What Are Some Tips for College Admissions Video Essays?

Experts offer advice if you're considering creating a video essay to accompany your college application.


As if to make the college 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: View recent videos, be original, script your idea, and edit thoroughly.

Ralph Becker, owner and director, Ivy College Prep LLC  When submitting an optional video essay to Tufts University, St. Mary's College of Maryland, George Mason University, or the College of William and Mary, first view some recent video submissions. 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.

See all of Ralph's expert admissions advice

And here's a clarification from William and Mary officials: "Although William & Mary is well known for being the first college or university to include a video prompt as part of its online application, W&M does not actively solicit video submissions from applicants. Some students have responded to our video with videos of their own, but these do not become an official part of their applications."

[Learn more about video essays in college applications.]

A: Here are 7 steps to making a great video admissions essay.

Marjorie Shaevitz, author and founder, adMISSION POSSIBLE ® Using Tufts University, the best-known college to offer college applicants a video essay option, here are the steps to take:

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. Brainstorm ideas about what you want to say.

3. 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 1 minute, no more or less.

See all of Marjorie's expert admissions advice

[View U.S. News's Best Colleges rankings.] 

A: Make sure a school welcomes them; then keep it brief!

Carol Morris, regional director of admissions, Southern Methodist University  If a school encourages video essays, great—go for it. Do not do this, however, unless you are sure 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!

See all of Carol's expert admissions advice

[Read about how to qualify for out-of-state tuition breaks.]

See 10 more answers at the Unigo Expert Network for more about video essays and to have your own questions answered.

Corrected on : Updated on 12/12/11: This post has been updated to include a clarification from the College of William and Mary on its policy regarding video essays.