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How to Create a Video Essay for Your College Application

Some colleges may accept a video essay in lieu of the traditional written essay as part of the college application process.

[Featured image] Job candidate smiles at her tablet as she logs on for a video interview with a hiring manager in an open office space.

A video essay serves as a personal introduction on a college application. As a modern trend in the application process , some colleges and universities allow prospective students to submit a video essay, either in the place of the traditional written essay or, sometimes, as a separate element of the application packet.

With a video essay, you can naturally highlight your personality while providing the decision-makers with a glimpse into your world. You have the power to present yourself in your best light— literally —in a more personal medium than the regular written word.

What was once limited to art and design schools is now part of the normal process for schools like theUniversity of Chicago and Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. This modern twist on essays allows students to express themselves in a way that was once reserved for social media.

To impress the college admissions representatives of your chosen school, take the proper measures when planning. When preparing your video, give plenty of forethought to make your best first impression.

Learn more: How to Write a Personal Statement

How to make a video essay

Verify how long the video can run; this should be listed in each of your institutions’ requirements. For example, the University of Chicago allows videos of up to two minutes. Stay within the university’s range to be considered. The challenge is to focus on your presentation and choose your words wisely.

1. Choose a topic.

Next, decide on the topic of the video. Some schools may invite you to discuss a particular topic, and others will want the video essay to serve as a personal introduction in place of an interview.

If the video serves as an interview, include the answers to the following questions: 

Why do you wish to attend this specific school?

What will you bring to the college campus?

What will you do when you arrive?

Overall, you can use the video to show why you’ll be a natural fit at the school.

Read more: What Should I Major In? 5 Things to Evaluate

2. Create an outline and script.

Show off your production skills, but don’t overextend yourself. University representatives will focus on various aspects of your video in addition to its production. Plan your talking points, create a script, and practice by recording yourself multiple times before finally hitting the send button.

A video script is different from a written essay . Make a logically organized list of the topics you want to cover in a way that allows you to speak naturally and comfortably at the camera. Use the outline to guide you as you record in lieu of memorizing a script.

Record yourself with your phone’s camera, and practice the presentation repeatedly until you feel comfortable. Time yourself to stay within the time limit predefined by the college or university you're applying to. Once you feel satisfied with your script, you’ll be ready for the next step.

3. Use imagery and audio files.

Think about the scene you are depicting in the video. Verify your background. If you’re in your bedroom, for example, make sure it’s tidy and clean. Display things that visibly render your interests, such as a trophy from a swim meet or a stack of your favorite nonfiction books.

You can also film your video in a nearby park or landmark to represent your interests and make good use of the natural lighting. Use the setting to reveal a part of your personality and gain the interest of your college admissions representative. 

Along with video of you talking, you may wish to include additional images, video, and audio files that go along with your message. Collect all your content first before initiating the editing process.

4. Upload files into editing software.

Demonstrate your presentation skills by doing more than one take of your video and editing them to create a polished final cut. For this, you can use any of the trusted free editing software, including iMovie and Lightworks, which are typically user-friendly. You can drag and drop any file you upload and add sound and visual effects as you edit your content.

For tutorials on new software, look for relevant courses on Coursera like Mastering Final Cut Pro , where you’ll learn skills to make your video look professional.

Keep your post-production simple since you will principally be ranked on the content of your video rather than the graphics and transitions, that is unless you’re applying to become a videography student.

5. Share or submit your work.

Follow the submission guidelines described in the university’s application process to ensure you meet all requirements. You may only need to submit a link to your video upload from a commonly used video-sharing website.

If such is the case, upload your completed video essay for free on popular video-sharing platforms like Vimeo or YouTube. Once you’ve uploaded your video to your preferred site, you will have the option to copy a shareable link. Before you send the link, test it on your computer or phone to make sure it leads to your video.

Use the Common App to submit your essay.

Many high school juniors and seniors are familiar with the Common App , which is used by hundreds of colleges and universities to streamline the process of application. For the 2021-2022 school year, there were seven different essay prompts that you could choose from for the traditional written essay.

For some institutions, you may have the option to submit your essay through the Common App. You may also be able to submit a video essay in place of a written essay or as its complement. You’ll need to research and follow the directions of the institution you’re applying to.

Take note of these best practices of video production to make sure your video is both memorable and favorable.

Videography tips for success 

Apply your top-notch creativity in this nontraditional medium to produce your video essay. Discuss ideas for your video with a guidance counselor, parent, or trusted teacher. Ask them for feedback to make sure the message resonates properly.

Reach for success in these other ways:

Have good lighting and sound: Avoid distracting the viewer with shadows, cluttered backgrounds, or loud background noises. Sit near a window to use natural sunlight and prevent a washed-out appearance.

Dress for success: Wear a presentable outfit like you would for an in-person interview. Aim for business or business casual attire, tidy hair, and positive body language. This will improve your confidence as well as send the message that you’re serious about this application.

Answer questions directly: If the school asks specific questions on their application process or has prompts that need to be included in your video essay, make sure to directly provide the answers to each of them. Avoid getting carried away during the creative process.Write the questions and timestamp of the video where they’re answered.

Be yourself : Perhaps one of the most important video tips is to be authentic and relaxed. Review your script and practice repeatedly so you can naturally express yourself without reading it. Give yourself plenty of time to complete the project, and remember to meet the submission deadline.

Express yourself: Interviewing Skills to Benefit Your Career

Practice your presentation skills and increase your confidence before working on your video essay with the following courses from top universities, available on Coursera: 

Effective Communication: Writing, Design, and Presentation Specialization

Storytelling and influencing: Communicate with impact

Speaking Skills for University Success

Speak English Professionally: In Person, Online & On the Phone

Keep reading

Coursera staff.

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

5 Steps for Scripting a Video College Application Essay

Students only have a few seconds to hook the viewer with a compelling story.

Script a Video Application Essay

Smiling teenage girl enjoying video chat on laptop

Robert Daly | Getty Images

Think of the video essay as a brief advertisement for you and your skills.

If you had mere seconds to change the course of your life – what would you say?

If you are submitting a video admissions essay as part of your college application, that question should be at the forefront of your mind. Research has shown that opinion, favorable or unfavorable, is largely determined within the first seven seconds of an interaction. An amazing finish can sometimes compensate for a poor introduction, but first impressions are crucial in all aspects of life.

While the video format promises an immediacy and degree of connection that is lacking in written essays, many students will be tempted to point their cameras at themselves, press record, and reel off a video essay that begins with "Hi! My name is…"

Rather than doing that, consider these tips, which can help you write a script for a winning video essay:

1. View the video essay as an advertisement:  Your video essay is, in some ways, a brief advertisement for yourself. Your audience is the admissions committee that is attempting to select a capable and diverse cohort of students.

Starting your video by stating your name is like beginning an advertisement by saying, "This is a pencil." In other words, you are devoting the all-important first impression to sharing information that is already in your application. Instead, aim to do what advertisements do – establish the necessity of having you on campus next fall.

One of the benefits of compiling a college application is that it prompts you to list all of your accomplishments. Thus, before you start your video essay, you should already know what makes you a strong applicant.

You do not need to be better than the other applicants – you just need to add to the student body in a unique and interesting way. Allow your application data to speak for itself on paper, and instead concentrate on what makes you valuable beyond high test scores or a perfect average.

Learn about

2. Hook your viewer: Begin your script with a short sentence that captures your viewer's attention. The ideal hook is a concise introduction that suggests a larger story.    For example, "My love of science started when I assisted on an ecology research project at Mount St. Helens," is not a compelling hook – although it is better than a generic introduction.

Instead, set the scene in such a way that your viewer wants to find out what happened next. A sentence like,  "In the summer of 2014, I was standing on the slope of a dormant volcano when a storm rolled over our research camp," leaves several open questions that can only be answered by watching the rest of the video.

3. Explain why you chose this school: You will have a very small window to build your hook into a case for why you belong at a given school. Use your introductory sentence as the basis for the lesson that set you on the course toward college.

Think about questions like how this school will help you achieve your goals. Why is it on your short list ? What do you hope to do during your time as a student, beyond simply earning a degree? Use positive terms like "curiosity" and "service" in your script.

4. Share your true motivation:  Some people might define advertising as a form of lying. Certain advertisements certainly fit this mold, but the best ones present the truth in the most favorable light possible.

