Using Video To Supplement Your College Application

Elizabeth Nielsen
Elizabeth Nielsen

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There is an increase in the number of colleges and universities which allow you to substitute a video presentation with your college app. In some cases, it substitutes for a written essay. Others simply submit a video as one of your college profile pieces. Let’s dig into the strategy behind using a video supplement in your college application.

Whether written or filmed, first impressions are paramount to so many opportunities in life. When that first impression comes via a video introduction, that video supplement becomes your first, in-person appearance. Therefore, every moment you spend on creating and filming your video essay must be laden with golden inspiration.

Topic choices

Choose positive experiences, traits and talents which set you apart from every other person on the planet. Before you begin the process, you should know with absolute certainty what makes you a unique addition to any campus. Plus, you must be committed to any and all colleges and universities you apply to. 

So how do you go about making a striking video sales pitch in one or two minutes which will set you apart from every other applicant?  First, approach this as what it is—a 60 to 120 second commercial designed to convince college administrators that they want you. You are creating one of the most definitive college supplements. With this in mind, consider the following dos and don’ts

DO’s of creating a video supplement for college

  • Research and adhere to the college or university specific prompts and guidelines.
  • Thoroughly address the required prompt(s). This is the most essential consideration. Keep content in mind at all times.
  • Use a compelling story which represents a defining moment in your life
  • Harness your unique creativity rather than using common ideas or trends
  • Write a storyboard or script to guide your efforts.
  • Make sure the administrators can see your face. This helps you to communicate your emotions well (smile, smile, smile) and helps them put a name to a face.
  • Use backgrounds and locations which speak to your personality.
  • Dress as though you are going to an informal interview in person.
  • Communicate your true self rather than putting on the personality you think will get you accepted. College admission administrators have seen many, many potential students and can smell pretense a mile away.
  • Tailor your video to correspond specifically to the college or university to which you are applying.
  • Present particular information about yourself which you haven’t covered in the application.
  • Allow your words to flow naturally, as though answering prompts in person.

DON’T DO’s for creating a video supplement for college

  • Pursue a video if the process creates anxiety or makes you excessively uncomfortable. You don’t want to present a robotic or forced image.
  • Use vague generalities. Admission administrators want specifics which illustrate your talents and desire to attend their particular school.
  • Read directly from off-camera cue cards or a script. Monotony isn’t impressive.
  • Wear improper or unprofessional clothes.
  • Go longer than university guidelines recommend (usually two to three minutes). Longer impressions may result in indifference.
  • Focus on creative film effects rather than the answer(s) to the prompt(s). Remember that the content of your message rules over all.
  • Display questionable posters or wall décor in the background.

Let’s look at examples:

As inspiration and food for thought, review the following prompts from individual colleges and universities (aside from the common application prompts):

  • When you first meet someone, what do you want them to know about you but generally don’t tell them?
  • If you were to write the story of your life up until now, what would be the title and why?
  • Drawing on your best qualities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, citizen of the world, pose a question to yourself and answer the question.
  • Why are you here and not somewhere else?
  • Rerhceseras say it’s siltl plisbsoe to raed txet wtih olny the frist and lsat ltteres in palce. This is beaucse the hamun mnid can fnid oderr in dorsdier. Give us your best example of finding order in disorder.
  • Anna Quindlan says that she majored in unafraid at Barnard. Tell us about a time when you majored in unafraid.
  • What do you hope to find over the rainbow?

Here are some samples for further inspiration:

 With the emphasis on grades, test scores and accomplishments, you may find it difficult to be genuine. Just remember the process isn’t entirely a numbers competition between you and all other applicants. Your goal is to create college supplements that show the admissions committee how your unique attributes will contribute to the student body. Remember that you are much more than numbers can show. So take a deep breath and roll film.

Questions? Let us know!