out OK, even though my GPA wasn’t the best. I’m here at an amazing school, and I’m happy here.
MH: Your Ivy League admission video is your most watched. Was that difficult to put up?
NC: At that point, I had been doing it for all the other schools, and I knew that I was going to put it up, regardless. It was a little painful editing that one, but it’s all good. I’m glad I ended up here, and people really like that video. Half the people that watch it say, ‘Oh, that’s so sad,’ and the other half say, ‘This is the funniest video I have ever seen.’ One of my friends watched it for the first time, and they were like ‘Cry! Cry! Cry!’ Didn’t cry.
MH: Yeah, that’s interesting. People always seem to like the emotional outpour and crave it when it’s not there. Do you think it’s cathartic for people? [And if not,] what it is about that video that makes people so attracted to it?
NC: I think it attracts the most views because I’ve got ‘Ivy League Decision’ in the name, and that’s the big search term for colleges. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. I think a lot of people are going to experience that too—the majority of Ivy League applicants are not going to get into any of them, and I think it’s just to see that I went through that. I’m fine; it didn’t kill me. I think it’s just a little bit reassuring. It’s also a little bit funny, apparently. People really enjoy it—the rejections.
MH: So, then you had decided that you would show the whole process, no matter the road bumps or rejections you faced along the way?
NC: Yeah, I figured, ‘why not?’ It wasn’t that hard for me, just to put it out there. A lot of people have asked, ‘Isn’t that weird for you?’ And honestly, it’s just not—I just never thought about it that way. It’s not a secret where I did or didn’t get in, and at least this way I can maybe help other people. And, at least, having a video with 45,000 views is a pretty cool thing.
MH: Yeah, that’s a lot of people! Is that weird to think about?
NC: It is. That’s like three times our student body, including graduate students.
Yeah, I’m actually just now conceptualizing that for the first time, and wow—that’s tremendous. That’s actually like nine times the population of the town I’m from.
MH: Is that something you think about when you are making new content? What will attract the most people?
NC: Yeah, I mean it’s the school decisions—and the reactions—that really get a lot of views. Like my AP scores, even though that didn’t mean anything because I was already in college, it got 500 views on the first day. So, people just enjoy that kind of thing. The other videos I make I enjoy a little more, like the vlogs [I made] here at Wash. U., which I’m kind of trying to get into—those have got a thousand or two thousand tops, but I think those generally are a lot more helpful or interesting. Just because that’s a better look at what life is like here at college, or the informational videos I made during high school like alumni interviews, extracurricular [activities]—that’s more helpful but less interesting. People just like the reactions.
MH: Interesting! I think it depends on who you are talking to, but I personally love watching other peoples’ vlogs.
NC: I do too, but I make a reaction video with a click bait-y thumbnail with that [makes surprised face], and it works; it gets the most views.
MH: Which videos do you enjoy making the most?
NC: The first four that I did while I was on the East Coast last summer, visiting schools like Harvard and Princeton—those were a little bit vlog-y, and I had a lot of fun with those. They got no attention at the time, but now my Harvard video has like 28,000 views. So, that’s significant. And then, I just kind of enjoy the process of documenting what I’m doing, and maybe it’s helpful or interesting to someone else. It’s just cool to share that with people.
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MH: When did you decide that you wanted to continue making videos once you came to college?
NC: There was never a question for me of whether I was going to do it or not; it was just what I was going to do. I was between making more videos about information or just vlogging about Wash. U. or talking about Wash. U. in general. I’m trying to do both. But I knew I wanted to keep making videos. I built up a community, and I wasn’t just going to leave it in the dust.
MH: So, when you started you didn’t know you were going to continue, but just because it had become pretty successful, you thought why not?
NC: Yeah, and it’s picking up a lot of steam now. It’s a cycle, because now everyone is watching again. Views started to go up steadily in September, and they are continuing to do that now.
MH: What’s it been like vlogging at Wash. U.?
NC: It’s just been fun so far. I’m not going out of my way to do anything. Well, I don’t know—I feel like a little bit it’s pushing me to be more social, so that I can show that aspect because I’m a little bit [of] an introvert. But a lot of people are not, and they want to see the social aspect. That’s the most common question I get: ‘What’s the social life like at Wash. U.?’ So, I try to show that. It’s just a lot of fun. It doesn’t really affect my everyday routine that much, though.
MH: Do you see the channel evolving in any way over time or [striving for] any goals, or are you just going with it?
NC: Honestly, it’s just going with it at this point. I think there’s a lot more people that I haven’t tapped into in the community of people who are really interested in college and are interested in spending time on the internet. I’m going to say there are like 30,000 kids out there who I could be getting, and I’ve got like 1,500 of them right now. So, I would just like to try to grow it and see how far I can get doing this kind of thing because I think it’s cool.
MH: Could you see yourself using it as platform for anything in the future?
