Are Video Admissions Essays on the Horizon for Business Scho

by Vault Education Editors | March 09, 2010

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Elle Woods started a movement. First, video resumes hit the internet mainstream (and quickly fizzled). Then Tufts added an optional video admissions essay. And MBA recruiters began using video interviews to "meet" potential hires. It's surprising that MBA admissions aren't on the video essay bandwagon.

In fact, they're pretty far behind. Although Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business offers video interviews for international applications, it still asks for a written essay. An article in this week's BusinessWeek highlights the innovative application requirements of the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business and UCLA, Anderson School of Management. The latter invites students to submit an essay in audio form, and the former has long required a PowerPoint presentation, but that will soon change. These unconventional essay formats were designed to allow students to show their creativity and give the admissions office a sense of who they really are. However, as Rose Martinelli of UChicago Booth tells BusinessWeek, "The PowerPoint slides didn't work...because they became rote and entirely too easy to predict." The school is considering a new format to encourage applicants to show they understand and match the "life, spirit, and culture" of the school. A video essay option would fit this requirement.

Considering why the PowerPoint presentation didn't work to bring out the creativity of MBA applicants will help admissions officers decide what should replace it. Veritas Prep proposes that applicants were using the PowerPoint presentation as they would in an office setting: as a summary of the overall application. They say: "We suspect that many applicants' PowerPoint slides were nothing more than recaps of the rest of their applications, offering not much in the way of personality or useful information." This is the opposite of the desired response. It's possible that too many applicants approached the PowerPoint question like they did at their consulting jobs. In other words, PowerPoint is a too familiar medium. (It's important to note, as Veritas also does, that not all applicants submit boring PP presentations. One prospective student I know created a crossword puzzle that included clues about his personal interests and background.) Perhaps another essay format (such as video) would take applicants out of their comfort zone and push them to create something more personal and unique.

MBA applicants are willing to go the extra mile and try something new. Says one prospective UChicago Booth student about the PowerPoint question: "There's no doubt the four slides are daunting, but I guess it's refreshing to have that kind of chance to express oneself freely. Definitely one of those gift and curse things. All about marketing/packaging oneself." It's true that upcoming generations of applicants are more tech-savvy and a video essay might not be as "daunting." However, these future applicants will be used to creating videos in their personal lives (and not for their I-banking job), so their first instinct will likely be to show their personal side, not their professional--exactly the side admissions officers are looking for.

Although video essays aren't yet on the horizon for MBA applications, they could be an optional addition relatively soon. The video essay isn't a video resume, so it doesn't have to be professional. In fact, the more personality it shows, the better. That said, be sure to prepare, practice and proofread--just like you would for a written essay. Here's a "creative" example to get you started.

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