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College Admissions Video Essay Sample

In this multimedia age that we live in, it should come as no surprise that many colleges are now accepting video essays. With the mountain of applications colleges receive, the challenge is for students to find a way to stand out. For years, video essays have been a common part of applications to art and design schools. It’s only recently that 4-year colleges and universities have begun to accept them as part of the application.


What is a video essay?

A video essay is a dynamic new way to make your application gleam.It’s a chance to deliver a message via a video application about who you are, and to make an impact as your personal statement plays out. The video essay offers you the opportunity to put a face to your college application. You become more than just a name with test scores and grades—colleges get a glimpse into who you are. Max Kiefer, author of How to Make a Winning College Application Video Essay, explains how videos improve the application:

In a sense, the video is the interview 2.0. While not live face-to-face, it’s still your face in their face. On your terms. Instead of a sweaty-palmed chat where you risk getting a question you can’t answer or having an attack of “ums” and “uhs,” with a video you, as writer and director, control every moment.

Are video essays widely accepted by colleges?

Right now, for most colleges, the video is strictly an option. It’s a freebie. Most students applying to college won’t be uploading videos to YouTube. This gives you an edge if the colleges are accepting them. Making a video essay will give your voice one more chance to be heard in the admissions cacophony.

The Huffington Post points out that schools like George Mason University, Tufts University, and St. Mary’s College of Maryland are currently accepting the videos as a part of the admissions process. But it’s important to remember some schools may accept videos only as a supplement to the traditional application, while others may look at videos as an accepted alternative to written essays.

How do you make a video essay?

There are multiple tools you can use to make the video: desktop computers, smartphones, and cameras. Whichever method you use the video should be clear. You can use just about any tools to enhance the video as well: slideshows, music, or animation. It’s important, however, that the tools you use contribute to the video content and not distract from it.

What are some tips for creating a good video?

The video is a chance to deliver your message to admissions officers. Since you want to put as much effort into it as you do in the written essay, you should follow these simple tips:

Say something meaningful about yourself

This is a chance to transcend your numbers and to tell colleges something you feel is important about yourself.Consider what abilities, qualities or talents you want to convey.Be genuine. Follow your heart and your imagination.

Make it memorable

Find a hook, an angle, or something unique. This doesn’t mean being fancy or gimmicky, but distinctive. As with a written essay, you want your video to stick in an admissions officer’s head. Think about videos you’ve watched. Which do you remember a day or a week later? Understanding what made them memorable can help you make yours stand out from the pack.

Have a script or storyboard

Unless you’re doing a webcam rap, you will need a script or shooting plan. You can deviate from it on “the set”—sometimes great ideas come on the fly—but having a game plan will help you stay focused and on track.

Communicate clearly

If you are appearing on camera, rehearse what you are going to say. Try to relax.Doing a number of takes will help loosen you up, and will also give you more options when you edit. Smile, take your time, and speak clearly and naturally.

Show your face

The whole point of the video is to help admissions officers put a face with a name. A common mistake is shooting too far from the subject (you). If you’re small on screen, you’re harder to see and hear.Being close on a person’s face helps convey their emotions. Let them see into your eyes! Close ups will help an admissions officer connect with you.

Be succinct

Admissions officers are far too busy to look at anything longer than a minute or two. The last thing you want is for someone to get bored, glance at his watch, and turn you off in the middle of “Here’s what I plan to do with my life.”

Get feedback

Before you upload your video, it’s smart to get other opinions. Show drafts of your video to other people and get feedback. Is your voice clear over the music? Does the pacing work?Do people “get it?” Your video will become stronger as you cut and fine tune.

As with your college essay, making a great video takes time and thought, but doing so may help give you that extra edge at your top choice college.

10 Tips for College Admissions Video Essays

Hey – check it out – I’m quoted in the latest issue of Hartford Magazine on how to submit video essays!

Have you heard about video essays? Several colleges, including George Mason and Tufts, give students the option of submitting a video essay.

They don’t replace written essays (sorry), but if a school gives you the option and you’re interested – go for it!

Here are 10 Tips for Creating Video Essays:

  1. Dream it, Do it. The sky’s the limit when it comes to deciding how your video will look. I’ve seen students talk directly to the camera, create time-lapse photography, and even use no dialogue at all. One student spent her entire time eating and another took the admissions committee out on a “dinner date” to get to know him. Bottom line: Be original (and don’t copy).
  2. Take risks, BUT. Be creative, silly, funny, intense, emotional  – you can be anything you imagine in a video essay.  Just remember, like your written essays, you want the final impression to be positive.
  3. Create a plan. Brainstorm, then write an outline or a script so that you know the direction you’re headed and how long it will take.
  4. Answer the prompt. This is critical. Read the entire prompt and make sure you answer the question.  Stick to the time limit.
  5. It’s about content, not quality. If you’re tech savvy show off your skills, but you don’t need high tech equipment – a phone will do. You do need: 1. Enough light to see your face. 2. Clear audio.
  6. Energy up.  Do you know that cameras can seem to sap your energy? (I spent a long time in the TV biz)  So keep your energy level up when you’re recording.
  7. Is it me?  When you’re done, look at your video with an objective eye. Ask yourself, “What will the college think about the person who made this video? Is this me? Have I shown myself in the way I want to be seen?”
  8.  Be appropriate.  While you may have made some funky YouTube videos in your lifetime, remember that this video will be screened by adults at the college you want to attend. Speak, act, and dress in a manner that will make the admissions committee think well of you.
  9. Privacy alert. If you’re using YouTube and you don’t want the world to be able to see your admissions video, use privacy controls.
  10. Sending in a video is optional.  You won’t be penalized if you don’t submit a video essay.

Related links:

Hartford Magazine: You Can Be A Video Star
Washington Post: Video Essays are a Hot Topic

Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut.A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.

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Categories: Application Process, College Essay - Planning | Tags: 10 Tips for College Admissions Video Essays, Hartford Magazine, how to make college application video essays, how to make video essay supplements | Permalink.

Author: Sharon Epstein

College consultant, teaching students how to write memorable college application essays, grad school and prep school essays, and succeed at job and college interviews.