How to prepare for a video essay as part of your business school application | Top Universities

How to prepare for a video essay as part of your business school application

By Aisha Khan

Updated July 4, 2023 Updated July 4, 2023

Used to gauge a candidate’s personality and communication style, video essays are becoming more commonplace when applying to business school.  

Although you’ll still be submitting a written response explaining your career aspirations and motivation in applying, the video essay will be your opportunity to show what you can bring to the programme in an interview-like format.  

Depending on which schools you decide to apply to, you may be given questions beforehand with the option to practise your response. However, some schools prefer to use unseen questions, testing your ability to think on your feet.  

So, what are the admissions panel looking for in a response and how can you ensure you stand out from other applicants?  

To find out, we spoke to Rodrigo Malta, managing director for MBA recruitment and admissions at the University of Austin’s McCombs School of Business (UAT is ranked 58th globally according to the QS World University Rankings 2024).  

We also caught up with Dawna Levenson, assistant dean of admissions at MIT Sloan School of Management (MIT is ranked as the best university in the world).  

Why did you introduce video assessment for MBA and master's candidates? 

McCombs: Texas McCombs has always been at the forefront of innovation and continuous improvement, consistently seeking new ways to enhance the application process to identify top talent.  

In line with our human-centred, future-focused approach, we introduced a dynamic video assessment component as part of the 2022-23 admission cycle, offering an alternative approach to a more traditional essay and interview format.  

Given all applicants will complete the video assessment, candidates will have increased access to the application process and the opportunity to share their stories with us in their own voice.   

Through the video assessment, the admissions committee will have a chance to experience the “real” you, beyond a resume, test scores, and transcripts.  

MIT: Videos, short and long, are a popular way to communicate new ideas in today’s society.  We added the video statement requirement several years ago as it seemed like a logical next step in the evolution of our application process.  

What are the admissions panel looking for in the applicants’ responses?  

McCombs: Each video assessment will start with a fun, non-evaluative question that will help the admissions team learn who you are as a person. 

Applicants will then be asked to use the video assessment tool to record responses to four questions covering the candidate’s MBA goals and assessing the following competencies: adaptability, empathy and aspiration.   

MIT: We ask you to introduce yourself to your future classmates – be yourself and be truthful.  

How can applicants ensure they successfully prepare?  

McCombs: This is your time to show us your personality and enthusiasm! We recommend that you prepare for the video assessment similarly to how you might prepare for an interview. Think reflectively about your work experience, strengths, weaknesses, and work on your delivery. 

If you still find yourself nervous, practice your answers in front of a mirror or with a friend or colleague and ask them how you did. Did you answer the question? Did you rush through it?  

Take a moment to outline your answer in your mind first, and then address it calmly and confidently.   

Don’t get too comfortable though. While we’re an easy-going group, maintaining an appropriate level of professionalism is always a good idea. This includes professional language and attire.  

MIT: Videos are not expected to be production quality. Most are recorded using a cell phone and either the candidate is holding the phone or someone else is holding the phone for them.  

Feel free to be a little creative, but don’t feel the need to go overboard. Share with the audience who you are and tell us about your passions, your interests, and what gets you up in the morning. 

What mistakes or common pitfalls should applicants avoid? 

McCombs: Number one, pace yourself and don’t feel like you need to use the whole time to answer a question. A common pitfall to avoid is rambling on after you answer the question.  

A big reason that we limit response times is because it is excellent practice for your MBA or master’s experience and future career journey.   

Keeping responses concise, yet clear, is important, especially if you’re applying for US based jobs. However, make sure you’re answering the question in full. 

MIT: Videos should be around 60 seconds – no more!  A five-minute video sends the wrong message (the applicant cannot read or follow instructions).   

Don’t sacrifice audio for creativity. Make sure that we’re able to hear what you’re saying regardless of what else may be going on in the background.  

This article was originally published in July 2023 .

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