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Posted on September 5, 2022

Helpful Tips to Ace Video Essays

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For the last few years, many business schools have made video essay a mandatory component of the application requirements. Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management is the first among the M7 B-Schools, to popularize the video essay in the MBA admission process. Other schools include INSEAD, Rotman, Yale, MIT, Georgetown, LBS, Emory, and McDonough, to name a few. Every year, more schools are adding video essays to their application. For example, this year, Tepper introduced a video essay about short-term goals, and McCombs also made a video essay a mandatory part of the application. Typically, you will be provided with a question,  a few seconds to think about the question (30-45 seconds, for example), and then a limited 1-3 minutes to record your response.

The Purpose of the Video Essay

What is the reason behind this trend of introducing video essays? The schools want to understand better who you are as a person and professional. Your written essays have already given them a good sense of your personality; now they want to learn more about your personality, goals, and interests/ passions through video essay. A video essay helps them evaluate if the picture you have painted about yourself in your essays matches the impression you create through video essay. Video essay allows the admission committee to see how you communicate and present yourself without having much time to formulate your responses. They would 'see' the person behind those meticulously crafted essays.

Difference between Written Essays and Video Essays

The key difference between video essays and written essays is that you can revise and edit your essays several times until you create your best essay. Still, with video essays, you do not have the option to re-submit (though some schools do give a chance to rerecord.)

A written essay is a tool of self-expression through the written word, while a video essay is a medium of expression through speech. In most cases, video essays must be submitted without outside support or feedback, which makes them more authentic. Also, video essays are great tools to evaluate applicants for their spontaneity, confidence, communication skills, and ability to think independently.

Two Types of Video Essays

There are two types of video essays that the applicants are required to submit as part of the MBA application process. The first is a live video the applicants submit on the school's platform. After they submit the application, they will receive an e-mail with a link to record the video on an online platform. Applicants should record the answers to specific questions using their personal computers. Some business schools also provide example questions on their website to help prepare them but ask new questions during a live video essay submission. Yale and Kellogg ask for three video responses, picked randomly from a pool of questions. INSEAD expects each applicant to record answers to four questions.

The second type of video essay is recorded offline as some schools provide the applicants with questions in advance, and they have to submit a prerecorded response. Schools like MIT Sloan ask applicants to provide a video statement on the topic specified in the application instruction. Tepper now asks applicants to discuss their short-term goals in a two-minute video. Mcdonough asks about the Candidate's hobbies and interests.

Prepare responses for all of the typical MBA-related questions

Though recording a video for the admission committee sounds intimidating, you can master the skill with thorough practice. To ace the video essay, be prepared to practice, practice, and practice. Before you begin practicing, prepare a list of common professional (MBA related) and some personal questions.

Here are some good questions to practice with:

  • Why Program X, Why an MBA overall, Why now?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Summarize your career to date or walk us through your résumé.
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of?
  • How would your teammates describe you?
  • Describe a difficult professional decision you had to make. What were the consequences, and what did you learn?

You should also prepare responses to non-work questions:

  • What are your passions, interests, and hobbies?
  • What is your favorite book and why?
  • What is your favorite movie /TV show, and why?
  • What's your favorite song and why?
  • To what organization or cause have you dedicated significant time? Why was it meaningful?
  • Who has had the greatest impact on you and why?
  • What will your classmates be surprised to learn about you?
  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?
  • What is the most meaningful thing you have done for anyone else?
  • What is the most meaningful thing anyone has done for you?

Add more questions to the list and begin practicing. You may practice only a few questions at a time, review your recording, and try to evaluate yourself candidly. Also, it's a great idea to seek the help of family or friends and get their feedback on your questions and delivery style so you can improve yourself accordingly in your next recording.

Each school has different requirements for video essays, so make sure you understand the instructions of the schools for which you are recording the video.

The following tips will help you ace your video essay:

1. Practice, Practice, Practice: It is crucial to practice answering questions in video essay format. You can get a sense of timing to understand how long 60 or 90 seconds is when you answer one question. Initially, you may find it strange talking without getting any visual cues from your audience, as you would in a traditional interview. Those cues can help you direct your response in a conventional interview. However, in a video response, you are on your own. So practice, and then practice more until you get comfortable talking to the camera.