Your video should demonstrate real passion. If you are not genuinely motivated by a desire for public service, do not claim you are. It is absolutely all right to be motivated by a desire for excellence, a desire to build a secure future for your family or a desire to make a new life for yourself.

Check out these

5. Resist memorizing your script:  The script you prepare will be your guide to the video you ultimately create. However, when you are filming, it is imperative that you do not read from a script.

If you must memorize your script word-for-word, ensure that you can recite it with life and energy in your voice. If you continually pause to remember your next word, take a break and start over. Regardless of how much practice you complete, it is important to sound fresh when you record.

Every person has a story to share. Even if you feel like an ordinary, boring high school student, you have a story. Your goal, in your video essay, is to share that story. Even if you do not have a key moment like a foreign exchange trip or a summer research expedition, there are still moments that are uniquely yours.

Choose an event that is meaningful to you, such as success or defeat in sports, the birth of a younger sibling, or a time when a teacher took special notice of your work. Then, use that moment to set the context of your video. 

Tags: education , colleges , college applications , students

About College Admissions Playbook

Stressed about getting into college? College Admissions Playbook, authored by Varsity Tutors , offers prospective college students advice on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses, SAT and ACT exams and the college application process. Varsity Tutors, an advertiser with U.S. News & World Report, is a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement. The company's end-to-end offerings also include mobile learning apps, online learning environments and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies. Got a question? Email [email protected] .

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MBA Video Essay Samples

Featured Expert: Aali Malik, MBA

MBA Video Essay

Are you curious about the MBA video interview questions/MBA video essay? You're not the only one. This relatively new application component has become a part of the admissions process for several top business schools, including some  Ivy League schools  like Yale University's school of management and other prestigious institutions like MIT . MBA video interviews or essays can be challenging for applicants, mainly because most applicants are unsure how to prepare for them. Much like with other interview formats and essays, the key to success is practice! In this blog, we will share some common MBA video essay prompts so that you have some questions to practice with, and we will also provide some sample answers to those questions to help you prepare.

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Article Contents 6 min read

What are mba video interview questions/video essays.

MBA video interviews and MBA video essays are short, self-recorded videos where candidates answer questions given by the admission committee in a video instead of writing. This application component has simply been added to the admission process of some business schools; it does not replace any other written MBA admission essay or the final interview for admission. 

It's also important to note that because this concept is relatively new in the MBA application process, business schools refer to it by different names. For example, Kellogg Business School and London Business School both call it a video essay, while INSEAD refers to it as Video Interview, and MIT refers to it as a Video Statement. Ultimately, these are all the same thing. The only thing that may vary is the format of the video essay. 

There are two main types of MBA video essays:

This format asks candidates to record a short video answering a specific question or prompt given by the admission committee. The timeframe and questions or topics are usually provided beforehand, thus giving you more time to think through your answers and ensure that your video essay is of the best quality. ","label":"Pre-recorded video essays","title":"Pre-recorded video essays"}]" code="tab1" template="BlogArticle">

Kellogg Business School

Kellogg business school  is one of the pioneers of the MBA video essay. This component was added to their already thorough application process in 2013 and is here to stay. Kellogg no longer publishes their admission statistics, but in previous years, the acceptance rate was roughly 20%, making it one of the most selective business schools in the world. To apply to Kellogg’s MBA programs, applicants must submit two written  MBA admission essays , and answer 3 MBA video essay questions.

Kellogg Business School's acceptance rate

The Kellogg MBA video essay comprises three essay prompts. Applicants have 20 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to answer each question. The first two questions are predefined, and the third question is usually randomized. It should be noted that this is subject to change. For example, not too long ago, the admissions committee was specifically asking students about their experience with COVID as a third question instead of using a random prompt. So, it is always best to verify the school’s website for the most up-to-date information.

My name is Angela Faye, and I am a corporate lawyer from New York City. I was born in Normandy, France, but I moved to the United States at the age of eighteen to attend university. I quickly fell in love with the melting pot of cultures found in New York and the different aspects of American culture. So, I decided to stay and make a life for myself here. I am a wife and mother to two beautiful children who look up to me and for whom I'd like to set a good example by doing what it takes to accomplish my goals. One of those goals is to open a law firm of my own, and I believe that the next step for me on my journey to making that happen is to gain more knowledge and experience in business administration and management. ","label":"Sample answer","title":"Sample answer"}]" code="tab2" template="BlogArticle">

I aim to own and operate an affordable, sustainable clothing brand that caters to women of all sizes and body types. I have been working towards this goal for the past five years. I own a personal shopping business, and I have noticed how limited the options are for ethically made clothes, especially for women with different body shapes. In the past five years, I have taken the time to research and learn about the logistics of the clothing industry, study the market and begin gathering funds for this project. The next step for me is to gain even more knowledge about what it takes to successfully and ethically run a business while networking with some of the best business minds in the world. Based on my research, the best place for me to do that is at Kellogg business school. ","label":"Sample answer","title":"Sample answer"}]" code="tab3" template="BlogArticle">

This is the power that the main character of the sci-fi show Heroes possesses. This power allows you to learn and replicate the abilities of those in close proximity to you. This means that you would be able to learn a wide array of abilities, including flight, invisibility, and anything else that exists. To succeed, you need to be prepared and have multiple tools at your disposal. This superpower definitely gives you that. ","label":"Sample answer","title":"Sample answer"}]" code="tab4" template="BlogArticle">

Be sure to read some Kellogg MBA essay examples for inspiration! Here are a 10 additional common Kellogg MBA video essay questions that you can use to practice:

  • What piece of technology could you not live without and why?
  • Who do you approach when you have a problem for advice and why?
  • What accomplishment are you really proud of?
  • What's the best piece of advice you have ever received?
  • If you were given a chance to meet anyone, current or historical, who would you meet and why?
  • What was the most interesting class you took at university? 
  • How have you changed in the last five years?
  • What risk have you taken, and what did you learn?
  • What impact do you have on your co-workers?
  • What inspires you?

The  University of Toronto  is not only one of the best  universities of Ontario , but it attracts candidates from all over the world yearly. So it is not surprising that Rotman school of management is an increasingly popular choice for MBA hopefuls. To get into Rotman, you need to ace the MBA video interview/MBA admission essay. 

The university uses the  Kira talent  platform, which uses both video and text. Applicants will answer two different questions on video and one question in writing. For the video portion of this MBA video interview, candidates will hear the question, have 30 seconds to think, and then 90 seconds to answer. The questions used during the interview will vary, but we looked at a few past prompts so that we can share sample answers and questions for you to practice with.

I decided to cut back on my hours at the tutoring center, and I enlisted the help of a different student so that I could delegate some tasks and have more time to study. That experience taught me a lot about time management. ","label":"Sample answer","title":"Sample answer"}]" code="tab5" template="BlogArticle">

I would much rather be good and on time than perfect and late. Nothing is perfect. We can try to get as close to perfect as possible, but there comes the point where chasing perfection becomes a waste of time, and time is far too valuable to be wasted. If something is good and on time, then it will stand out, and you may even have a chance to improve on it and \"perfect\" it while it is already operational. For example, recently, I was assigned to design the logo for a new client, and when the deadline came, I found that the product was not perfect. I wanted to fix it up a little more, but I realized that it would be best to give my clients something good on time and get their feedback so that we can work together to perfect it. ","label":"Sample answer","title":"Sample answer"}]" code="tab6" template="BlogArticle">

Here are a 10 additional MBA video essay questions from Rotman that you can use to practice:

  • Who is your mentor outside your family, and why?
  • Apart from money, what else would keep you in your current organization?
  • What is one good habit, and what is one bad habit of yours?
  • If you had to delete all apps but three from my phone, which ones would I keep and why?
  • If you got a chance, what subject would you teach?
  • Out of the four seasons, which do you like the most and why?
  • What is one good habit and one bad habit that you have?
  • If you had no financial downsides from quitting your job, what job would you prefer to be doing?
  • Which of the following aspects of your life are you most in touch with: emotional, spiritual, or physical?
  • If you could have anyone over for dinner, who would it be?

Yale University  is an Ivy League institution with a worldwide reputation and a highly selective admissions process. The video interview component for Yale School of Management uses a set of randomized, previously recorded questions. This means that applicants will likely not have the same set of questions in one interview cycle. The school's website states that the questions asked are similar to typical interview questions. In other words, while the video essay may not have "trick questions," it will have some tricky ones. One tip we can give you is to  prepare for your MBA interview  early. This will not only improve your chances of doing well during your MBA interview, but it will also help you with your performance on this MBA video essay component. 

