Video Essay is a “Different Ballgame” for MBA Applicants

Business school applicants have always been expected to convey their strengths, mitigate their weaknesses, and capture their uniqueness through traditional, written essays. This is a challenge to many individuals who find it difficult to assess their candidacy and portray it in writing. In recent years, the challenge has expanded as several leading b-schools introduced a video “essay, test or interview” component to their admissions process.

The growing list of MBA programs that have some type of video element includes: MIT Sloan, Northwestern Kellogg, Chicago Booth, INSEAD, Yale SOM, NYU Stern, Texas McCombs, Toronto Rotman, and UWO Ivey. Today, thousands of MBA applicants must overcome stage fright, sweaty palms and technical constraints to tell their story in a clear, convincing and authentic way via webcam.

From advising a wide range of candidates on how to improve their chances for admission at schools with video essays, The MBA Exchange has 4 important observations to share with those who will be facing the camera as part of the application campaign:

1. There are two kinds of video essays – “produced” and “impromptu”
In some cases, applicants produce their own video essay in response to a question provided in advance by the school or about a topic created solely by the candidate. In other cases, applicants must answer one or more impromptu questions, presented in real time by the school, with a strict time limit for the video response. For both kinds of videos, the underlying goal is the same – convince adcoms that you are someone who understands and represents what the school is seeking for its incoming class.

2. Impromptu video essays are very similar to admissions interviews
Even though many schools refer to the video component as an “essay,” in many ways this element is more like an “interview”. The primary reason that schools include a video component in their admissions process is to see and hear how effectively the applicant communicates. The fact that the video is a one-way communication from the candidate, without seeing the reaction of an interviewer, only adds stress.

3. Preparation requires a different mindset and skills
One great thing about written essays is that applicants can produce dozens of drafts, reconsider and refine each word, and then submit only his or her best work product. Likewise, for video essays, the applicant should devote abundant time and attention to planning content. Such planning is easiest when the school has provided the question(s) in advance. For applicant-selected questions, choosing the most beneficial topic for the video is just as important as crafting the response. For impromptu videos, the challenge is even greater since applicants must respond within seconds to a question they are facing for the first time. And in all cases, candidates must take into consideration technical factors such as audio and video quality.

4. Professional guidance and support can provide a winning edge
Business schools don’t expect applicants to submit Hollywood-quality videos. In fact, a video that’s too “perfect” might actually harm the candidacy. However, presenting a video with sub-par content, structure, style or production is an even bigger risk. To ensure that their video essay bolsters the application and the chances for admission, serious MBA applicants have discovered the benefits of getting expert guidance and support. At The MBA Exchange, this service uniquely features two essential resources – 1) an experienced admissions consultant to help optimize message content and structure, and 2) a skilled Video Coach to help ensure production quality (e.g., lighting, backdrop, clarity, etc.). Our clients have found this service to be a winning combination for planning and preparing videos.

So, MBA applicants, don’t let the mere thought of video essays deter you from moving forward with your admissions campaign. Rather, we urge you to embrace this as an opportunity for discovery, creativity and self-awareness. By thoughtfully planning, producing and submitting the best possible video essays, you’ll be taking a giant step closer to the ultimate victory – admission to your dream business school. Prepare wisely and play to win!