2. Dress appropriately: Follow any guidelines the school provides about the dress. Dress appropriately in a business suit or business casual as though you are going for an interview. Remember, you have to make a favorable impression on the Ad Com to receive the interview offer. So prepare as though you will prepare for your interview.

3. Speak naturally and confidently: You should speak naturally and confidently. You will have only 60 to 120 seconds to reply. So think for a few seconds to process your response before you speak, and then minimize pauses. Imagine that the camera is your interviewer's eyes, so practice smiling at the camera. Again, I would advise you to practice a lot, record your responses, and listen to them so you can make corrections to ensure that your answers are genuine, authentic, concise, and engaging.

4. Answer the Question: As with written essays, it is crucial to understand and answer the question. Therefore, stay focused on the question. For behavioral questions (Describe your most difficult professional decision or your most significant leadership experience), use STAR format (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to organize your ideas.

5. Align Your Responses to your essays: Please note that video essays are part of your application, so you must ensure that your responses align with the overall themes/stories in your essays. Your video responses should enhance and complement your essays.

6. Keep the Background Tidy: When recording your video, it is crucial to keep your background tidy and free of distractions. In addition to preparing for the content and delivery style, you should ensure that your background is free of any visual or audio distractions. Tell your family members the importance of silence and zero distractions at the time of recording.

7. Test your Technology: Make sure to have an internet-connected computer with a webcam and microphone. Test your computer and make sure it works well. Keep your camera at eye level so you can make eye contact with the camera and speak. Make sure your face is well-lit so the ad com can see you.

8. Do not Read from your Notes: We strongly advise against reading from your notes or a script from the screen. Also, please don't give the impression that you have memorized your answers. Instead, consider it an introduction with the admission committee members and begin recording your video essay.

9. Avoid hand Gestures: Stay calm, sit straight, and restrict your hand and leg movements. Try to smile and enjoy this conversation with the camera. Please note that your facial expression and body language also play a key role in the video essays. So avoid looking down and practice talking to the camera.

10. Avoid expressions like 'you know' and 'I know': Some people inadvertently tend to make expressive use of 'you know, 'I know.' Practice will make you avoid these unintentional glitches.

Former MER Students' Advice on Video Essays

We want to share two former MER students' experiences and advice on video essays.

Kellogg Admit Rohit Singh Malan's advice:

I practiced the mock questions many times to not only get in the groove but also for ergonomic factors like webcam angle. I tried to have a conducive setup of my room where I sat during the interview. I got rid of things that I felt were potential distractions for the viewer.

One may not feel that initially, but 60 seconds is not less to answer the question. I tried to be calm, cogent, and articulative while answering. In the time between the question and the timer for the answer, I tried to gather points I thought I was going to cover.

Click here for his interview with MER.

Kellogg and INSEAD Admit and HBS Grad Mansi's Experience and Advice:

I think being yourself, being calm, and being stress-free helps you to be able to think in those 20 seconds that you get for your response. So if you are stressed, you will lose those 20 seconds in a blink and not know what to answer. If you are calm, you will have time to think of two to three points and then discuss them in two or three lines. Sixty seconds are not much; the time is gone even if you say three lines. The questions are very simple and something you can relate to in your everyday life. For example, introduce yourself or talk about your hobby or a global problem that you are concerned about. If you think calmly, you can easily answer.

Click here for more details on her experience/advice on video essays:

Responses to video essays may not be perfect. Still, they will add a significant dimension to your application that cannot be gleaned from other aspects of the written application. So consider it a meaningful introduction to the admission committee prior to your actual interview and ace it. The most vital thing to keep in mind is 'Be yourself.'

Good luck.

 Related Resources

Overarching Essay Tips

Essay Analysis of Top Programs-2022-23

MER Students Share their Success Stories

Case Studies

MER Answers MBA- Related Questions- a Compilation of 12- Weeks Series

About MER (myEssayReview)

Poonam Tandon, the founder of MER (myEssayReview), is a Ph.D. in English with 12 years of MBA consulting experience and three decades of teaching experience in India and the US. A master storyteller, Poonam has successfully guided hundreds of students from around the world to gain admission into the esteemed MBA, EMBA, and specialized Masters's programs in the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia. Throughout her four-decade-long professional career, she has reviewed 10,000+ essays written by applicants worldwide. Poonam is recognized as one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club (141 reviews).

Do you have questions about your application for the 2022-23 application cycle? E-mail Poonam at poonam@myessayreview.com or sign up here for a free consultation.