Yale video essay comprises three questions. Applicants will have 20 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to answer the first two questions. For the third question, applicants will have 30 seconds of preparation time and 90 seconds to answer. Let's take a look at some of the prompts that have been used for Yale MBA video essays in the past:

I have wanted to pursue a Master's in Business Administration for a few years now, but I needed to accomplish a few things before embarking on this journey. First, I needed to get a few years of practical experience after spending most of my undergraduate years learning business theories. Secondly, I wanted enough savings to cover most of the tuition fees and expenses. I plan on giving my studies my full attention for the next two years, and I find that the best way to do that is to pace yourself and remove as many distractions as possible. Having enough money to ensure that my tuition is paid gives me more choices and allows me to focus on that instead of anything else. ","label":"Sample answer","title":"Sample answer"}]" code="tab7" template="BlogArticle">

As a business owner, I often find myself in a position where I have to make difficult decisions or handle challenging situations. Recently, I had to decide whether it was time to let go of our office building and become a fully remote company or for a hybrid model for my employees. Everyone, from the senior management staff to the part-workers, had a different opinion. In the end, even though I listened to what they had to say, I had to compare what they were saying to what the numbers showed. Our statistics showed that most of the team was actually performing better from home and that we would save considerable money if we kept working online and spent some money on communication networks that would allow us to communicate better as a team. ","label":"Sample answer","title":"Sample answer"}]" code="tab8" template="BlogArticle">

\"Without Arts, an education can not be accomplished.\" I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. People learn in different ways, and many of those ways include various pieces of art. For example, I am a visual learner. So Whenever a presentation, poster, or textbook includes images, I tend to remember it better. Furthermore, because artists and the world of arts, in general, are a big part of our culture, one cannot claim to be educated about the world without at least understanding some of it. ","label":"Sample answer","title":"Sample answer"}]" code="tab9" template="BlogArticle">

Here are a 10 additional Yale SOM MBA video essay questions that you can use to practice:

  • What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
  • Tell us about a creative solution you designed
  • Please respond to the following statement: "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." Do you agree or disagree? why?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the notion that the chief executive's first priority should be a profit for shareholders?
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of?
  • Tell us about a shortcut you and a team could have taken, but decided not to
  • If we asked your colleagues about your weaknesses and strengths, what would they say ?
  • How will you resolve a conflict with your future classmates at the program?
  • Tell us about a difficult decision and how you handled it?
  • "The People who we remember most are the people who break the rules." Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

MBA video essays should not be underestimated. While the questions and format used by the business schools are not designed to trick you, they are definitely intended to challenge you. This means that it gives you a chance to rise to the challenge and the admissions committee a chance to find out which candidates took the time to research and prepare for this application component. If you're reading this blog, then you have already taken a step in the right direction by looking at common video essay prompts and sample answers. To prepare further, we recommend using the questions we listed to practice. Remember that these video essays are timed, so familiarize yourself with the time limits by using a timer while practicing. You should also take the time to set up and test your equipment before your interview, to make sure it is stable and that your background is appropriate. If you truly want to maximize your chances of success, you should consider working with an  MBA essay consultant  or participating in  MBA mock interviews. 

The level of competition will depend on the specific school you're applying to, but MBA programs are generally quite selective.

This is a relatively new application component used by a few business schools. Essentially, they are short videos during which candidates answer essay questions given by the admission committee.

The admission committee typically provides questions or prompts for your video essay. You should verify the admissions information of the school you are applying to, as some schools make the questions to the video essay available in advance.

No, not all of them do. Video essays and Video interviews are still a relatively new practice. They are only used by a few business schools in the world, but the practice is rising in popularity, so it is best to be prepared.

There are a few schools around the globe that require MBA video essays, including Yale, Kellogg, MIT, Rotman, London Business School, INSEAD, etc.

Yes. Most business schools ask for both written essays and video essays. Some schools also include a written essay in their MBA video interview process, like Rotman, for example.

The video essay serves a similar purpose as the  MBA personal statement  or  MBA diversity essay . If you meet the standards set by the admission committee, you may still get called for an in-person or virtual interview.

You can prepare by planning or structuring your answers in advance, timing yourself when you rehearse, participating in mock interviews, and investing in  MBA admissions consulting.

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Berkeley mfe blog, how to prepare for the video essay.

By The Berkeley MFE Program | Jun 22, 2022 | Applying , STEM , Data Science , MFE , quant finance , graduate studies , video essay

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It is important that we are able to hear and see you. Before you start recording, make sure you are in a quiet space with good lighting. In orde r to minimize distractions, please have a neutral background that isn’t busy with objects or bright colors.

You want to make sure you are in a well lit room. If possible, we recommend recording during the day with natural light. If your space has a window directly behind you, ensure that the shades or curtains are closed.

Check the quality of the device you are recording on. Make sure that your face is fully in frame and visible, and that your audio is clear. You will have an opportunity to do a test before you begin the recording, be sure to take advantage of this opportunity. 

You have two attempts to record your video, so make sure beforehand that you are in an area with stable Internet connection. Since you will record the video essay directly in the application portal. We encourage you to check your internet speed and that your video will upload properly at the end of your recording. You can use an online speed test to check your speed.

We all know that the first impression is usually the most important. The video essay may be the only time the admissions committee will see and hear you, so take the time to ensure you are well dressed and groomed.

The essay question(s) will not be available beforehand. While you will not be able to prepare in advance, we recommend preparing yourself mentally: take deep breaths, go out for a walk, hydrate, etc. Do what you need to get in the right mind set. When you are ready and completed the video and audio check, the question(s) will appear on screen when you hit “Ready.” We have designed the question(s) to be answered it on the spot and you will have a few seconds to read the prompt before the recording begins. 

You only have two minutes to answer the prompt. Make sure to pay attention to the time and start wrapping up before time runs out. Once you completed the recording, take a few minutes to review your response. Utilize the second attempt if needed. If you decide to record your response using the second att empt, we strongly advise that you do not read your answer or look it up on the internet. Use your own words, be yourself and talk to us as if you were sitting across from us during an interview.  This is not a pass or fail exercise. We want to hear from you, your opinion, and what you have to say on this subject.   

We hope these tips will help you feel more confident and ready for the video portion. If you have not already done so, we encourage you review the application tips . If you still have questions or need additional guidance, here are ways to connect or learn more: sign-up for an information session or join the weekly Q&A session via zoom on Tuesdays from 3-4 PM PT/Wednesday from 9-10 AM PT.

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How to Prepare for Your Written and Video Essays

Monday, October 18, 2021

Carlson School Graduate Programs

There are many crucial steps in the MBA application process, and one that can sometimes be overlooked is the essay or personal statement portion. While all application materials are taken into consideration, this portion of the process allows you to highlight your authentic self and connect all the components of your application into one cohesive story.

When you apply to a business school, they want to know about you. You’re more than a GMAT score and a resume, and the essay or personal statement portion of your application is the best way for you to showcase who you are and what you would bring to a business school program. Below are some examples of what might be included in this portion of the application as well as some tips to get you started.

Written Essay and Personal Statement

A written essay or personal statement is a chance for the business school to get to know you more closely. Most universities will give you a prompt, some guidelines, and the rest is up to you. Each prompt will likely be different for this written portion, with some business schools asking about your career goals, how you can add to their school’s community, your previous experiences, or more.

For example, the Carlson School’s MBA and Master's programs personal essay statement could ask you to address the following (or something similar):

  • Why are you choosing to pursue a graduate at this time in your career? What are you hoping to accomplish by doing so?
  • What excites you about being part of the Carlson School graduate program? Do you have an enterprise program that you are currently interested in and why?
  • Can you tell us about how you have participated in and/or advocated for building more inclusive communities in your career?  

So what makes for the best-written essays? Here are five tips to get you started.

