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This week's question from Andre Reese, Charlotte, NC asks:

What are some tips regarding video admissions essays?

7 Steps to Making a Great Video Admissions Essay

Marjorie Shaevitz | Author & Founder
Using Tufts University, the best-known college to offer college applicants a video essay option, the first thing to do is 1) Identify the question and any directions. Tufts says, “Prepare a one-minute video that says something about you. What you do or say is totally up to you.” 2) Next, brainstorm ideas about what you want to say. 3) Then, write a first draft script. Make it exceptional. 4) Collect visuals that help explain what you say. 5) Edit. 6) Get feedback. 7) Finally, record your script until it’s nearly perfect. DON’T FORGET: make it one-minute, no more or less.

Admissions Essay Video Tips

Michael Goran | Director & Educational Consultant
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.

Are you more comfortable with the camera than the keyboard?

Nola Lynch | Owner
Video essays for admissions and scholarships are a growing option for applicants. If this alternative to the written essay is offered and you wish to use it, be sure to follow all instructions regarding topic, format, length (about two minutes usually works), and method of submission. You will probably have great latitude in how you present yourself to the admissions committee or scholarship judges. Plan well, do your own work, don’t violate copyright laws, and make the production quality as high as you can. Use the opportunity to show something about yourself or your life in a creative way.

Avoid Cute and Gimmicky

James Montoya | Vice President of Higher Education
First, know the college’s policy on accepting video admissions essays. If you are going to submit one, make sure that it answers the specific question(s) being asked. If it is in lieu of an admission interview, make certain it covers the questions typically asked in an admission interview. Make the video meaningful and memorable, not cute and gimmicky. It should reflect who you are rather than your sense (or your parents’ sense) of the ideal candidate. Even if you submit a terrific video essay, remember that colleges will still be looking for evidence of your ability to write well.

Do you want people to laugh at you or get to know you?

Francine Block | President
The above words are what you need to think about when considering a video for any school where you are applying. If this is an optional part of the application, seriously consider whether you have a special talent that can only be highlighted if seen live. If you have no reason to do a video, do not feel since it was an option you HAVE to take advantage of it, you do not. If you decide to submit something, have a teacher or parent review it first to see if they consider whether it would be a help or a hindrance to what you have already sent the school.

Don’t Go Hollywood!

Janet Rosier | Independent College Admissions Consultant
While you want your video admissions essay to look good and be clearly audible, you don’t want to submit something that has been professionally produced. Just like your written essay the college wants to hear about you in your voice. If this is professionally scripted and shot, it may look polished but feel inauthentic. Know what you want to say and practice in front of a mirror. Have the person filming you practice too. Then relax and let your personality shine through.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a video worth?

Lynette Mathews | Director
A video admissions essay can be a powerful means of communicating your message. Before you grab the video and check the mirror – be sure to review the application requirements to insure the school will accept videos; it is still considered a relatively new and novel practice. Since it is easy to get creatively carried away with a video, it is important to plan out your message before letting the camera roll. Once it is complete, show your video to several people to see what they think it says about you before submitting. Be sure your props, backgrounds and special effects don’t up-stage you!

Lights, Camera, Admissions Essay!

Jeannie Borin | Founder & President
Video essays are growing in popularity as they can potentially strengthen written essays by enhancing both visual and verbal communication proficiency. Here are a few tips to maximize effectiveness of the video: Admission officers are interested in your ability to communicate so don’t worry too much about the production value. Do review other videos to learn what is presented best. Do be creative, demonstrating a sense of humor can work well too. Be prepared with what you want to say, make eye contact with the camera and practice before recording. Polish your verbal skills and use intonation. Have fun!

Make Sure A School Welcomes Them, Then Keep It Brief!

Carol Morris | Regional Director of Admissions
If a school encourages video essays; great, go for it. Do not do this, however, unless you are SURE that the school wants to see them. Many schools have growing numbers of applications, but the number of counselors reading them hasn't necessarily changed, and they are jammed for time to get through them all by the deadlines. Anything beyond what the school specifically requests may not be seen at all, or it may be considered a hassle to retrieve and view in the time allotted to get through each file. Be mindful of the counselor's time constraints and edit tightly for brevity!

Marilyn’s Video Admissions Essays Tips

Marilyn Emerson | Founder
A few colleges, including William & Mary, Tufts, St. Mary’s College of Maryland and George Mason University now accept optional video essays. Here are some tips: Think carefully about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Ideally, your video essay should complement your written essay. Don’t hire a producer. They’re evaluating you, not technical video production quality. If you’re uncomfortable with video, don’t do it – it’s really optional. If you’re not naturally funny, don’t use humor – it probably won’t work. Remember, if you use YouTube, the whole world is watching.


Mary Beth Fry | Director of College Counseling
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!

This is your chance to shine and express yourself!

Deborah Shames | Independent College Search Consultant & Transfer Admissions Advisor
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!

View recent videos, be original, script your idea, edit thoroughly

Ralph Becker | Owner & Director
When submitting an optional video essay to Tufts, St. Mary’s in Maryland, George Mason, or the College or William and Mary, first view a few some recent video submissions. One example is the popular ‘Math Dance Girl’, submitted to Tufts, which can be viewed on You Tube. This might help you generate ideas. The main tip, though, is to be you: be original. Next, as with any production, write a script that incorporates the idea you want to get across. Third, pull together your resources and props before producing your video. Lastly, review your product and edit it thoroughly.

Your video essay is a commercial—selling YOU!

Katherine Cohen | Founder & CEO
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.



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