How to Nail Your MBA Video Essay -

Philippe Barr, PhD
8 min readJun 22, 2023

Applying for an MBA program can be a nerve-wracking experience, and while your resume, recommendations, and personal statement can help you stand out, there’s one element that can truly make you memorable: the MBA video essay.

More and more business schools are incorporating this interactive component into their admissions process and for good reason. Videos offer a unique way to showcase your skills, personality, and passion. In this blog post, we’ll explore what an MBA video essay is, what admissions officers are looking for, and how to create a video that will make you stand out from the crowd.

What Is an MBA Video Essay?

An MBA video essay is a component of the admissions process where applicants are asked to film themselves answering a few questions about their background, goals, and motivations. Many business schools require applicants to submit a video in addition to their written application materials. The questions asked vary by school, but they are often designed to assess an applicant’s communication skills, leadership, and team management skills, and fit with the school’s culture.

MBA Video Essay Types

To prepare for recording your video essay, it is important to research the requirements for each program’s application. Make sure to review any materials provided by your school before beginning. You should be familiar with the deadline for submitting your video response, the program you are applying to, and any instructions specific to that program. Some programs even have admissions blog posts that can help you determine which key points to include in your response. It is important to be aware of the expectations of each program if you are applying to multiple schools that require video essays.

The Improvised MBA Video Essay

The typical interview format for applicants involves answering questions and recording a video on the spot. Candidates are given a set of questions and a short period of time (30 to 60 seconds) to prepare their responses, followed by 60 to 90 seconds to record their answers as video essays. The time limit may vary slightly depending on the school’s admission requirements, but the overall format remains the same. It’s important to prepare for this format because candidates are not permitted to redo their answers.

The Asynchronous MBA Video Essay

Candidates are required to create a short video in response to a specific question or prompt provided by the admission committee. The timeframe and topics for the video essay are given in advance, allowing candidates to prepare in advance and create a high-quality video.

MBA video essays offer the opportunity to add a personal touch to your application and address the admissions team directly, no matter what format they come in. You might be asked straightforward questions about your motivation, career goals, and past work experience. Additionally, you’ll likely be asked about your personality and other experiences that you would typically cover in a written essay.

What Admissions Committees Are Looking For

Admissions officers are looking for authenticity, creativity, and professionalism. They want to see that you’ve put time and effort into your video and that you’ve taken the time to think about what you want to say. They also want to see that you’re comfortable in front of a camera and that you have a clear and concise communication style. Finally, they’re looking for a glimpse of your personality, values, and motivation for pursuing an MBA.

Start with a Self-Reflection

Before you dive into the technical aspects of making your MBA video essay, it’s crucial to take some time to reflect on your personal and professional background, your motivation to pursue an MBA, and your career goals. This introspection will help you identify the unique traits and qualities that set you apart from other candidates. Try to craft a compelling story that connects your past experiences with your future aspirations and showcases your authentic voice. Remember that the video essay is an opportunity to showcase your personality and passion, so don’t be afraid to be creative and show your enthusiasm.

Plan and Practice

The old adage “practice makes perfect” holds true when it comes to the MBA video essay. Don’t wait until the last minute to record your video- plan ahead, and practice multiple times. You don’t have to aim for perfection, but you should aim for a well-crafted and polished video that showcases your best self.

Staging Your MBA Video Essay

To ensure a clear and well-lit background, please turn on your webcam and adjust your location. Avoid using windows, mirrors, cluttered walls, or shelves as your backdrop. Adjust your lighting and position to achieve a face-focused lighting arrangement instead of being backlit.

Although there is no standard dress code for video essays, we suggest sticking to comfortable, business-casual attire that is neat and clean. It is best to wear solid colors and comfortable fabrics so that the viewers can concentrate on the content of your responses.

After setting up your workspace, inform your household or office mates to not interrupt you. You can even put up a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door if necessary.