  • Be authentic. Business schools want to learn about YOU. Schools aren’t looking for just one answer, so make sure your personality shines through in your writing.
  • Talk about real-life examples. Adding specific anecdotes and details can have a tremendous impact.
  • Don’t just repeat your resume. Business schools have already seen your resume and your other materials, so use the essay as a way to expand on why you would be a great fit for the school. You can build on things that are mentioned on your resume, but make sure it’s additive to the rest of your application.
  • If you’re a unique applicant to a business school, play it up. Business schools across the country are looking to diversify their programs, and that includes people from unique backgrounds or who have an unorthodox path to getting an MBA.
  • Sell yourself. Ultimately, the essay portion of your application is your chance to sell yourself to a business school. Offer a convincing argument about why you would be a great fit for a particular school. Be sure to highlight what you will bring to the table and make sure your can-do attitude shows through.

Video Essays

In addition to written essays, some business schools also include a video essay portion of the application process. Think of this as a short elevator pitch where you’re answering a 'getting to know you' question with a member of the admissions team.

For instance, at the Carlson School, you will be asked one impromptu question from a bank of imaginative or behavioral questions selected by the school’s admissions team. You will then be given two minutes to prepare for an answer and then two minutes to record an answer.

Video essays are another great way for you to show a business school your individuality. Here are three tips for this portion of the process:

  • Be yourself. Programs are using this format as a way to get to know you, your personality, and how you would fit at the school. The best video essays reveal the applicant’s personality.
  • Practice, practice, practice. While students applying for the Carlson School only get one attempt at recording themselves, you can practice responding to the impromptu questions offline with a friend or colleague. Make sure you’re answering the questions directly and staying within the timeframe.
  • Don’t study too hard. The video essay questions are assigned at random, so while you should practice cadence and timing, it is not recommended you memorize all of the questions. Remember, you want to share your experiences, not a script!
  • Relax. The video essay is often one of the last pieces of your application. Your GMAT, letters of recommendation, and most of your application is finished. All the hard work is done, so take a deep breath to help you not come across as nervous in your video.
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graduate school video essay

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Dedman Graduate Program Applications: What is the Video Essay?


For a few years now SMU’s graduate programs in Dedman College have been doing something new as part of their application — including a video essay component. While it might sound intimidating, a graduate school video essay is actually a very informal way of getting to introduce yourself to the entire admissions committee for your department.

It's not something to be scared of. Rather, think of it as one of the best tools and opportunities you have to showcase your personality to the school. 

To further de-mystify this element of the application, read on as we share more about the grad school video essay and how to prepare as you put together your application.

Are you just starting to apply to graduate school? Check out our Guide to  Graduate Admissions to get all your questions answered! 

Who should submit a video essay?

First of all, the video essay is mandatory for the following students:

  • All Dedman College Ph.D. applicants that: (1) must submit TOEFL or IELTS scores, and (2) have received a TOEFL speaking score below 23, or an IELTS speaking band below 6.5.
  • All international statistics or biostatistics graduate applicants, in either the Ph.D. or MASDA programs.

For all other Dedman College applicants, the video essay is optional,  but a tool that can definitely work to your advantage. 

What should you expect from the video essay?

To begin, SMU faculty and administrators will ask you one question.The question is randomly generated, and could be about your goals, background information or preparation for your graduate program.  After you see the question, you’ll have 60 – 90 seconds to respond in your own video.

You'll have one chance to re-record your response if you don't like your first try, but you may get a new question. So make sure you are ready to film. But don't worry, you'll have an opportunity to practice and test your equipment before filming the real responses. 

Many applicants can look the same on paper, but your personality can really shine through when you're able to speak directly with the admissions committee via recorded response.

We hope that these video essays for graduate school admission will give you a chance to express yourself and share why you are interested in your field. Best of luck!

P.S. — Need a laugh to ease your nerves before recording? Check out this outtake from when we filmed one of the questions and the wind got in the way. Don’t worry, we know that video recordings don’t always go perfectly!

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Looking for more information about how to apply? Check out the Guide to International Admissions at Southern Methodist University for more information!  

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  • Duke University
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Video Introduction and Video Interview

Video introduction.

Your Duke Engineering application includes a required video introduction in which you'll answer one question. The question prompt will be shown to you, and you will have at least 60 seconds of preparation time.

Note: If you have mutliple applications in our system, you may see mutiple questions. For the MEng application, use the question labeled Pratt. For an MS or PhD application, use the question labeled Engineering.

You do not have to use the entire time if you do not need that much.

You may start over once, but the question will change.

Please relax and know this is a nerve-wracking experience for everyone! It is only one part of your overall application and we are simply using it to get to know you better.

We may invite some candidates to interview before an admission decision can be posted.  Please note:

  • Interviews are offered by invitation only and are based on a thorough evaluation of your complete application.
  • You may not request an interview. Instead, selected applicants will be invited to interview and given instructions on moving forward in the interview process.
  • Interviews are conducted by staff members and are generally completed in the weeks prior to our decision notification date. See below for Interview Tips.
  • An interview does not guarantee admission.

While interviews allow us to learn more about you, they also give you the opportunity to learn more about Duke and see if this program is right for you. There will be time for your questions during the interview – use it!

Interview Tips

  • Duke uses Slate Scheduler and Zoom to conduct video interviews.
  • We suggest that you log in to the interview  via computer. Mobile devices (e.g. phones) may not work as well.
  • Video requires reliable internet access . Free and private wireless signals should not be used. An Ethernet cable can provide a clear connection. 
  • We encourage you to use a headset with a microphone built in during the video interview. A headset will prevent background noise from overpowering your voice. You may find it helpful to mute yourself when you're not talking. 
  • Check sound settings so that you’re ready when the interview starts. If you are using headphones with a microphone, make sure those components are selected over your computer’s default audio.
  • Don’t let your computer die mid-question.  Charge your machine fully or plug it in during the interview.
  • The access link for your interview can be found in your email.

Joining the Interview

You'll receive a link in your interview confirmation email. That link will connect you to the Zoom meeting. You may be placed in a waiting room, but you will be admitted to the session when the interview starts.

When you join the meeting successfully, be sure to Join With Computer Audio so that you can hear the interviewer and the interviewer can hear you.

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The best video essays of 2020

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For the last few years, video essays have gained more and more prominence on YouTube . With more and more creators choosing a video essay — or video essay-inspired — format, there are video essays about almost any topic you want to learn more about.

To discuss what makes a video essay one of the best of the year, let’s first break down what a video essay was in the year 2020 . There’s more gray area between formats than it initially may seem, especially given how many videos that lack an essay structure take on an essay aesthetic. We used the following criteria for this list:

  • The video must be scripted. Momentary improvised asides are fine, especially if they come in the form of voice over added in editing, but the video must otherwise follow a written script.
  • The video must have a thesis, and that thesis must be more than “this is good” or “this is bad.” The thesis should concern the impact of the subject matter, not just its content. This means no straight reviews (like La’Ron Readus’s review of Candyman ), no commentary/discussion videos (like Sherliza Moé’s series on cultural appropriation in the Star Wars prequels and Avatar: The Last Airbender ), no lore recaps (like My Name Is Byf’s meticulous archival works of the Destiny 2 lore), and no straight-up histories (like Sarah Z’s retelling of the infamous DashCon).
  • The video also shouldn’t be a documentary (like NoClip’s documentary about the making of Pyre ). The focus should be a subject from an analytical standpoint, not an interview standpoint.
  • But this doesn’t mean the video should necessarily aim for pure objectivity; personal video essays are, in fact, a thing.

This isn’t to say the excluded videos aren’t great. On the contrary: the ones mentioned above absolutely rule. Defining the parameters of a video essay, though, puts the videos discussed here on an equal playing field. When you watch, you know you’ll come away understanding the subject matter, and likely how art and society impact each other, a little better. Almost all of these videos contain spoilers, so watch at your own risk — but most can be enjoyed regardless of your familiarity with the subject matter, too.

1. “In Search of Flat Earth,” Dan Olson (Folding Ideas)

Dan Olson of Folding Ideas has been a video essayist for years, helping solidify the medium on YouTube. “In Search of Flat Earth,” though, is his masterpiece to date. The video is shot beautifully, with loving and reverent shots of nature that not only contribute to the video’s content and concepts, but also capture a sense of still beauty. If the video seeks to claim that flat earthers feel powerlessness in the face of the government and science, the way this video is shot makes the claim that maybe our powerlessness can be good, actually. But “In Search of Flat Earth” isn’t just a response to flat earthers; it’s also a response to Olson’s contemporaries who have made videos trying to convince flat earthers that their ideas are wrong. “In Search of Flat Earth” argues that flat earthers, and people with similar mindsets, can’t be logicked out of their mindsets — which turns into a surprise, mind-blowing third-act twist.

