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Lights, Camera, Action: This Is How To Ace Your MBA Video Essay

Business schools are slashing written essays in favour of video

Thu Sep 29 2016

In June, INSEAD made an announcement that set the scene for the next big trend in MBA admissions: The video essay.

Business schools had been slashing the number and length of their required written essays. In their place are pre-recorded questions applicants must answer by video using a webcam.

INSEAD said it plans to introduce a four-question video essay for its 2017 intake. Toronto’s Rotman School of Management started the fad in 2012. Since then, others have followed suite. Kellogg School of Management, Yale School of Management and Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business have all introduced a video component to their applications in recent years.

Admissions consultants expect more business schools to jump on the bandwagon.

And underscoring how critical video essays could become, Caroline Diarte Edwards, co-director of Fortuna Admissions, says: “Having been admissions director at INSEAD, I can attest that admissions committees sometimes find it very difficult to choose between candidates. The opportunity to observe candidates directly via video will help with borderline decisions.”

Katelyn Rosa Stephenson, assistant dean of MBA admissions at Georgetown, says: “If they submit a notable [video] essay, this may be the reason we bring them in for a face-to-face interview.”

So how do you ace these newer video tests? 

We asked four leading admissions experts. Here’s what they said:

1. Know Your Story. 

First, start by crafting clear and compelling content; the meat of the story is the most important element no matter how it’s delivered. Second, remember that you’re now talking directly with a person; this is human interaction rather than just a collection of facts, so consider your body language, style and tone. And finally, don’t be overwhelmed or distracted by lights and cameras; schools want to admit authentic students rather than the next Steven Spielberg or Spike Lee.

Dan Bauer, The MBA Exchange

2. Practice. And Then Some. 

Practice, practice, practice! Dust off your webcam and use an app like iMovie to record yourself responding to some sample questions. Review the video and check for presentation (uncluttered setting, good lighting), quality of the audio (your voice can clearly be heard; your voice sounds lively and engaging), body language (looking at the camera, smiling, but not constantly!), and content (were your responses succinct, authentic, interesting?).

Caroline Diarte Edwards, Fortuna Admissions

Practice the way you would for an interview. Become familiar with the platform. Practice speaking to a computer screen, spontaneously and naturally. That practice is absolutely critical to doing your best.

Stacy Blackman, Stacy Blackman Consulting

3. Be Authentic. 

Don’t memorize your story and regurgitate it. You will sound like a robot. Rather, familiarize yourself with the types of questions that you will face and then practice answering those questions. But that’s not enough. It’s also important to practice answering unexpected questions. Tape yourself and review your performance and address weaknesses. And research the schools and know exactly what they are looking for.

Chioma Isiadinso, Expartus