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What to Know About Video Submissions or Video Interviews at Top Colleges

Close-up of woman with long brown hair holding an iPad and touching its screen

In recent years, more and more colleges have introduced an additional, often optional component to their applications: a short introductory video. Although this option is not nearly as widespread as the more typical essay requirement, schools including Brown, Bowdoin, George Mason, Tufts, the University of Chicago, and Washington University in St. Louis all give students the option to submit a short video with their application. More are sure to follow.

What are colleges seeking in these videos? According to admissions officers, what they want most of all is to see authenticity, spontaneity, and honesty. Most of the instructions encourage students to speak directly into the camera and not worry about doing anything fancy with their editing or production. Of course, if that’s something you enjoy doing, it’s also fine to submit something a little more polished at most places! But if you would rather just approach it simply (which some schools, like Bowdoin, require), that will be effective and impactful, too.

Why are colleges adding this option? As usual, there are a variety of reasons! For some, it’s partly practical; Brown University, for instance, has seen such a massive rise in their application numbers that they had to phase out alumni interviewing, and they added the video submission option as a replacement. It’s also a good way for students who don’t have any alumni in their area or who can’t make it to campus for an in-person interview to reveal their personality and passions to admissions officers.

Additionally, many colleges like that a video gives them a different view of each student. Colleges can learn a lot about applicants from their essays, but seeing applicants’ faces, voices, and demeanors adds another valuable shade to admissions officers’ sense of who these students are and what makes them tick! Plus, colleges appreciate that these videos can be a fun and less-formal space for students to talk about something important to them that might not have fit into an application essay, where the prompts don’t always allow for a ton of creativity.

Finally, another appealing aspect of these videos is that colleges can hear from students in a more direct and straightforward way than through their essays, which applicants have a long time to work on and which other people can help them to perfect. What admissions officers want most of all is a chance to witness a student’s authentic self, interests, and goals, and many are finding that a video response or submission helps them get at that authenticity most effectively.

Although these videos are generally optional, for now, colleges that offer them tend to strongly encourage them, so we definitely recommend providing one if you’re applying to one of these schools! And of course, if you want any advice on how to do so, please reach out.

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