2. “The Satirical Resurgence of Reefer Madness,” Yhara Zayd

Yhara Zayd is somewhat of a newcomer to video essays, posting her first, “The Remake That Couldn’t: Skins U.S. ” in June 2019. Her catalogue of work has boomed in 2020, making selecting a video to feature difficult; her work is consistently standout, mixing analysis with dry comedy and heavy aesthetics. In a landmark year for marijuana legalization, “The Satirical Resurgence of Reefer Madness ” feels especially timely and important, but it’s also just a delight to watch. The video is not just a look into a criminally underrated musical starring Kristen Bell, Alan Cummings, and Ana Gasteyer. It’s a look into the real 1936 propaganda film of the same name, how the laws around marijuana criminalization were formed, and the deeply racist roots of anti-marijuana campaigns. Zayd’s soft but direct voice and distinctly internet-culture-informed humor make the video consistently engaging and fun while never shying away from what makes Reefer Madness so worthy of a campy parody musical.

3. “The Strange Reality of Roller Coaster Tycoon,” Jacob Geller

Roller Coaster Tycoon is a nostalgic classic — but what can it teach us about death? A weird amount, as Geller explains in “The Strange Reality of Roller Coaster Tycoon .” This video opens with the sentence, “There is at least one roller coaster designed specifically to kill you.” The “Euthanasia Coaster,” Geller explains, was never made, but would effectively kill a rider in just about a minute. As he breaks down the rituals around death, he winds his way around curves and loops, masterfully bringing the audience back to the game at the core of the video: Roller Coaster Tycoon . In just over 18 minutes, Geller’s analysis breaks down how the game allows for meaningful struggle in its mechanics — which the video essayist notes are similar in their coding to a roller coaster — while allowing for monstrosities, lethal roller coasters that bring your virtual park-goers to their grave. A roller coaster is meant to scare us, meant to spike adrenaline, meant to put the fear of death right in us, but fun! Geller’s discussion of Roller Coaster Tycoon shows just how much coasters, real or virtual, say about how we deal with death.

Disclosure: Jacob Geller has written for Polygon.

4. “ CATS ! And the Weird Mind of TS Eliot,” Maggie Mae Fish

Cats may have come out in 2019, but Maggie Mae Fish’s video essay on it came out in March 2020, so early into what the rest of the year would become. It was a small, but wonderfully unhinged blessing for video essay lovers who needed something bonkers to keep us afloat during quarantine. Fish’s performance background is in comedy and improv, notably working with Cracked before starting on her own video essays. Her writing and performance have a level of effervescent delight and bewilderment at most of the trash media she discusses, coming through most in her discussion of Cats .

But while a video on why Cats was bad could have been engaging and funny, Fish takes a step deeper, looking into the musical’s source material: the poetry of T.S. Eliot, a homophobic, antisemitic weirdo. Fish doesn’t just express Eliot’s politics, but explains why Cats pulls from fascist ideologies in its depiction of a tradition-heavy death cult. (Just, you know, with cats.) From there, Fish’s analysis goes even deeper. This video isn’t about not liking problematic media, or even “bad” media. It’s a video about deeply loving something that winds up parodying and subverting its roots.

5. “The Anatomy of Stan Culture,” Elexus Jionde (Intelexual Media)

Historian Elexius Jionde of Intelexual Media often takes a cultural anthropology lens in her videos, discussing topics like life in the American 1970s and the history of Black homelessness . In “The Anatomy of Stan Culture,” Jionde breaks down a current social phenomenon through a historical lens, asking why we stan and how we got here. Jionde dissects “celebrity worship disorder” and how fans obsess over their favorite celebrities, while not letting people who think they’re too good for the goss off the hook either. Using examples ranging from Bhad Babie to Selena Quintanilla to Victorian actors, Jionde shows how current celebrity culture is rooted in everything from politics to evolutionary biology. This 18-minute video is a crash course in how the celebrity industry runs, and it’s also an analysis of how we interact with celebrity right now. How do stans go from liking Ariana Grande’s music to replicating Ariana Grande’s voice to sending death threats to people who besmirch Ariana Grande’s name? Jionde doesn’t necessarily judge stans; instead, she shows how celebrity culture affects the rest of culture.

6. “On Writing: Mental Illness in Video Games,” Tim Hickson (Hello Future Me)

Before talking about what makes this video essay great, a warning: this video discusses struggles with mental health, including several aspects of suicide. It’s the heaviest video essay on this list, so make sure you know what you’re getting into before you watch.

Tim Hickson of the channel Hello Future Me opens the video by disclosing his experience working for a youth mental health and suicide intervention hotline. From there, he first discusses the ways in which video games, immersive narratives where players have control and make choices, can be cathartic for people with mental illnesses and informative for people who don’t. Citing games from World of Warcraft to Celeste to Prey to Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice , Hickson shows the different ways games dive into depression, social anxiety, and schizophrenia. A segment focused on Life is Strange ’s Kate Marsh dissects how a story can be cathartic for one person, but harmful for another. It’s a deeply empathetic video essay with rich research. It’s sobering, emotional, and moving.

7. “Why Anime is for Black People - Hip Hop x Anime,” Yedoye Travis (Beyond the Bot)

Beyond the Bot is a new New York-based collective making video essays about how anime impacts culture, and like with Yhara Zaid’s work, it was difficult to choose a favorite. “Why Anime is for Black People” is a standout for just how deep the analysis goes into the crossover between Black and East Asian culture. Going back to ’70s Blaxploitation and kung fu films, host and writer Yedoye Travis chronicles how East Asian media permeated Black culture, eventually leading to the Wu-Tang Clan sourcing their samples from films like The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and Shaolin and Wu Tang . Legendary producer J Dilla would later go on to sample East Asian music as well. And, of course, Travis spends a good deal talking about the important of the Toonami block of Adult Swim, and the importance of the network playing music from bands like Gorillaz and their lo-fi hip-hop bed music for bumps. Travis explains how the shows themselves — namely Cowboy Bebop , Samurai Champloo , and, of course, The Boondocks — made an impact on Black youth who grew up alongside the programming. The historical lens of the cross-culture influences allows this analysis to go deeper than similar video essays, but the tone stays casual, giving plenty of asides and jokes for people familiar with the content.

8. “What Is *Good* Queer Representation in 2020?,” Princess Weekes (MelinaPendulum)

2020 has been a landmark year for queer representation in the media, and Princess Weekes’ “What Is *Good* Queer Representation in 2020?” seeks to pick apart what has been “good,” what has been “bad,” and most often, what has just been complicated. Like any discussion of representation, Weekes talks about how important it is for queer people to see different versions of queer people in a variety of media, and the tendency for queer people to overlook works by queer creators, or judge them more harshly than works by creators who aren’t queer. She breaks down queer assimilation and respectability politics, taking a stance that’s emotional and personal, while still being relatable and pervasive. This video essay is a great start for how we can start discussing ways to complicate representation, to move away from the sanitization of queer narratives, and understand that what makes one person feel seen might do the opposite for someone else.

9. “Fallout: New Vegas Is Genius, And Here’s Why,” Harry Brewis (hbomberguy)

Harry Brewis’ trend of surprisingly long videos with sarcastically simplistic titles continues with his hour-and-a-half testament to what makes a good narrative-heavy RPG, using Fallout: New Vegas as an example of the best of the best. Don’t let the title trick you into thinking the video is a review. It’s much closer to a masterclass on writing for games, and implementing your story and worldbuilding into every single aspect of that game. From the world to the companions to the main plot to the side quests to the combat to the continuity of consequences, Brewis lays out how Fallout: New Vegas gives its players genuine choices, and then makes those choices genuinely significant in the game. He argues the game actually deals in “gray morality” instead of just saying it does while pushing players to be Good or Evil. The choices in the game often leave the player ambivalent, while placing them in a wild world that players can choose to make even wilder. Brewis uses the video to talk about what makes Fallout: New Vegas work, and why so many games pale in comparison. It isn’t just that Fallout: New Vegas is good —it’s that it’s a meticulous game made by people who cared about every single detail they developed.

