In admissions forums and spaces like Reddit, we often see students debating both the purpose and the weight of the “video essay” component of their applications. Unlike an in-person interview where you tour around campus, a video essay or video assessment is often a part of the admissions process where you don’t “meet” your interviewers live. Instead, you complete a series of timed questions using a built-in or external webcam.
Because you don’t see your interviewers’ reactions, it can be a bit nerve-wracking to wonder what they’ll think of your responses. Here, we’re hoping to give you context as to why business schools want to see you on video and how you can prepare to ace your assessment.
Where does the video assessment fit in the application?
We’d love to write a definitive playbook as to how and why schools use video assessments, but the reality is, each program is a little bit different.
There are, however, three common ways that graduate business programs integrate timed video assessments into the overall admissions experience:
- A required video assessment that is used as a screening stage with other application criteria that together determine if an applicant moves through to the next stage.
- A required video assessment that is used as the interview component in one of the last stages of an admissions decision.
- An optional video assessment that is offered as an additional way to boost your admissions chances.
Mandatory versus optional: What’s the deal?
If you are applying to a program with an optional video assessment, it’s almost always there to give you one more way to improve your chances of admission. Completing the optional video is an opportunity for you to showcase your personality and level of interest and motivation to attend the program.
What are schools looking for?
Almost every program looks for different skills or traits when evaluating applicants.
However, all programs want to get an authentic snapshot of who you are. Keep in mind that schools are receiving hundreds, if not thousands, of applications for a fraction of the number of seats. Videos provide a scalable way for schools to see and hear from all of their prospective students, instead of just the ones who are able to come to campus. Read An Interview With Melissa Rapp, Kellogg’s MBA Gatekeeper on why Kellogg uses a video essay in their admissions process, and The MBA Gatekeeper at INSEAD to learn about the video essay component of that school’s MBA admissions process.
The criteria differs among programs, but here are three of the most common themes in what schools look for in applicants:
When selecting a prospective student, admissions directors want to identify students who a) see the value in their program and their school’s offering and who b) have the work ethic to complete their degree.
Video responses give you an opportunity to articulate why you want to get your MBA and share how the degree will help your career. Likewise, questions about challenges you have overcome in the past can also shed light on your drive and determination.
TIP: Research the program before starting your timed video assessment. Have a well-articulated reason for wanting to get your specific degree and why you want to go to this particular program to do so.
2. Alignment with school mission
Throughout your application process, you’re going to hear the term “fit” used a lot.
Each school is looking for candidates who “fit” with their mission and their community. A timed video assessment can be a great way to ask questions that draw out the presence or absence of traits that align with their school’s core values.
For example, if the program is known for its emphasis on corporate sustainability and social responsibility (CSR), you may be asked questions that evaluate if you share those values and have evidence of your engagement in CSR initiatives in the past.
TIP: Just like in a job interview, consider specific examples of your past performance to share with the admissions team.
3. Strong Communication Skills
In the highly communicative business world, MBA programs care deeply about their applicants’ ability to communicate.
You’ll be developing your skills throughout your degree, so admissions teams want to see you have the potential to be a clear and confident communicator in the classroom and beyond. They want to see and hear your professionalism as well as how you articulate yourself, your experiences, and your ideas.
TIP: Practice makes perfect. You can practice responding to timed video questions in the Kira platform using Kira Prep, our free practice suite for applicants.
Molly McCracken is the admissions editor at Kira. She is passionate about leveling the playing field for all applicants in the higher education admissions process and helping schools improve the overall application experience for students.