Mastering the MBA Video Essay: Tips and Strategies

May 21 2024 By The MBA Exchange
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The MBA application process is challenging enough with traditional written essays, but many top business schools have now introduced a video essay component. This addition requires applicants to overcome stage fright, manage technical constraints, and present themselves convincingly via webcam. This article combines insights and strategies from The MBA Exchange to help you navigate the MBA video essay, ensuring you shine in front of the camera.

Understanding the MBA Video Essay

The MBA video essay can take two forms: “produced” and “impromptu.”

  • Produced Video Essays: Applicants create a video in response to a question provided in advance by the school or on a topic they choose. This allows for more preparation and scripting.
  • Impromptu Video Essays: Applicants answer questions presented in real-time by the school, with strict time limits for their responses. This format tests spontaneous thinking and communication skills.

Regardless of the format, the goal is to convince admissions committees that you are a strong candidate who can communicate effectively and authentically.

Why Schools Require Video Essays

Many top MBA programs, including MIT Sloan, Northwestern Kellogg, Chicago Booth, INSEAD, Yale SOM, NYU Stern, Texas McCombs, Toronto Rotman, and UWO Ivey, have incorporated video essays into their admissions processes. The primary reasons for this include:

  • Efficiency: Video essays allow admissions committees to quickly assess communication skills. In a few minutes, they can evaluate an applicant’s ability to articulate thoughts clearly and succinctly.
  • Authenticity: Seeing and hearing applicants helps schools gauge their real-time responses and interpersonal skills. Video essays can reveal aspects of an applicant’s personality that written essays cannot.

This one-way communication format can be more stressful than traditional interviews, as applicants cannot see the interviewer’s reactions. However, it also provides a unique opportunity to present your personality and strengths directly.

Example MBA Video Essay Questions

Video essay questions often resemble interview questions more than traditional essay prompts. Examples include:

  • What is a book that has had an impact on your life?
  • How have you handled negative feedback in the past?
  • How would your supervisor describe your performance?
  • What is something about yourself you’d like to change?
  • What projects have you worked on that you’re proud of today?

To handle these types of questions effectively, you need thorough preparation, practice, and refinement. The goal is to demonstrate your ability to think on your feet, provide insightful responses, and convey your personal and professional qualities authentically.

How to Ace the MBA Video Essay Component

Preparation is the first key to success.

  • Content Planning: Identify which aspects of your candidacy align best with the school’s criteria. Create a matrix that organizes your strengths and experiences into an actionable framework. Consider potential questions and how your experiences can address them.
  • Technical Setup: Ensure good audio and video quality. Use a quiet, well-lit space with a neutral background. Test your equipment beforehand to avoid technical issues during recording.
  • Attire: Dress in business casual attire to convey professionalism without appearing overly formal. Your appearance should reflect the professional environment of business school.

Practice makes perfect!

  • Repetition: Record yourself answering a variety of potential questions to get comfortable with the format. Practicing repeatedly will help you become more fluent and confident.
  • Feedback: Seek candid feedback from trusted friends or family members, or consider professional coaching for more specialized advice. Constructive criticism is vital to refining your responses and delivery.
  • Mock Interviews: Simulate real interview conditions by having someone ask you questions in real-time. This practice helps you get used to thinking on your feet and managing time constraints.

Refining and polishing your performance.

  • Candid Feedback: Receive detailed feedback on your practice videos to identify areas for improvement. Focus on both the substance of your responses and the style of your presentation.
  • Constructive Criticism: Pay attention to specific areas such as clarity, pacing, and body language. Adjust your performance based on the feedback you receive.
  • Professional Coaching: Benefit from the expertise of admissions consultants and video coaches who can help optimize your messaging and production quality.

Anticipate common challenges.

MBA video essays present unique challenges, including stage fright and technical issues. Here are some strategies to overcome these obstacles:

  • Stage Fright: Practice deep breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques to calm your nerves before recording. Visualization techniques, where you imagine a successful recording, can also be helpful.
  • Technical Issues: Test your equipment beforehand to ensure good lighting, sound quality, and a stable internet connection. Have backup plans in place for any technical difficulties that may arise.

Understanding and anticipating these challenges can help you prepare more effectively and present your best self in your video essay.

Special Focus: Kellogg’s MBA Video Essay

Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University has integrated a video essay component that emphasizes real-time assessment. Here are three keys to succeeding with Kellogg’s video essay:

  1. Understand Your Personal, Professional, and Academic Scope: Fully grasp how your experiences and achievements align with Kellogg’s values and expectations. Be ready to discuss various aspects of your life succinctly and confidently.
  2. Internalize a User-Friendly Framework: Develop a framework that allows you to respond quickly and coherently to a range of questions. Practice impromptu responses to ensure you can articulate your thoughts clearly under time pressure.
  3. Know Your Fit with Kellogg: Research Kellogg’s culture, programs, and values thoroughly. Understand how you fit into their community and be prepared to communicate this effectively.

The MBA Exchange has been providing video training and simulated admissions interviews for Kellogg applicants, helping them prepare thoroughly for the video essay component. Our video specialists offer guidance on both content development and authentic delivery, ensuring clients are well-prepared for Kellogg’s unique requirements.


While the video essay component can be intimidating, it’s also an opportunity to showcase your personality, communication skills, and unique strengths. By thoughtfully planning, practicing, and refining your video essays, you can turn this challenge into a valuable asset in your MBA application. Embrace the video essay as a chance to stand out from other applicants. Approach it with a positive mindset and use it as an opportunity for personal and professional growth.

The MBA Exchange is here to support you every step of the way, offering personalized guidance to help you succeed. Embrace the opportunity, prepare wisely, and take a significant step closer to your dream business school.