In the past, simply submitting a college admissions video was enough to make you stand out in the applicant pool, but now hopeful high school students must do more. But how? Consider how the art of storytelling can help you craft a stellar admissions video and increase your chances of acceptance.
Recognize the power of stories
A story is an account of real or imaginary events – as opposed to a list of facts or statistics – that engages the emotions and imagination of the listener or reader. Stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts, according to Jennifer Aaker of the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Great storytelling pairs a compelling or interesting story with masterful delivery to emphasize a given point – for instance, that you are an excellent candidate for admission at your dream school.
Identify and shape your narrative thread
A narrative thread is the storyline that ties your admissions video into a coherent whole. Put another way, it is a single theme or point that traces the actions and experiences of the main character – in this case, you. The word “single” is critical here. Effective video stories can be boiled down to “a single thematic word,” according to Casey Frechette, a professor of journalism and media stories at University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
So what is your word?
By watching your video, admissions committees will hope to learn more about you as a student and person, as well as whether you are an ideal fit for their schools.
Choose your narrative thread based on this goal. What have you overcome in your life to make you who you are? What appeals to you about this particular college? What in your life gives you the drive to achieve your goals? Did surviving an illness as a child instill in you the dream to become a pediatric nurse? (If so, perhaps “resilience” is your word.) Did unhappy events in your childhood lead you to discover music or visual art as an outlet? (Maybe “escape” is your thematic term.) When identifying and shaping your narrative thread, it can be helpful to think like a journalist. Avoid choosing the first topic that comes to mind, and instead search for the true heart of your admissions story.
Utilize vivid language
Once you have selected your storyline, you will need to hone your delivery.
An admissions committee may have hundreds of admissions videos to review, so you will want to be sure that you capture the committee’s attention and hold it.
One easy way to make your story more interesting is to use vivid detail and descriptions to appeal to all five senses. The more senses you engage, the more likely you are to captivate your audience and to ensure that they hear your whole argument for admission.
Additionally, consider appealing to a sixth sense of sorts – emotion. Emotion, in Frechette’s eyes, “gives audiences a reason to care and a way to connect to a story, sometimes in a very personal way.” If you can make an admissions committee experience the joy you feel when you volunteer in the community or play a sport, or the excitement that you feel when you think of attending this college, you will likely hold your readers’ attention.
Capitalize on body language and tone of voice
Only 7 percent of what we learn when we speak with someone comes from his or her words.
The remaining 93 percent comes from the person’s nonverbal communication, including 55 percent from body language and 38 percent from tone of voice. When you are recording your admissions video, capitalize on this.
Speak clearly, use a confident tone of voice, look directly at the camera, and exhibit good posture. In short, exude confidence and engagement. Remember, too, that your audience will not have a script to follow. Incorporate movement – that is, after all, one of the primary advantages of a video essay – but do not do so at the expense of good sound. Sound can evoke a mood or a place, and it is the medium on which your storytelling depends. Before you submit your application, double-check that your audio is crystal clear and supports your message/theme.
In your admissions video, your ultimate aim should be to help the admissions committee get to know you as well as possible in a very short period of time. This means sharing an engaging story and explaining how it relates to who you are, why you wish to attend this school, and what advantages you will bring with you.
[Looking for more tips on college admissions? We got you.]