The College Video Essay

It’s not required – or even accepted – everywhere. But can it really help your chances with college admissions?

Every student is looking for ways to make their application stand out – to assure that he or she gets noticed against the thousands of other similar applicants.

Today, there’s a new method: The College Video Essay.

For years, they’ve been a staple of art school applications, and a requirement for film school hopefuls.

Now, the video essay is expanding out. Every year, more schools are accepting video essays – and students of every stripe are taking advantage. In an era that’s seen the number of applicants skyrocket – and hence personal interviews plummet – a video essay is a chance for students to give schools a little taste of their personalities… and just maybe make a stronger case for admission.

What’s more – from cell phones to webcams and point-and-shoots – students nowadays have the tools to quickly and easily create video essays.

How To Make A Video Essay

In most cases, students applying to colleges will post their videos on YouTube, then simply send the schools the link to the YouTube page that hosts their video. (Some students go as far as to send schools a DVD.)

Keep in mind, the video essay is a fairly new phenomenon, and as such, there aren’t many rules yet. But there are a few key points to guide you:

  • Be yourself. (Admissions counselors can usually tell if it’s a script written by parents, for example.)
  • Be concise and to the point (unless you’re going for something truly creative.)
  • Make sure the sound and overall quality of the video is adequate and without flaws.

That’s it. Your video need not be a polished gem – at least not yet. Colleges aren’t expecting that. They just would like to get a feel for who you are.

That said, don’t pour too much time into your video essay. While growing, the number of schools that accept them is small – and the number that accept them in lieu of a regular essay even less.

Amongst those schools, administrators admit that video essays rarely have any bearing on admission decisions. In fact, some colleges contend that – because the admissions process is 100% confidential – video essays made public on YouTube undermine that confidentiality.

That said, video essays are a nice way to get to know a student – and perhaps make the student memorable. But they’re not likely going to factor into the admissions process.

Hence, perhaps the biggest rule you have to keep in mind with your video essay: Don’t Get Consumed. If you skimp even one hour on another essay – or let a grade drop because you didn’t study enough, waiting for that perfect golden light – then you’ve done yourself a huge disservice.

At some point, video essays could become an integral part of any good application packet. But that day isn’t here yet, and likely won’t be for a few more years at least. If you’re so moved, by all means, explore your creative side with a video essay. After all, it can’t hurt your chances.

To your successful college pursuit,

Jodi Polster

Education Director,

Related Articles:

The Common Application vs. The Universal Application

How College Admissions has Changed

College Admissions Strategies

College Admissions Strategies Part 2

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.