Tips for Video MBA Essay Questions

Get more MBA video essay tips!

The Kellogg School of Management

Rotman led the charge with a video essay question and last year Yale and Kellogg followed.

Worried about being literally on stage? Here are my tips if you need to respond to a question in a short 1-2-minute video.

First, realize that these video essays, like the written ones, are attempts to get to know you. Unlike the written word, however, the schools are seeking to see how you present yourself visually and with little time to prepare or polish answers. They are testing articulation and presence in a way that essays can’t and at much less expense than interviews. In that sense, these videos are a pre-interview screening device in addition to a way to learn more about your likes and dislikes, achievements, dreams, goals, and challenges.

And while you may not be able to prepare for a specific question, you definitely can and should prepare.

Learn how video essays came about, how they work, & how to ace them!

You need to practice for the experience of talking to a video camera with no responses from another human being. No body language. No facial expressions. No audience energy. Zero feedback. It’s just a dumb machine. Having created videos for Accepted, I found the experience very unnatural, but I think/hope I’ve gotten better with practice. You can too.

Until the questions become known, practice answering different essay questions in the announced time limit and then view the video. Here are a few sample questions to get you started, but I may update this list as we get more information from the schools:

• What do you do for fun?
• What are your passions, interests, and hobbies?
• If you could travel across the United States in a car with anyone, whom would you choose to travel with and why?
• What would you do on a rainy Sunday afternoon?
• How have you handled a difficult interaction? What did you learn from it?
• Describe a difficult professional decision you had to make.  What were the consequences, and what, if anything, did you learn?

If you are really nervous about the video exercise or about speaking in public, consider joining Toastmasters and forcing yourself to speak publicly. You will improve your “presence” and gain confidence. Both will help you with your video interview, any admissions interview, job interviews, and required public speaking.

So beyond preparing and simply getting comfortable with the format or anticipated questions, when it comes time for the real thing, do the following:

1. Dress neatly. Follow any dress guidelines the school provides. Women, put on make-up and jewelry lightly. If you wonder if your attire is too revealing, it is.  Men, have a hair-cut and shave. Make sure beard or mustache, if you have, are trimmed and neat.

2. It should go without saying, but keep your language clean — no profanity.

3. Think for a few seconds before you reply and then minimize pauses that we tend to fill with “ums” and “uhs.” They don’t contribute to “presence.”

4. If you tend to perspire, put on the air conditioning so the room is cool.

5. Sit up straight and lean a little bit forward.

6. Remember to smile. I put a smiley face next to the camera.

And two final points:

1. Schools want to accept students who reflect well on them.
2. You’ll do great!

If you would like help with your video essay, Accepted’s experienced MBA admissions experts, who have been prepping and critiquing MBA applicants for almost twenty years, are more than happy to help you.

Learn how video essays came about, how they work, & how to ace them!

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

Related Resources:

Rotman’s Problem Solving Challenge to Award Unique First Prize – Full MBA Tuition Scholarship!

Check out our Rotman b-school zone!

That’s a lot of prize money and a lot of winners!!

Prospective and incoming Rotman MBA students now have a chance to win a full scholarship to the Rotman MBA program by competing in the Rotman Problem Solving Challenge. The Rotman site calls this unique competition an opportunity to “dive deep into a messy, unstructured problem using [Rotman’s] model-based approach to problem solving.”

WHAT?

Participants will compete in three graded components, guided by Rotman faculty and student mentors.

WHERE?

At the Rotman School

WHEN?

March 28-29, 2014

WHO?

2014 MBA applicants and admitted students to Rotman are eligible to participate. To claim awards, individuals must be accepted to the 2014 intake of the Rotman Full-Time MBA Program.

WHY?

For a chance to win one of 7 individual scholarships (ranging from $5,000 to a full scholarship valued at $90,000), or one of 4 group scholarships (ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 per team member).

That’s a lot of prize money and a lot of winners!!

See the Rotman Problem Solving Challenge page for details and rules.

For advice on optimizing your Toronto Rotman MBA application, check out the following resources:

• Toronto Rotman School of Management B-School Zone
• Rotman 2013 MBA Application Questions, Deadlines, Tips
• 2013 Toronto Rotman MBA Q&A with Niki Da Silva
• MBA Video Essays: A Conversation with Rotman’s Niki da Silva

MBA video essays: how they work & how to ace them!

Accepted.com

Discover the Benefits of a Canadian MBA!

Canadian MBA Alliance

Have you thought about applying to a Canadian business school? Did you know that:

• Forbes ranks Canada as the 5th best nation for doing business?
• Canada hosts four of the top ten strongest banks in the world?
• Canada is one of the most welcoming countries to immigrants (thereby contributing to its multicultural richness)?
• In 2010, 1/3 of the top non-US b-schools were in Canada?
• Student visas can immediately be transferred into work visas upon graduation?

Join us on Monday, Feb 3 at 10:00 am PT/ 1:00 PM ET for an interactive virtual panel with admissions members from six top Canadian b-schools. Discover the general benefits of studying in Canada as well as insights into each program, and get answers your most pressing admissions questions.

Save me a spot at the Q&A!