Connect with Your Audience

Remember that the video essay is not only meant to showcase your achievements and strengths but also to connect with your prospective audience- the admissions committee. Try to personalize your video by referencing the specific school and program you’re applying to, and showcase your knowledge of the program and its requirements. You can also try to convey your enthusiasm and excitement for the program by sharing your plans, your vision for your career, and how the MBA program can help you achieve your goals. Make sure to articulate your points clearly and succinctly- the admissions committee reviews thousands of essays, so you want to make sure that your video stands out and captures their attention.

Be Authentic

One of the biggest mistakes that MBA candidates make in their video essays is trying to create a false image of themselves. Remember that authenticity is key- the admissions committee is looking for candidates who are honest, genuine, and self-aware. Don’t try to pretend to be someone you’re not or share generic stories or quotes. Instead, try to share your experiences, your passions, and your unique perspective on the world. Be yourself, but with a dash of creativity and professionalism, and you’ll surely capture the attention of the admissions committee.

Show And Tell

When written words may not be enough, a video can help demonstrate what you’re capable of. For instance, you can showcase your organizational skills by walking the viewer through a project you’ve accomplished. You can highlight your leadership ability by showing a team project you lead and how you managed the team. The video essay can be an opportunity to validate and expand on specific skills or accomplishments that you want the admissions committee to know.

Stand Out

Applicants have a tendency to write professional yet impersonal resumes and essays, sticking to the formula and playing it safe. But the video essay allows you to showcase your personality and offers the chance to stand out and be remembered amongst the crowded applicant pool. How else will they remember your name, face, and passion when they are reviewing hundreds of applications?

Excellent Platform to articulate your ‘Why’

One question that potential business schools always ask is ‘Why do you want an MBA degree?’ The video essay provides you with a platform to articulate your ‘why’ in a more candid and compelling way than the essay. With a video, you’re able to share personal anecdotes, demonstrate your passion for your desired field, and make them remember your story.

Tell A Story

One of the most effective ways to make a lasting impression is by telling a compelling story, telling the admissions committee about what inspired you. Rather than explaining reasons in a standard essay, you can engage the viewer via the story-video combination. Caution though, it is important for the video to only be a part of your package, with the personal statement, essays, and LORs adding together to give an overall picture of who you are.

Showcase Your Media Ability

In the business world, social media and video skills are becoming increasingly important. The video essay is an excellent opportunity to show off your video editing skills, use of media, and the ability to convey a story in just a few minutes. It also demonstrates that you’re savvy about media and that you have the potential to be creative in a business environment. Today, thousands of business and management positions increasingly require basic visual media skills, so your video may indeed prove to be a valuable asset in your future career.

Edit and Review

Once you’ve recorded your video essay, it’s crucial to edit and review your work. Make sure your video is within the allotted time limit, and that your sound and video quality are optimal. Edit your script, and make sure your video is coherent and flows well. Review your work carefully, and make sure there are no grammatical or spelling errors. You may also want to ask a friend, colleague, or consultant to review your video and provide feedback. A fresh perspective can be invaluable and may help you identify areas for improvement.

Conclusion

Incorporating a video essay into your MBA application is certainly an effective way to differentiate you from other applicants while still showcasing your personality and unique selling points. It shows the admissions committee who you are beyond simply your grades and test scores and lets them envision you in their program.

While the video essay does come with its own set of challenges, it also provides you with an opportunity to showcase who you are in a unique and engaging way, proving that you’re not just another candidate, but the ideal one. The key to making your video stand out is to ensure that it’s professional, compelling, and authentic. So go ahead, be creative, tell your story, and show them why you’re the best applicant for the program! If you need any help with your MBA video essay or any other part of your MBA application, don’t hesitate to check out our MBA application services.

We have helped hundreds of applicants get admitted into top schools and would be delighted to do the same for you!

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Dr. Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Dr. Barr spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Dr. Barhas stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

Originally published at https://admit-lab.com on June 22, 2023.

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Philippe Barr, PhD

I am Philippe Barr, founder of The Admit Lab, a graduate school admissions consultancy that helps students get admitted into grad school: https://admit-lab.com/