10. “Whisper of the Heart: How Does It Feel to Be an Artist,” Accented Cinema

Whisper of the Heart is one of the quieter Studio Ghibli films, and likewise, this video essay by Accented Cinema is quiet, lovely, and tender. Accented Cinema is a video essay channel that focuses on foreign (at least, foreign to the United States) media and its impact. “ Whisper of the Heart : How Does It Feel to Be an Artist” is the most personal essay on this list, a necessity for an analysis of the very personal feeling of creating art. In the video, the host discusses how most artists don’t have the frenzied drive media often depicts. Instead, they have the slow, sometimes frustrating, sometimes euphoric drive of anyone who does something because it’s who they are. This video also comes with a warning that it discusses a tragic death in the studio — but the way it brings the discussion of that death back to the essay’s thesis is spectacular.


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Step-by-Step Guide: Mastering the Video Essay for College Applications

Stefani H.

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Have you made up your mind about the college you want to attend yet? If so, the next step is to start the application process. In this stage, you may be required to record an introductory video to tell the admissions committee a little about yourself.

Most colleges are now veering from traditional written essays to video essays as part of the application process. Therefore, you need to master the art of writing an effective video essay that you’ll use to record your college application video.

In this blog post, we’ll show you how to write a winning video essay for college applications to take you a step closer to admission.

What is a video essay?

A video essay is a 2-5 minute video recording that allows students to showcase their personality and convince the admission committee to accept them into the college. It’s an innovative way for prospective students to show their creativity and communication skills beyond the traditional written application.

Since they are visual, video essays allow candidates to express themselves and make a lasting impression. They can cover a wide range of topics, such as the student’s background, values, interests, and experiences.

Compelling video essays allow college applicants to differentiate themselves from the competition and increase their chances of securing a place at their dream institution.

What makes a good video essay?

A good video essay should reflect your authentic voice, personal experiences, and future aspirations. It should showcase your ability to express your ideas clearly while also providing a glimpse into your character and personality. Creativity, storytelling, and attention to detail are all essential components, as they paint a vivid picture of who you are.

How long should my video essay be?

The ideal length of a video essay depends on the specific requirements of the college. Most colleges will require you to keep it 2-3 minutes long. However, it’s important to pay close attention to the guidelines of the college you’re applying to. And remember, quality is key over quantity.

9-step guide to writing a video essay for college applications

A video essay is your chance to make a lasting impression as to why you are a good fit for the college. So, it’s important to know how to craft the perfect one.

What should be included in a college application video?

A college application essay and personal statement should focus on your background, experiences, and passions. Consider your personal story and how it sets you apart. Also, identify what aspects about you would contribute to the college's community and your long-term goals after finishing your studies at the college.

Here’s how you can write a video essay in nine steps, along with useful examples.

Step #1 - Select a suitable topic

Once you’ve understood the instructions, choose a specific topic you’ll be addressing in the video. Though some colleges will give you a topic to talk about, most of them will give you the freedom to select your essay topic of interest.

Think about what will best represent who you are as an individual and what makes you want to attend this particular college.

Your topic should be interesting, original, and unique. After all, admissions officers will see hundreds of other video applications, so yours needs to stand out!

Step #2 - Outline your talking points

Now that you know what topic(s) you’ll address in your video essay, create an outline of your talking points. This is an organized list of the main points you’ll cover in your video essay.

Your video essay should be well-organized and follow a clear and logical structure.

This will help you create a strong narrative that carries the viewer from beginning to end.

Remember to include any anecdotes or story highlights that may help you illustrate a point. An effective outline will help keep your thoughts organized when writing your video essay.

Step #3 - Open with a strong hook

The fun part is here – it's time to write down your video essay for college application. This is where all those talking points you wrote in the outline come into play.

The opening moments of your video essay can make or break your impression. To engage your audience from the start, make sure you open with a captivating hook that will catch the viewer's curiosity.

This could be a compelling question, an interesting anecdote, or a short personal story. Remember, you only have a few seconds to grab the attention of the busy admission committee - so make them count!

Example of an opening hook:

“One unforgettable winter in my seventh grade, my mother's battle with alcoholism reached a shocking peak when she attempted to take her life. As I visited her in the psychiatric ward, I couldn't help but battle with emotions and questions about her heart-wrenching decision. The twists and turns of these events profoundly influenced both my personal and professional growth. It ultimately led me to pursue a career in psychology.”

Step #4 - Introduce yourself

Once you've hooked your viewers, give a brief and genuine introduction of who you are. Mention your name, where you come from, your educational background, and your interests. 

This is your chance to establish a memorable connection with the viewers, so let your authentic self shine.

Step #5 - Identify the course you’d like to study

Next, explain the major or program you want to pursue at college and elaborate on why it appeals to you. Also, identify what motivated you to pursue that particular course. This shows the college that you have a clear educational vision and are passionate about your chosen field.

Step #6 - Explain your reasons for joining college

Now that the committee knows about you and your goals tell them why their institution is the best fit for you. Highlight specific features that attracted you to their program, whether it’s the extracurricular opportunities, prestigious faculty members, or campus culture.

You could also mention alumni success stories or the college's unique facilities that make you want to study there.

“My desire to join the University of Manchester started when I participated in their graduate school visitation program right after high school. During the program, I learned more about the Department of Psychology and met the wonderful lecturers. I also interacted with some alumni who applauded my career choice. The experience made me see how my interests aligned with those of this particular school.”

Step #7 - Explain the skills and values you bring

Next, sell yourself by emphasizing your unique qualities and values that would positively impact the college community. For instance, you can talk about your passion for learning, your strong work ethic, your ability to collaborate with others, or your dedication to making a difference in the college.

You can also mention your skills in extracurricular activities like sports or arts that you’ll use to impact the college culture.

“Throughout high school, I’ve always been a highly disciplined student with the desire to excel in everything I do. I also have a collaborative spirit and a strong will to help my fellow students succeed. My effective communication and interpersonal skills will help me to collaborate with fellow students to make the college highly accommodative for all students.”

Step #8 - Explain what you want to achieve in the end

Lastly, go beyond the degree and paint a picture of your long-term goals. Explain what you want to achieve after college and the impact you hope to make on the world.

Also, let the admission committee understand how your education will empower your personal and professional growth and how your experiences at college will propel you toward those dreams.

“At the end of my learning period at the college, I hope to participate in community-based programs to provide viable solutions for issues affecting mental health. Will also use my knowledge and skills to build a mental health facility to encourage mental wellness and inspire young professionals who would like to take the same career path.”

Step #9 - Review and polish

Once you’ve finished writing the video essay, it's important to spend time reviewing and editing your work. Correct poor sentence structures and double-check to ensure you’ve included all the essential information according to the essay prompt.

You can also share it with a trusted friend or family member to get valuable feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Key takeaway

Unlike a written essay, a video essay provides an opportunity to show your personality and let the admissions committee know who you are. It’s an opportunity to use your individual story to pique their interests.

Writing a winning video essay for a college application requires confidence and enthusiasm. With some preparation and creativity, you can craft an interesting essay that sets you apart from other applicants for college acceptance.

Half your work is done when you have a solid video essay script. Writers Per Hour’s team of expert writers can help you write a 100% original college application video essay script that presents your candidature, showcases your personality, and demonstrates your enthusiasm to join the university.

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Articles & Advice > Graduate School > Articles

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3 Great Grad School Application Essay Examples

The grad school personal statement is an important part of your application. Here are a few good graduate admission essay examples to inspire you.

by CollegeXpress

Last Updated: Jan 3, 2024

Originally Posted: Jun 15, 2017

Graduate school application essays, personal statements, and letters of intent can be a major hurdle to overcome in the application process. Getting just the right words on paper to convey why you want to go to grad school and the impact you intend to have using your degree is a lot to ask. To help you get some inspiration and tell your story the right way, check out these three essay examples. Every essay here comes from a successful grad school application, and after reading the essay we break down just what makes it good. And you’re going to love their stories.

Daniel Masciello, Juris Doctor

University of Connecticut Class of 2015

T ry. To get. Some. Slee—it’s no use.

It’s 3:00 am, 90 minutes before our day at work in the landfills of rural Thailand is set to begin, and the 60-watt bulb is still shining bright overhead. It is radiant.

Directly on my left is one grown man’s bare armpit; to my right is more of the same. I keep my nose pointed at the ceiling. I can’t lift my arms because I am too big, a Caucasian beetle trying to fit into this Thai ant colony.

