As if to make the application process even more complicated, some schools have recently added the option of creating a video essay. Will schools be impressed by your juggling skills or ability to recite Shakespearean monologues? Our experts weigh in on the best practices for video essays.
Q: “What are some tips regarding video admissions essays?”
A: This is your chance to shine and express yourself!
Deborah Shames, Independent College Search Consultant & Transfer Admissions Advisor, Kaplan Leadership Program
So many applicants look the same on paper. The opportunity to submit a video as part of your application is a wonderful way to jump off the page. Use it as a time to highlight things that might not be obvious, like an artistic or musical or athletic talent or hobby/passion. Use it as a place to let your personality shine through and convey, sometimes more effectively than in a written essay, what you will add to that campus community. But make sure you keep it brief, entertaining, within the time limit given, and above all, appropriate! It should be something you’d be proud to have viewed by strangers, as well as by your parents or grandparents!
A: Admissions Essay Video Tips
Michael Goran, Director and Educational Consultant, IvySelect College Counseling
If you are asked to do either a video essay or a written essay and you don’t feel like you will come across well visually, then stick to writing! If, on the other hand, you’re directed to provide a video essay or have a choice and you prefer a visual format, make certain it reflects your best effort. You should come across professionally, yet be genuine. You’re not auditioning for a movie — so don’t act! Other don’ts: don’t joke around and don’t act immature. Some do’s: do be creative, do show passion, do demonstrate enthusiasm and do enjoy yourself.
A: SHOW YOURSELF!
Mary Beth Fry, Director of College Counseling, Savannah Country Day School
Above all else, you must be yourself — you must show yourself. Most people aren’t actors: the moment we try to be something or someone else, especially on camera, we sound stiff and unnatural. It’s important to relax, to remember that you have many takes before you send in your final version, and that you should convey something important about yourself. Just as you would in a written essay: show — don’t tell. If you’re trying to convey what it means to you to play the piano, then play the piano; if you’re an artist, paint while you talk; if you’re a runner, put a camera on your head and a mike near your mouth and show what it is for you to run at dawn, or along the Cross Country trail. Share your experiences with your reader (viewer!), and you’ll have them in the palm of your hand!
A: Your Video Essay is a Commercial – Selling YOU!
Katherine Cohen, founder and CEO, IvyWise
Video essays really bring your college application to life and allow an admissions committee to get to know you in a whole new way. Use the power of this engaging medium to connect with these key decision makers. Be creative, showcase your talents (i.e. musicians can include a performance; artists, a slideshow of artwork; athletes, live action videos), share your passions and demonstrate why you want to attend that school. Each piece of your college application presents an opportunity to share new information about you. Don’t simply regurgitate your activity resume or written essay. Show a different side to who you are. What makes you unique? What makes you tick? Colleges are not looking at your video shooting and editing skills (unless you’re an aspiring film major), but rather how you use the medium to express yourself. It’s a commercial, not a documentary, so keep it short and impactful. Be sure to follow each school’s guidelines in terms of length, format and content.
While traveling up and down the West Coast for two weeks I’ve gotten many of the same application questions about resume formatting, reference preferences, experience recommendations, etc. I’ve also noticed that prospective students are intimidated by the newest addition to the admissions application: the video essay.
For those of you who don’t know, the video essay is a new feature for this year’s application. The video essay was added by popular demand (by both applicants and admissions committee members) since the SIPA Admissions Committee does not offer in-person interviews. Applicants will be given a policy-related prompt, they will have 60 seconds to think of a response, and then another 60 seconds to respond on camera. OK, well when I type it out like that I can understand why so many applicants find it intimidating. But it really isn’t as scary as it sounds.
To explain what I mean, I’ve quickly put together a video of me walking through the video essay and explaining how to answer it. Just watch the video below to see what the system looks like (or read the transcription). If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.
P.S. I’ll walk you through the entire application form in a Facebook Live session on Oct. 24. RSVP here if you’d like to join me!
Video Essay Transcription
Hello everyone. My name is Kaitlyn Wells and I am the assistant director of admissions at SIPA. Today I’m going to walk you through how to access the video essay component of application system. I’ll also explain to you how to respond to the essay prompt and how you can best prepare for it.
When you answer the video essay, the recording platform is already built into the application system. So you only need an internet connection, your computer, and a microphone, such as your computer’s internal microphone. Unfortunately, you can’t answer it on a mobile device. So if you don’t own a personal computer, make arrangements with your employer or your local undergraduate school, or visit a public library or a friend’s house.
So first off you will need to log into your admissions application. Once you are in the system you will need to select your application program and application term. Once the information is entered you will see a new dialog box on the left-hand side for the video essay section of application form. The video essay section is called video response on the left side.
Once you click on it you will see the instructions for the video essay. Please read the instructions carefully. In general you you will be prompted with a question can You have 60 seconds to think of a response. Then you will have 60 seconds to verbally respond to the prompt camera. Keep in mind you can only answer the video prompt once so make sure you’re fully prepared when you answer the question. And no, you cannot resubmit your response.
To prepare for it, you will begin this section by answering the test question. Click on the red Start Test button to begin.
And this is what the Testing Mode looks like. Make sure you review your video and audio outputs. You can view your mic level with the green pulsating bar to the right of your preview screen. Since it’s a test environment, you’ll only have 10 seconds to issue a test statement.
Once you’re ready to begin, click the red READY button. You’ll see a countdown to get you started. Then begin your statement. You’ll see another countdown with your remaining speaking time.
When you run out of time, you’ll be prompted with a series of questions asking you to watch and listen to the video and to verify your settings are good to go.
I really encourage all of you to take advantage of this step. Sing the happy birthday song, ask yourself why you’re interested in SIPA, discuss what you ate for dinner last night — anything to get you comfortable with speaking to yourself in front of the camera.
Once you’re ready to being the official video essay prompt, check the box that you’re ready to begin and you acknowledge your computer is working fine.
Then click the green READY button, which will give you your official prompt question. The prompts are completely randomized and we have a bank of a few hundred questions. They are related to policy and international affairs, current events, and the like. If you want an idea of the types of questions, just think about what an employer might ask you about your dream job, or review SIPA’s personal statement and short essay prompts for an idea of the topics that might be covered. Please don’t let the video component intimidate you. The responses will be completely individualized to your personal thoughts and experiences, and there’s no single right answer. This is just to give the admissions committee a stronger understanding of who you are as an applicant.
If you have any questions, please give the Admissions Office a call or send us an email. While we can’t tell you what the question will be, we can clarify any confusions you may have about how to submit your response. And in the rare case if you can’t submit the video, do contact us right away so we can look into the issue further. Just bear in mind that we can track in the system if your connection timed out or if it was user error, so be mindful of that prior to reaching out.
OK, well that’s everything. I wish all of you luck on your applications. Have a great day!