If you haven’t yet considered pursuing an MBA in Canada, maybe you should think again!

Accepted.com

FT’s Best Global MBA Programs in 2014

The Financial Times released its 2014 global MBA rankings! Read on for the list, the facts, the analysis, and the sources.

The List:

2014 Rank

3 Year
(Avg) 

School Country 
1 1 Harvard Business School USA
2 2 Stanford Graduate
School of Business
USA
3 4 London Business School UK
4 3 U Penn Wharton USA
5 5 Columbia Business
School
USA
6 6 INSEAD France/Singapore
7 8 IESE Business School Spain
8 8 MIT Sloan USA
9 10 Chicago Booth USA
10 15 Yale School of Management USA
11 12 UC Berkeley Haas USA
12 15 IMD Switzerland
13 11 IE Business School Spain
14 11 Hong Kong UST
Business School
China
15 15 Northwestern Kellogg USA
16 19 Cambridge Judge UK
17 17 Duke Fuqua USA
17 18 NYU Stern USA
17 19 CEIBS China
20 18 Dartmouth Tuck USA

To truly understand the rankings, much less use them, please see the methodology so you’ll know what’s being ranked. While there are twenty factors considered in the FT rankings, the FT methodology puts the most weight on increase in salary in $US PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) and weighted salary in $US PPP.

Poets and Quants criticizes the FT rankings for absurd results in calculating “Value for Money” as well as for having too many criteria and several criteria that really don’t reflect the quality of education. Others say that it is biased against U.S. programs.

Regardless of the criticism’s validity, the FT ranking is arguably the most cited ranking of global programs because it compares U.S. and international programs in one ranking and seems to do a better job of it than the alternatives. That prominence doesn’t mean these rankings are Gospel. It does mean you have a lot of data in a format where you can easily compare MBA programs from around the world on designated criteria.

The Facts:

Here are some fun facts about FT’s 2014 rankings:

• 7 of the top 10 and 12 of the top 20 programs ranked are US schools.

• Big jumpers this year include Boston University’s business school and Washington Forster, which each jumped 20 spots, to 75th and 58th place, respectively. Another big US jumper this year was USC Marshall which jumped 17 spots to 65th place. UNC Kenan Flagler jumped up 12 slots this year from its 3-year average rank, moving from #45 to #33.

• The biggest losers this year include Dublin’s Smurfit School (dropped 27 spots to 91st place) and Vlerick Business School (fell 16 places to 100th place), as well as the schools which disappeared off the list entirely: U of Iowa’s Tippie School (74th last year), Korea University Business School (86th last year), Incae Business School in Costa Rica (90th last year), Case Western’s Weatherhead School (94th last year), and others.

• Newcomers to the list include: UC Davis (98th), Wake Forest (94th), BYU’s Marriott School (93rd), and ESMT European School of Management and Technology in Germany (89th).

• In terms of geographic representation, the top 20 schools are all in the US, UK, Europe (France, Spain, Switzerland), China, and Singapore, but further down the list, other countries gain their spots: India comes in at 30th place with the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad; SDA Bocconi in 31st place represents Italy; South Korea appears in 45th place with Sungkyunkwan University’s GSB; Canada’s first school on the list is Toronto Rotman at 51st place; Portugal follows with The Lisbon MBA in 52nd place (new to list); South Africa’s U. of Cape Town GSB comes in at 59th place; in the 62nd slot we have Australia’s Australian Graduate School of Management; and Brazil’s Coppead is in 79th place.

•  The city with the highest concentration of schools in the top 100 is (of course) Boston with six top b-schools – Harvard (1), MIT Sloan (8), Hult International Business School (61), BU School of Management (75), Boston College Carroll (82), and Babson Olin (95).

The Analysis:

While it’s fun to look at the changes – who climbed and who sank – for me the real lessons from this ranking are:

1. The top programs move and change very slowly. That lack of drama in these rankings is a better reflection of reality than the gyrations one sees outside the top twenty. Significant change takes time so sharp jumps and dives probably mean nothing. Sustained change in ranking has greater credibility – if you value the same qualities as the FT.

2. The one point made repeatedly in the commentary on this ranking, and it is the same conclusion I draw from both the FT ranking and the Forbes ranking, which both emphasize ROI and increase in salary, is this: The MBA education at top programs provides a solid return on investment for most students. The MBAs surveyed for the FT rankings started their MBA in 2008, just as the Great Recession hit, and graduated in 2010. These MBAs still report on average a 100% increase in salary over what they were making before they started business school.

There are obviously critics of graduate business education, specifically the MBA, and those detractors either believe an MBA isn’t valuable or that the value has declined. I agree with the latter group. However, the questions for today’s applicants are:

1. “Given my current professional background and salary and my anticipated salary after I earn an MBA, do the anticipated financial rewards plus increased job satisfaction justify the investment (both out of pocket and opportunity costs)?” The fact that those entering b-school ten or twenty years ago could anticipate a higher ROI is irrelevant. It is merely a historical curiosity and for you an unfortunate one.

2. “Is the full-time MBA – or whatever flavor you are considering – the optimal way for me to attain my MBA goals?”