NC: The one thing I’ve thought about, when it comes to expanding beyond YouTube, is that there is a huge market for private admissions counseling. Kids my age who have gone through this process and gotten into good schools obviously can’t charge the absurd amounts of money that some people do, but [they] potentially could make money doing essay reviews for people. So, I’ve thought about doing that, but I’m not sure how I would start it up.
MH: Do you watch vloggers? Are there any vloggers that you like to watch?
NC: I’m going to drop the one name everybody knows—Casey Neistat. He’s an interesting dude. He lives in New York City and he’s like—I’m not going to try to make him sound too crazy—but he’s revamped the whole vlog thing; he’s brought it back. Because it was popular in the early 2010s and, then, nobody cared. He’s the fastest growing YouTube channel ever, and he’s got his own style, and he does his own thing. I think he’s inspired a lot of people to start doing that, too, and I just think it’s phenomenal to see what he can create in a day with just his life. He’s famous now because of the vlog, but he wasn’t really when he started. So, it’s cool to see the content, that he can create an interesting, 10-minute video out of the 14-16 waking hours he has every day.
MH: Yeah, it’s interesting to see with vloggers how they take their lives and kind of create art out of it.
NC: It’s not even creating now; it’s documenting and just making that documentation interesting. So I’m trying to do that, but you know, I spend four hours in class every day, so there’s only so much.
MH: It’s a balancing act at times, I’m sure.
NC: It is, but I haven’t been putting as much time into the channel, to be honest, as I would like to be. I know I’m slacking a little bit. So, I just need to get into a regimen of at least one video a week, and I think inherently that will make me better at creating content [and] make the content more interesting.
MH: Vloggers talk about vlogging being their full-time gig. So, it makes sense that it would be an extracurricular, if you decided to make it more consistent.
NC: I think I would like to. I really enjoy reading comments and seeing that people are watching what I’m putting out there. I made YouTube videos in 7th and 8th grade that people didn’t watch—because they were really bad. So, if 7th and 8th grade me could see me now, that would be something.
MH: Do you find YouTube to be a generally supportive community? Do you ever get haters?
NC: I get the occasional haters, but when that happens, I just block them and move on, and it’s not a big deal. For the most part, the comments are supportive or asking questions. There are other forums like College Confidential, which is this horrible, horrible, anxiety-inducing mess of parents pretending to be their children. But I think YouTube is a little more chill and mellow—[more] go with the flow, which I appreciate.
MH: And real!
NC: That’s what somebody said to me on my floor last week: ‘Yo, I saw your YouTube videos—they’re so real.’ And that was the best compliment I had ever received, I think. That was good for me.
MH: That’s awesome. So, how is Wash. U. going so far?
NC: I’m so excited to be here. I haven’t met anyone who has resented the fact that they’re here. Because at my high school—no one wants to go to high school in Ottawa Hills, Ohio, but people are actually excited to be here. That’s just the vibe here; I like it a lot, and that’s something I got a feel for when I was visiting. I’m getting involved with Quiz Bowl and Model United Nations, [I’m] probably going to major in political science. I’m trying to study German. I used to be fluent; I lived in Austria, [but] I lost all of it when I moved back. I’m very mad at 5-year-old me for refusing to speak German with my parents. I’m not doing a whole lot yet, but just kind of getting into the swing of things. But yeah, I love it here, so much. I definitely made the right choice.
MH: Where do you draw the line of things you would show or would not show [on your channel]?
NC: I’ll never show a personal relationship I’m in. I would love to show some more of the activities that I am involved in here, because when I was a senior I would have loved to see something like that—just an honest portrayal. And I think—especially for kids who are applying to Wash. U.—that helps a lot. If I search Wash. U. on YouTube, I’m actually above the admissions videos, which is kind of fun. I’m trying not to let it get to my head, but it’s cool.
MH: Do you ever get recognized?
NC: Yes! That was the weirdest thing in the world for me. The first time was we were at Northwestern [University], not on campus but we were just walking around downtown Evanston, [Ill.]. This lady and her daughter walk up to me and said ‘Oh, you made it.’ And I was like ‘Hello?’ I thought they were my mom’s friends and were messing with me, but they weren’t! They were just nice folks from California who had watched my videos, and the girl FacedTimed her dad, and he knew who I was, which was so, so weird. But I got a little bit used to it after that. It’s happened a lot of times here. I think [that is] just mostly because most of us have looked up Wash. U. on YouTube to see what comes up, and now, it’s me that comes up. So, it’s been cool, definitely a little weird, but very cool. I love getting to interact with people who have stumbled across my YouTube videos. It’s a small world.
MH: Are you known as the “YouTube guy” amongst your friends?
NC: A few people. Whenever I pull out my phone, my friends are like ‘Put me in the vlog! Put me in the vlog!’ I don’t want to develop an ego because of it. I’m not trying to let that go to my head. Anybody could have done what I did, for the most part. I just executed it.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Visit Nathan’s channel—“Nathan Card”—to watch his videos!