Jaydon Skinner (COL ’21) went home for Christmas break in 2018 feeling unaccomplished at Georgetown University, having devoted most of his on-campus energy to activities he did not find rewarding or satisfying. After watching YouTubers over break, Skinner resolved to make his own channel and upload regularly in a way that satisfied his creative impulses.
From providing an authentic view of the first-year experience to simply creating something separate from academic work, student YouTubers use the platform to showcase themselves and their identity. While students can struggle to balance making videos with schoolwork, leading to occasional hiatuses in posting, the end result always makes the process worthwhile.
From dorm tours to club culture, student YouTubers use their insider lens to break down the filtered facade of Georgetown as an institution to prospective or first-year students who want to learn more about the school before they get to campus.
Julia Lo (MSB ’21) started her YouTube channel focused on makeup tutorials in middle school, but an offhand comment on one of her videos in 2016 led her to shift her focus to her Georgetown experiences.
“When I got into Georgetown, I mentioned it briefly, and then I got like one or two comments being like, ‘Oh, how did you get in?’” Lo said in an interview with The Hoya. “And then my mom was like, ‘Why don’t you stop wasting time talking about makeup and talk about college?’”
Lo’s channel, which has just under 1,000, features videos like “10 THINGS I LOVE AND HATE ABOUT GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY” and her series “HoyAdventures.”
The lack of videos showcasing Georgetown’s academic and social experience surprised Lo, who decided to solve this problem for future students.
“When I was about to come to Georgetown, and I was looking at dorm room tours or any YouTubers, there was maybe one, and she wasn’t very informative,” Lo said. “I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll just do it myself.’”
These videos offer a more authentic view of Georgetown than the promotional content put out by the university, according to Lo.
“The YouTube videos that Georgetown themselves puts out are obviously filtered, and they’re watching what they say,” Lo said. “Versus the video I made about 10 things I love and hate — I think when you choose a college, you want to know what’s bad as well as what’s good.”
On the other hand, Grant Bernero (MSB ’21), whose channel has just over 400 subscribers, focuses his videos on acclimating first-year students to the Hilltop. While Lo is focused on her own experiences, Bernero aims to make new students feel more comfortable on campus.
“I did them because I think a lot of freshmen are looking for something like that,” Bernero said in an interview with The Hoya. “I remember when I was applying to college, all the websites are the exact same. It’s just kind of hard to tell what a school is actually like so I figured — I watched some people who did stuff similar to what I do now, and I thought, ‘Oh, I should probably give back.’”
Bernero’s video topics include a dorm tour of Harbin Hall, 10 tips for college freshmen and expectations versus realities on a college campus. These more genuine videos have made Bernero feel like something of a celebrity among new freshmen, which he views as affirming.
“It’s probably like 100 or 150 people who have recognized me from my videos, especially it’s really common during move in — it’s probably like 10 people a day during move in,” Bernero said. “It’s always just really cool, especially when they say something like, ‘I decided on Georgetown because of your videos.’ It’s just like, wow — it kind of makes it all worth it.”
While admissions videos have made certain students public figures on campus, uploading videos to YouTube can also be a way for students to express themselves creatively outside of day-to-day student life.
Feeling out of place in Georgetown’s hypercompetitive environment, Skinner started making YouTube videos about a year ago to disconnect from the busy nature of academics and club culture. By mixing genres of content and creating his distinct style of videos, Skinner uses YouTube as a creative outlet to express himself in ways not possible through campus extracurriculars.
“I started making them because I felt like I was channeling a lot of energy that I had at Georgetown into stuff that I didn’t really care about,” Skinner said in an interview with The Hoya. “And I felt like there wasn’t really an outlet for my type of personality to really have something tangible that I could be proud of in my time at Georgetown.”
Each video Skinner uploads has a different topic, ranging from a vlog on traveling to attend the music festival Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival in Los Angeles to a video simply titled “the PERFECT banana bread recipe.” Through these videos, he aims to showcase his creativity and wide range of interests.
While some of Skinner’s videos do include his experiences at Georgetown, they usually serve as a backdrop for the other things happening in his life. By not making his channel entirely dependent on Georgetown, Skinner is able to tell his story in a more well-rounded way and cope with his experiences on campus.
“The videos have helped me a lot with coping with being at Georgetown and finding things that I like about Georgetown,” Skinner said. “When I started, I definitely didn’t want to make my videos all about Georgetown — there’s like a nice separation sometimes.”
This merger of creativity and self-expression is a common theme among student YouTubers, as making videos can offer a fun side hobby to create something special that the students can be proud of, according to Bernero.
“This was a fun way to create something,” Bernero said. “I’m not artistic — I don’t do anything like that. I had no idea how to do video editing. So I learned it all as just a cool way to create stuff.”
On a socially and academically hectic college campus, some student YouTubers find it hard to balance their life on campus with putting out YouTube videos. Making time to write, record and edit these videos can prove difficult, especially as most of these creators view themselves as students first.
Skinner aims to edit his videos to fit his creative vision, with quick cuts, color effects and zooms that highlight his ironic sense of humor. Making these edits, though they contribute to his artistic vision, can take a lot of time to perfect, according to Skinner.
“I like to edit my videos a particular way, so it takes a lot of time to dedicate to doing that,” Skinner said. “And I like to do it more at once rather than splitting it up, so it’s hard to find dedicated hours of the day where I can sit down and just dedicate it to making videos.”
Bernero and Lo each have not uploaded a video to the site in several months. Bernero attributes this hiatus to a busy on-campus schedule and the time it can take to produce a video he would be proud of.
“I spend a lot of time on editing, so I write a script for what I want to do and then I probably spend four hours editing a video,” Bernero said. “It’s not that bad, but when you put on a lot of school work, it can be a lot.”
While the road to making YouTube videos is not always the easiest, the end product makes the process worthwhile. These videos’ authentic view of campus can ultimately encourage students to attend Georgetown, according to Maya Hambrick (COL ’22), who watched Lo’s videos before arriving on campus.
“I felt like it really gave me a good sense of the Georgetown’s atmosphere, campus, and student life,” Hambrick wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I think it’s helpful for all prospective students to see both the good and bad when making their decisions to attend any university.”
The most important aspect of making YouTube videos on campus, however, is to not let the pressure of making them and the hateful comments about Georgetown interfere with positive feedback, according to Lo.
“Just don’t put too much pressure on yourself,” Lo said. “There’s going to be a lot of hater comments that are balanced out with everyone else who’s like, ‘Oh, thank you so much. It’s just — you want to know what you’re saying and then enjoy it, too.”