I’ve been lying still for the better part of six hours now, unable to determine exactly why my host family insists on leaving the brightest light in the house on all night (to this day, still a mystery). It is not for a child’s sake; I, at 22 years old, am the youngest in the home. I’m also the only American. Five grown men, lined up snugly on a queen-sized mattress, are soundly sleeping while I contemplate excuses for not working in the landfill that day.

Twelve hours later, over sticky rice and “fresh” vegetables (from the landfill), I try to call out some of my bunkmates for being afraid of the dark. Nobody laughs at my jokes, but they don’t stop smiling either. Perhaps they don’t understand my infantile Thai. From what I can understand of them, they enjoy talking about how grumpy I’ve been all day. No sleep for some 60-odd hours and putting in two grueling days in the landfill, filtering through mountains of trash from the nearby city of Khon Kaen, looking for yogurt containers and car batteries in the hot Thai sun—these things can change a man’s general disposition.

But I did wake up and go to work with my host family. No, I was not prepared physically or mentally, nor was I in the best of moods that day. But the smiling way of the Thai people is infectious, and it wasn’t long before I was smiling too that night, stomach full and ready for more...

That was back in the fall of 2008. The study abroad program I was participating in revolved around studying specific issues (damning rivers, mining minerals, razing slums, etc.), staying with a village that was negatively affected by an issue, and then working to help solve the problem. It was not uncommon to have sessions lasting eight or nine hours just to prepare for a town meeting the next day. Free time after exchanges and interviews would be spent working in the fields with the villagers or perhaps working on our program’s publications. It was not your typical study abroad experience. I have yet to learn of another like it.

It was also challenging at times. Thailand changed my view on a lot of things for the better, including what it means to truly work hard. As a waiter back home, it was a routine practice to work 40 hours a week in addition to going to class and studying. Still, sometimes I wonder if I used jobs outside of class as a crutch. I always had the excuse: I have to work to support myself. But so do a lot of people. And for some of those people, like many of the villagers in Thailand, working extra hours is not temporary. It's a way of life.

At the time I'm not sure I truly appreciated the privilege I had of going to college, as my undergraduate GPA might indicate. Part of that disappointing number is that I feel as if I was afraid of putting 100% of my effort into school. If I was to put all my effort in and still get mediocre grades, I would have considered myself a failure. Apparently I couldn’t or refused to handle that. How cowardly, not to mention foolish!

But while I was in Thailand, I developed a confidence in myself that I simply hadn’t been able to locate before. On multiple occasions I tasted the failure that comes with studying complex issues in a foreign land. Each time it tasted horrible. But I worked on these failures.

For example, I nagged my homestay families to help me with my Thai and forced myself to request constructive criticism in a group setting. Through these trials I discovered the sweetest feeling of them all: perseverance. That meal next to the landfill, described above, was one of the most deliciously memorable meals of my life for that same reason. I was exhausted and maybe a little bit grumpy, but I learned to work through it—and smile too.

I am well aware that law school will probably force me to even further revise my definition of hard work and present challenges and setbacks the likes of which I may not have yet experienced. But I would like to face these challenges, and most importantly overcome them, at your school. I hope my letters of recommendation and LSAT score give the indication that I am capable of doing so. This essay, lastly, is a chance for me to convince you that I can and will. I look forward to hearing from you.

Why this essay is great

Try to stop reading this personal statement, we dare you. The introduction grabs you and doesn’t let go. But besides spinning a great yarn that also says a lot about Daniel’s values, this application essay has an important function: it thoughtfully and maturely addresses any concerns the graduate admission committee might have regarding Daniel’s undergraduate academic performance. Showing rather than telling, he depicts a person who is prepared to do the work to overcome obstacles and learn from mistakes. And since he was admitted to the grad program, clearly it worked.

Related:  How to Know If Law School Is Right for You

Bridget Sullivan, Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration

Boston College Class of 2017                                                                                                    

I did not know higher education existed as a field until I came to college. Despite this, it has surprisingly been the field that has had the largest impact on my college experience. It has given me direction going forward.

College has been my most important experience so far, in that it has allowed me to better understand how I interact with my environment and how others experience the world around them. Without the Student Affairs professionals I have interacted with over the past four years, I would not be where I am today. I hope that in my future as a Student Affairs professional I can give students the great experience I have been privileged to receive. I will take the lessons I have learned and those that I will learn in the future to improve the college experience for many future generations going forward. 

I have enjoyed being a Resident Advisor, a Parent Orientation Leader, and an Assistant Resident Director while attending the University of Massachusetts Lowell for the past four years. All of these jobs fall under the Office of Residence Life. These opportunities have been cornerstones of my college education. They have taught me the long-term and transferrable skills of organization, conflict management, and supervision.

I have most enjoyed being an Assistant Resident Director, as I get to work with the Resident Advisors and Resident Director in a more administrative capacity. The ARD works closely with the RD to get the work done and hold RAs accountable. I think my favorite part of being an ARD this year has been working with the RAs to make sure they have the best experience they can, while at the same time making sure they complete their work well and on time. I enjoy helping RAs and other students reach their full potential, and I feel that it is a learning process for me too. The ARD position has shown me how much I value helping others on the path I have set for myself through my experiences with the RAs I supervise.

Because of the ARD role I have been afforded, I have had the opportunity to see how this potential career may play out. I feel confident about my ability to transition to the professional side of the field because the ARD position has already forced me to take on many of these steps. I tested the waters of the potential career in my RA role last year; this year as an ARD has shown me that I know I can succeed. 

I am passionate about student affairs and higher education because it is an opportunity to work with college students and help them grow and develop. I truly believe that there isn’t a more rewarding career than one that allows you to help others. This field allows me to assist others every day at a time in their lives when many students need it most. It was my developmental path, and I want to give that support to others.

So far my academics and daily practice have not been linked nor intentional. I am excited to be able to make this so by starting a graduate program in higher education. Understanding my former responsibilities in terms of theory and learning how to turn new theories into practice is a process I cannot wait to begin. 

I know the Lynch School of Education can assist me in achieving this goal through their program in Higher Education Administration. The opportunity to study in the Boston area will give me a multitude of professional development opportunities that would be hard to find anywhere else. If I am admitted, I will work hard to maximize my time at the Lynch School and become a young professional who can innovate and improve upon current practices in the field.

This personal statement takes you on a journey, as Bridget discovers her calling as an undergrad, gets all the hands-on experience in it she can, and figures out the perfect way to make it her career: grad school. And not just any grad school—Boston College in particular! There’s no doubt in your mind that she’s going to take advantage of everything BC’s master’s program has to offer, and she has the real-world experience to back her claims up.

Related:  Great Alternative Jobs for Education Majors Who Don't Want to Teach

Haviland Johannesson-Forgit,  Master of Arts in Arts Administration

Vermont State University , formerly Castleton University Class of 2018

While contemplating how I should approach my personal and professional goals and how earning an advanced degree will support them, I came upon my application essay for Goddard College that I wrote close to three years ago:

“Oftentimes, children who lack positive, authoritative figures and emotional support end up making unwise choices that stay with them and induce prejudice and judgment from other people who may be ignorant to what caused these children to make the choices in the first place. This cultural stigmatism that exists in our society often leads to these children being segmented into a disenfranchised group as adults. The misunderstanding and neglect that occurs in communities towards socially disenfranchised children goes against everything that I was raised to take in regard when attempting to understand a person.

I envision my studies reaching children and young adults in many different communities. It is my goal to immerse myself in rural, inner-city, and lower-income communities and meet these children before or in the midst of their time when the decisions they make can influence where their life may lead. I believe that the teachings of dance as a holistic lifestyle will provide outlets of knowledge and self-expression for these children and young adults that will lead them in positive directions.”

In this essay we were expected to write about our intentions and ambitions for our studies; to address the passions that acted as the drive for our work during our attendance at the college as well as after graduation. In returning to this essay, I was pleased to discover that my ambition and dedication to using the performing arts as a source of structure and reliability for youth in this country has not changed. When applying to Goddard College for my undergraduate degree I knew that I would want to continue on to pursue my graduate degree afterwards to enhance myself as a qualified candidate working in my field. Earning my advanced degree will enable me to go forth in the world as a confident and learned individual prepared to create the positive opportunities I envisioned years ago.

