The future of the essay is now at a school near you: Smile, you might be on camera.
More and more competitive programs are using ‘video essays’ or ‘timed video assessments’ as a way to get to know their future students.
Typically, for a timed video response, you will need to respond to questions using your microphone and webcam in a given time limit. The most unusual aspect of this is the ‘asynchronous’ nature of it; there won’t be someone to converse with like a live interview. Schools will likely give you a short “prep time” after hearing a question before starting to record, but you won’t be able to go back to perfect your wording or change your answer.
Admissions teams love this aspect of the assessment because it gives them a chance to see how you think on your feet and communicate unscripted, without having to fly you to campus to meet you in person.
While the prospect of a single-take video essay may be alarming, don’t worry, here are some suggestions to make sure you’re confident and prepared!
1. Check the details
Before you start, read over any provided materials from your school. Know the deadline for when your video response must be completed, what program you’re applying to, and if they have any special requests. Some programs even have admissions blog posts about what they’re looking for to help you strategize the key points you want to strike in your response.
This may sound redundant, but if you have multiple schools requiring video essays, it’s very important.
2. Set your scene
Find a well-lit setting and turn on your webcam and adjust your location to ensure you have a clear backdrop behind you. Windows, mirrors, or cluttered walls or shelves are best avoided if possible. Adjust your lighting and position to find an arrangement that shines light on your face, rather than backlighting you.
There’s no set uniform for video essays, but I recommend comfortable, clean, and simple attire. Play it safe with solid colors and comfortable materials so you can focus on the content of your responses.
Once you’ve established your environment, let anyone who you share a household or office with know not to disturb you. Put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door if you must! #ThatAwkwardMoment when your mom walked into your video response demanding you clean your room doesn’t need to be your claim to fame.
3. Prepare Your Device
Picture this: You’re in the middle of your response and a pesky pop-up notification appears on your screen and creates a distraction. Or better yet, you ignore the notification and your computer restarts before you’ve completed all of the questions! Technology, eh?
So before you start recording, close any programs that might prompt you with push notifications or pop-ups and ensure your software is up-to-date. Check to see if you have at least an hour of battery life or, better yet, plug into a power source!
4. Practice and Get Comfortable
Record yourself taking a few common questions with your webcam and review your responses.
Here are some common questions to try:
“Tell us about yourself.”
“Why do you want to attend our program?”
“Describe one of your favorite hobbies and why it is important to you?”
You can try using Kira Prep, a free simulated assessment designed to help you practice, as well.
5. Keep Calm and Crush This Video
Get a glass of water. Remember to pause and catch your breath. Do a stretch. Listen to your cheesiest pump up song (Eye of the Tiger, anyone?) Whatever you need to do to get in the zone. Remember to take your time with your response, be yourself, and speak from the heart, and you’ll do great.
Molly McCracken is the Admissions Editor at Kira Talent, an education technology company that builds holistic admissions solutions in Toronto, Canada.