Tips for the Video Essay

The Huffington Post

December 2, 2011

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.

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.