While earning my advanced degree, I intend to learn the details and structure that is needed to successfully run arts organizations. The closeness that Castleton University has with the Association for Arts Administration in developing its program for the MA in Arts Administration encourages me; it assures me that the quality and rigor of the program at Castleton is the right fit for my personal and professional aspirations. The efficacy of the program combined with the professional portfolio of projects demonstrating a mastery of skills in a range of areas in the arts and the six-credit culminating internship is exactly what I am looking for in an advanced degree program.

My background in the performing arts is broad. Not only have I have spent many years performing in productions of theater and dance, but I have also devoted my time and learning to other aspects of performance arts, whether it be technical, political, or social. My time attending Goddard College has proven to be extremely educational in training me in areas of social justice and cultural realizations of privilege, class, and human rights. With an accomplished and culturally diverse faculty and staff, the College requires its students to incorporate this training into their degrees, which makes for globally conscious citizens.

What I stand to bring to Castleton University’s campus is a vibrant love for the performing arts accompanied by acute social awareness training. My dedication to improving myself as an individual in my career is resolute; earning my advanced degree is vital to my continuing as a professional in a field so important to the foundation of our culture. I look forward to the opportunity of earning my Master of Arts in Arts Administration at Castleton University. 

Haviland draws a remarkable line from her undergraduate studies and goals to the present day . She’s been on a clear path for a long time, and grad school has always been part of the plan and the logical next step for her career. Her unwavering commitment to arts education and dance as a means for furthering social justice will serve her well professionally—and it probably impressed the graduate admission folks too. Haviland also references specific features of Castleton University’s graduate program, showing she’s genuinely interested in the school and its unique strengths.

Related:  Careers for People Who Want to Use Their Creativity

We hope these essay examples helped you get a better idea of where to take your grad school personal statements. The most important part of writing your essay is ensuring every word you put on the page is authentically you and true to your goals. You can write a great essay and get into a good grad school; just give yourself the time and flexibility by starting early and focusing on your story. Good luck!

Need help getting the ball rolling on your graduate essays? Check out these  Good Strategies for Writing Grad School Personal Essays from the experts at GradSchools.com.

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Brandeis combines the resources of a world-class research university with the personal attention of a liberal arts setting. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences offers 17 doctoral programs and more than 40 master's and postbaccalaureate programs.

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Anthropology department members publish essay on community-engaged phds.

February 16, 2024

Abigail Arnold | Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Jonathan Anjaria, Associate Professor of Anthropology and GSAS’s Faculty Director of Professional Development , and Moriah King, PhD student in Anthropology, published the essay “Enabling Community-Engaged and Public-Facing PhDs'' in the American Council of Learned Societies report Preparing Publicly Engaged Scholars , which came out on February 1, 2024. In their essay, Anjaria (who is King’s advisor) and King shared their perspectives on the ongoing conversation about how doctoral students can conduct community-engaged projects while enmeshed in an academic world that is not always set up for them.

King discussed her experience as a PhD student who came from a role in government at the Corporation of National and Community Service. Having engaged in community-led research there, she brought that experience to her doctoral studies and is now working with a community in her dissertation project, which centers the experiences of a group of mainly Black women farmers in Georgia. Anjaria wrote of his own experience working with Cambridge Community Development as the recipient of a Mellon/ACLS Scholars and Society fellowship, aimed at using applied research experience to rethink doctoral education. Both shared advice for doctoral students and academic departments and agreed on the need for space for a wider range of dissertation projects as PhD students look into a variety of post-graduate careers. As they wrote, “Jonathan’s message to faculty is that our suggestions are meant to strengthen scholarship and enable people to reconnect with why they were attracted to the PhD in the first place, whereas Moriah’s message to students is to encourage them to honor the ways their doctoral work is shaped by the relations, curiosities, mentors, and texts that travel with them before, in, and beyond graduate school.”

Anjaria and King also spoke at the ACLS seminar Vocation and Location: Pursuing Grounded Knowledge Within and Beyond the Academy on February 6. In conversation with Desiree Barron-Callaci, senior program officer at the ACLS; Ashley Cheyemi McNeill, director of education and research at film production company Full Spectrum Features; and John Paul Christy, senior director at the ACLS, they discussed educational and career journeys for PhD students working on community-engaged projects and how PhD programs can support them.

For more details, take a look at Anjaria and King’s article in the full ACLS report !

What is Presidents Day and how is it celebrated? What to know about the federal holiday

Many will have a day off on monday in honor of presidents day. consumers may take advantage of retail sales that proliferate on the federal holiday, but here's what to know about the history of it..

graduate school video essay

Presidents Day is fast approaching, which may signal to many a relaxing three-day weekend and plenty of holiday sales and bargains .

But next to Independence Day, there may not exist another American holiday that is quite so patriotic.

While Presidents Day has come to be a commemoration of all the nation's 46 chief executives, both past and present, it wasn't always so broad . When it first came into existence – long before it was even federally recognized – the holiday was meant to celebrate just one man: George Washington.

How has the day grown from a simple celebration of the birthday of the first president of the United States? And why are we seeing all these ads for car and furniture sales on TV?

Here's what to know about Presidents Day and how it came to be:

When is Presidents Day 2024?

This year, Presidents Day is on Monday, Feb. 19.

The holiday is celebrated on the third Monday of every February because of a bill signed into law in 1968 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Taking effect three years later, the Uniform Holiday Bill mandated that three holidays – Memorial Day, Presidents Day and Veterans Day – occur on Mondays to prevent midweek shutdowns and add long weekends to the federal calendar, according to Britannica .

Other holidays, including Labor Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day , were also established to be celebrated on Mondays when they were first observed.

However, Veterans Day was returned to Nov. 11 in 1978 and continues to be commemorated on that day.

What does Presidents Day commemorate?

Presidents Day was initially established in 1879 to celebrate the birthday of the nation's first president, George Washington. In fact, the holiday was simply called Washington's Birthday, which is still how the federal government refers to it, the Department of State explains .

Following the death of the venerated American Revolution leader in 1799, Feb. 22, widely believed to be Washington's date of birth , became a perennial day of remembrance, according to History.com .

The day remained an unofficial observance for much of the 1800s until Sen. Stephen Wallace Dorsey of Arkansas proposed that it become a federal holiday. In 1879, President Rutherford B. Hayes signed it into law, according to History.com.

While initially being recognized only in Washington D.C., Washington's Birthday became a nationwide holiday in 1885. The first to celebrate the life of an individual American, Washington's Birthday was at the time one of only five federally-recognized holidays – the others being Christmas, New Year's, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July.

However, most Americans today likely don't view the federal holiday as a commemoration of just one specific president. Presidents Day has since come to represent a day to recognize and celebrate all of the United States' commanders-in-chief, according to the U.S. Department of State .

When the Uniform Holiday Bill took effect in 1971, a provision was included to combine the celebration of Washington’s birthday with Abraham Lincoln's on Feb. 12, according to History.com. Because the new annual date always fell between Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays, Americans believed the day was intended to honor both presidents.

Interestingly, advertisers may have played a part in the shift to "Presidents Day."

Many businesses jumped at the opportunity to use the three-day weekend as a means to draw customers with Presidents Day sales and bargain at stores across the country, according to History.com.

How is the holiday celebrated?

Because Presidents Day is a federal holiday , most federal workers will have the day off .

Part of the reason Johnson made the day a uniform holiday was so Americans had a long weekend "to travel farther and see more of this beautiful land of ours," he wrote. As such, places like the Washington Monument in D.C. and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota – which bears the likenesses of Presidents Washington, Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt – are bound to attract plenty of tourists.

Similar to Independence Day, the holiday is also viewed as a patriotic celebration . As opposed to July, February might not be the best time for backyard barbecues and fireworks, but reenactments, parades and other ceremonies are sure to take place in cities across the U.S.

Presidential places abound across the U.S.

Opinions on current and recent presidents may leave Americans divided, but we apparently love our leaders of old enough to name a lot of places after them.

In 2023, the U.S. Census Bureau pulled information from its databases showcasing presidential geographic facts about the nation's cities and states.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the census data shows that as of 2020 , the U.S. is home to plenty of cities, counties and towns bearing presidential names. Specifically:

  • 94 places are named "Washington."
  • 72 places are named "Lincoln."
  • 67 places are named for Andrew Jackson, a controversial figure who owned slaves and forced thousands of Native Americans to march along the infamous Trail of Tears.

Contributing: Clare Mulroy

Eric Lagatta covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Reach him at [email protected]


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