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    Video Essays for College Applications

    Posted June 24, 2014, 2:00 pm by Suzanne Shaffer
    Video Essays for College Applications

    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.

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    Suzanne Shaffer

    Suzanne Shaffer

    Suzanne Shaffer counsels parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation. Her Parenting for College blog offers timely college tips for parents and students, as well as providing parents with the resources necessary to help their college-bound teens navigate the college maze.

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