FT, to its credit, also has an article on those claiming the MBA is not worth the effort. Sometimes they are right. Each one of you individually needs to examine your circumstances and goals to see if for you the MBA is an expensive waste of time and effort, or if for you it is likely to be worth both. Clearly, most of the people surveyed by Forbes, the Financial Times, and GMAC are in the latter group.

In this video  Della Bradshaw, FT’s Business Education Editor, discusses the results of this year’s FT Global MBA rankings including the finding that MBAs in the class of 2010 are now enjoying salaries double those they were earning before they entered b-school.

The Sources

• FT Global MBA Ranking 2014

•  FT: MBA Ranking 2014: Key & Methodology

•  FT: Big Names Dominate FT MBA Ranking Top Spots

•  P&Q: Winners & Losers in 2014 FT MBA Ranking

•  Accepted: 4 Ways You Should NOT Use the MBA Rankings

•  Accepted: MBA Rankings: What You Need to Know

Learn how to evaluate your profile to determine the best business school for you!

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

MBA Interview Tips Post 5: Video Essays

[NOTE: This post is the fifth in a series; if interested please see the introduction and tip 1, tip 2, tip 3, and tip 4.]

Click here for 6 more tips for answering video MBA essay questions.

Video Essay: Natural Experience or Performance?

Wait, why is a video essay featured in a series on MBA interviews?

Because it works like an interview in its visual presentation of you and it functions like a conversation.

Kellogg, Yale, and Rotman have included required video essays (or “screen tests” as Poets & Quants dubs this element) in their applications.  It’s been an option, rather infrequently used, at NYU Stern for years.

Why adcoms use this method:   

• It allows the adcom to see the applicants respond in almost-real-time to questions.

• It allows the adcom to test applicants’ ability to organize their thoughts and present a response both meaningful and succinct.

• Applicants “shine” in different ways, and an applicant who shines in interpersonal communication and charisma may not make it through to a competitive interview with written essays; now the adcom can spot these applicants.

• Similarly, someone may shine in the conventional written essays, but be inappropriate or unprofessional in presentation, and the adcom can now spot and weed out these applicants early, without expending additional resources on interviews.

Process:  Basically, you click on a link in the application, and you are given a question to answer.  You are being timed, so you can’t halt the process, go away for an hour and plan a careful response. Rather, the application gives you a minute or so to compose your thoughts.  Then you have a short window, usually one to two minutes, to video-record your answer.  You can view your response, but you can’t change it.  Sometimes the application give you a few “tries,” but you can’t re-record an answer if you don’t like what you did the first time.  You can only move on to the next question.  The reason is that the adcoms are trying to avoid a rehearsed, nonspontaneous reply.  The last question is literally your last chance in the video essay – you can’t go back and redo earlier attempts.

Benefits and pitfalls for applicants:

• Benefit: if you present yourself comfortably and are photogenic, the medium plays to these strengths.

• Benefit: the process may take less time than a written essay.

• Benefit: for non-native English speakers, you can demonstrate solid English speaking skills—especially beneficial if you have a low verbal GMAT score and/or borderline TOEFL.

• Benefit: The skills and attributes it highlights differ from and complement those highlighted by written essays, improving the chances for different kinds of applicants to shine in the initial application.

• Pitfall: you have a limited time and can’t second guess your answer; once it’s done it’s done (whereas with a written essay you can revise it up until submission if you have further thoughts for improving it).

• Pitfall: although the adcoms call it a conversation, it actually isn’t very natural or comfortable to talk into a camera with no human response; some people need a lot of practice to overcome a strange sensation with this medium.

• Pitfall: for people who are methodical, the short prep and answer time works against your natural inclination and doesn’t play to your strength.

• Pitfall: you’re at the mercy of well-functioning technology and Internet connections.

While not exactly a pitfall, there’s also the reality that even though adcoms strive for objectivity in evaluating applicants, the video essay creates the potential for them to be subjectively influenced (pro or con) by an applicant’s physical appearance early in the “weeding” process.

How to make this type of interview work for you (this is in addition to all the common sense advice for good MBA interviews):

• Review Accepted.com’s tips for this interview format.

• Practice with a video camera, YouTube, or other formats, speaking to a camera without a person involved.

• Practice coming up with short answers to a range of questions – limit your prep time so it’s similar to the video essay’s, and find a technique that works for you for gathering your thoughts quickly and identifying a key point or message.

• Consider the whole visual picture: not just having hair combed and appropriate attire, but also the background and lighting – all should enhance the presentation.

• The adcoms say they want a spontaneous, natural experience of the applicant, but it may not be natural for you to look at and speak to a non-responsive camera.  It’s the illusion of naturalism; it’s acting, it’s performance, essentially.  To create your best impression, understand and analyze your gestures, cadence, tone – what makes your presentation reflect “you” effectively?  A good actor is deliberately and thoughtfully natural, not mindlessly natural.  You’re actually performing your best self.

MBA Video Essays: A Conversation with Rotman’s Niki da Silva

Cindy Tokumitsu By , co-author of The Finance Professional’s Guide to MBA Admissions Success, and author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her last fifteen years with Accepted.com.