The video essay is gaining popularity among business schools that wish to assess the profile of MBA candidates in more detail.
Although some schools may call them “video interviews”, make sure not to get mixed up with the terminology. Video essays are not a substitute for the face-to-face admissions interview conducted by business school representatives or for the written application essay.
So what is the purpose of the video essay? Leading business schools such as INSEAD (France) and Kellogg School of Management (US) have incorporated it into their admissions procedure because they believe the format brings out a different and more authentic side of students compared to what can be read on paper. Video essays are also a good opportunity for students to stand out in ways that they could not communicate very well in writing. Shari Hubert, associate dean of MBA admissions at Georgetown McDonough School of Business (US), also explains:
We really wanted to incorporate things into the application that allow us to get a better holistic, 360 view of the applicant. We recognise how much effort people put into the application and it’s really hard sometimes to get to know someone fully through pieces of paper.
Of course, different programmes choose how much emphasis they want to put on this component so it is best to get familiarised with the approach of the institution you plan to apply to. Here is a list of several well-known programmes that have incorporated the video essay element into their admissions procedure.
INSEAD calls this component of the application package a video interview, which needs to be completed after submitting the online application form. There are four questions in total and they always vary from one applicant to another. Once they begin the recording process, applicants have 45 seconds to prepare each answer and one minute to record it. Most programmes, including the one at INSEAD, also offer unlimited practice sessions with sample questions that encourage candidates to warm up until they feel comfortable with the online setting. Your answers to the practice questions are not recorded or reviewed by the school. For INSEAD’s MBA programme, you need to complete the video interview no later than 48 hours after the deadline to which you are applying.
Kellogg School of Management (US)
The Kellogg Full-time MBA programme is also well-known for including the video essay requirement in their application process. Although they do not reveal the exact number of questions that applicants can expect, it is explained that the first question is an “icebreaker” addressing your profile while the second one prompts you to talk about your plans for the future and how Kellogg will help you on that journey. The rest of the questions are randomly generated. Candidates have 20 seconds to think about the question and up to one minute to give their response. According to the school, recording the video essays takes about 20-25 minutes which includes time for set-up as well as answering all the practice questions provided for your convenience.
Georgetown McDonough School of Business (US)
The video essay required by Georgetown McDonough School of Business is slightly different in format from the ones explained so far. When applying to their MBA programme, you need to record a one-minute video in which you introduce yourself to your future Georgetown MBA cohort. The video should be uploaded on one of the easily accessible platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo. Once it is uploaded, candidates simply need to include its URL address in the designated field as part of the overall online application. As you can tell, this is a slightly more creative opportunity to convince the admissions committee that you are the right person to join their programme.
Rotman School of Management (Canada)
The Rotman School of Management introduced the video essay component to their application process in 2013. It consists of two questions which allow the admissions committee to get to know the personality and uniqueness of each candidate. In 2016, the programme presented another new element to the package – the so-called timed written response question. The school uses it as an opportunity to see the more casual style that students adopt most frequently, when writing emails to their peers, for example. Here is what it entails according to Niki da Silva, Managing Director of the Full-Time MBA at Rotman School of Management:
After completing their video questions, our candidates will receive one written response question. The question will begin by providing some context to help explain why it is relevant for a Rotman student, and our applicants will have a total of 10 minutes to read and reply to the question. This is not videotaped but is delivered ‘live’ with one opportunity to write/edit/submit.
MIT Sloan School of Management (US)
MIT Sloan also requires a video statement as part of the MBA application package. Candidates need to record a one-minute unedited video in which they introduce themselves to their future classmates. However, instead of uploading the end result on a publicly available video platform, the submission is done directly within the online application form of the school.
The final steps
In short, the integration of the video essay component can definitely be useful for both sides. MBA applicants get to show their passion and interest in the programme in a much more expressive format while admissions directors can process the communication skills and authenticity of candidates through a different lens. To ensure the quality of the end product, both with regard to content and on a technical level, it is a good idea to practise beforehand. Make use of all available preparation tools provided by the school. There is no need to memorise and recite your answers – just be clear as to why you are the right person for this MBA programme and be yourself!