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Tips on How to Create a College Video Response
A college video response should not be looked upon as a way out of writing a college application essay. In fact, a video response still requires you to do largely the same thing: put your best self forward. For some students, creating a video response has definite advantages. So, let’s explore how you can ace those college video responses!
Verify the guidelines
The most important thing to do before starting your college video response is to verify that you are familiar with the guidelines you need to follow. Read the directions, and if there are example videos, take the time to watch them.
Note any directions such as time limits, questions you need to answer, and whether added materials must be submitted with the video. Once you know what is needed on your end, you can begin to craft your video response!
Related: How to respond to the Common App essay prompts
Responding to prompts
Depending on the college(s) you apply to, this answer will certainly vary. Below are two separate sections to give you some guidance on how to answer specific essay prompts and how to answer the prompts that give you a bit more creative control.
For specific prompts
For specific prompts that you need to respond to, the college video essay would function much like an essay. The video ideally should allow the admissions team to get to know you and what makes you a good fit for their school.
As we mentioned before, completing a college video doesn’t mean that you get to escape writing the essay! It is still a great idea to write it out as an essay to begin with. This should help you organize your thoughts and map out what you will, or won’t, have time to talk about in your video.
Check out: College essay primer: show, don’t tell
For open prompts
If the college you are applying to offers you the chance to send a video that doesn’t require a response to a specific question, you have a unique opportunity. You will be able to choose what you think this college should know about you. However, with great opportunities comes great responsibility.
There are two sets of points below to help you start thinking about what you should talk about. The first set of points explores what the college will want to know about. These points are based on general areas that colleges tend to be interested in knowing about their students. It’s important to think about the college you are applying to as well and what things they value in addition to these points.
What they might want to know
- Colleges want to hear about why you are interested in their school. Instead of listing their resources and great professors, explain how they will help you become a successful college graduate
- Colleges look for students that will be diligent, but also be engaged in the community and student body via sports, clubs, internships and other extracurricular activities. Share with them what things you enjoy outside of school, as well as how you plan to be a student committed to your studies
- Finally, colleges do obviously care about test scores and grades, but they also understand that students are far more than just their academics. They understand that you have goals, plans, and dreams that you wish to achieve. Share those goals with them. Even if you are confident that your goals will change along the way, that is okay
This next set of points is about what you want the college to know about you. You have free reign in this scenario. So, it is up to you to decide what you think is most important about you.
What you might want them to know
- Think about your prospective major. Is there a story that you would like to share about how you came to choose that major? Or perhaps you are undecided and would like to talk about your plans to work on narrowing your interests during your first year at college
- Experiences are a wonderful thing to share with colleges. If there is something that you have gone through that you think would be relevant to your college experience, share that with the admissions board. A word of caution though, while stories are a great way to tell someone something about yourself, the key is making sure that what you are sharing is relevant to the situation
- Finally, knowing what the college you are applying to values and may be known for, think about any connections you would like to draw between them and why you think you may be a good fit for their campus
Also see: College applications: what looks good
How to start
Whether or not you need to take time to introduce yourself and state things like your hometown, intended major, and age is up to you. Introducing yourself takes time that you may not have. Your name and other basic information will already be on your application, so it may not be worth repeating if it isn’t necessary.
Starting off with a casual greeting and your name should be a sufficient introduction. Then you can say the topic you plan to discuss or reiterate the prompt you were asked to segue into the heart of your video. There really is no right or wrong way to start your video. The important thing is that you answer the questions they have asked you and let yourself shine through.
Also see: Top video scholarships
Write a script
Writing a script just means planning out what you want to say in advance. You don’t need to write out what you want to say word for word, but having a vague outline may help you stay on track with your video.
Time will most likely be something that you will have to be very conscious about. Most college video essays will only give you one to two minutes to share what you would like. An average person speaks roughly 100-125 words per minute, meaning you’ll have roughly enough space to share a 250 word essay response. This isn’t a whole lot of words to share who you are with a college.
If you do write out a script, be careful that you don’t begin to sound robotic. A college knows that video responses can be a bit nerve racking, but they also don’t want that to keep you from being genuinely you.
Everything in your video is a way to convey more about yourself. With limited time, you should take advantage of everything you have to show off who you are. You have the creative freedom to film your video wherever you think shows off who you are most.
Inside, outside, in your room, at a coffee shop, at a sports practice, the choice is up to you! If you have the time, try filming your response in more than one location to find out what works best. Just make sure that you can be clearly seen and heard in your video!
Review, review, review
We can’t emphasize enough that before you send your video off, you should double and triple check that all the mechanics are working well! If possible, send your video to a few friends and ask them to review both the content and the technical side of things. Making sure that they can do things like access the file and hear you clearly.
Keep it engaging
One of the keys to a good college video essay is keeping your listener engaged. This is something that is also true for written college essays. So, before you begin to overthink how you will keep a viewer engaged, let’s take some of the concepts we already know and some new ones and apply them to a video response.
If you can say what you need to in 100 words instead of 200, that’s great! The goal of a college application is to convey who you are, not for you to meet a word count. Keep this in mind as you try to create an engaging video. Long videos with lots of speaking may become a bit monotonous for viewers.
This ties back to our point about scenery that we mentioned earlier. Having a pristine white or plain color background may feel desirable at first, but having some visual elements behind you could help keep your audience engaged. If you have time, you can film your video a few times with various visual elements to make sure they don’t take away from you as the subject.
Dress the part
Again, like scenery, you may want to keep it simple and clean, but that’s not always the best choice. Clothing is a great way to show off something that matters to you or convey a bit of your personality.
Perhaps one of your parents is an alum of this school and you want to wear one of their sweatshirts with the school’s name on it or mascot. If you are part of any clubs at your high school, maybe you want to wear spirit wear from that.
Look clean and prepared, but also have fun with what you wear! Clothing is a visual element, so take full advantage of it!
Quality of content is more important than quality of video. A college cares much more about seeing a student shine through in a video that is a bit grainy, versus a video that is pristine, but gives them little information about the student. That being said, try and put forth the best quality video you can.
Most basic video editing software available on your computer, tablet, or phone should be more than sufficient to help polish your video. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends or parents for help. And of course, take advantage of YouTube tutorials and other articles that can help give you tips about how to use video editing software.
Frequently asked questions about creating college video responses
How should you introduce yourself in a college video essay?
Do colleges accept video essays in place of written essays?
Can I send a video with my application just because I’d like to?