Video Application Essay: Guide, Tips, and Insight

Last Updated: 03 May 2024

Some colleges allow applicants to submit a video as part of the application process instead of the traditional essay or as supplement material.

The idea of a video essay borrows a screen studies perspective where students produce a video that analyzes specific topics or themes relating to a specific film or TV show.

Simply put, a video essay is a visual representation of your written essay; however, there is more to it.

Unlike traditional essays, videos allow you to highlight your personality and provide an exposition on why you deserve the chance at a university or college.

A compelling video essay will set you apart from other applicants and increase your chances of acceptance at your dream college. If you want to impress the admissions boards, take your time to come up with the right topic and plan your work.

If you do not know how to create and present a perfect video essay, our experts have put together this comprehensive guide with steps, tips, and useful insights.

What is a Video Essay?

A video essay is a 5-10-minute audiovisual representation of a person, a thesis, or a topic. It allows you to put a face to the application, becoming more than just a name with test scores or achievements.

According to Max Kiefer, author of How to Make a Winning College Application Video Essay, your video essay is the face of your application letter. It lets you control what the audience will view and eliminates most aspects of a live interview. It aims to persuade or convince the recruiting committee that you are worth a chance.

A video essay can be video, image, or text and use a variety of visual and audio elements to support ideas or engage the target audience.

Components of a Video Essay

Like a written essay, you must develop an argument based on the given topic. The video essay will mimic the structure of a film to advance all your arguments. Therefore, you will need to include the following:

You need to approach it in the same manner you would any other type of academic essay. Video essays comprise three main elements:

Types of Video Essays

A video essay can be a powerful form of communication, but only if you know how to do one. Fortunately, various types of video essays can help you create one for your application. Examples of these types include:

Your choice of video essay will depend on what you intend to achieve.

Take note that a video essay is not just a collage of random materials. Rather, it is the systematic presentation of an organized and well-reasoned argument. For this reason, it is sometimes used to replace a traditional research essay. Most colleges and universities will suggest equivalent video length for essay word counts. For instance, a 5-minute video should have between 750 and 1,000 words of essays.

Check that you have done the following if you want a worthwhile video essay.

As a form of communication, video essays should be engaging and informative. This means you should avoid unnecessary language information and beating around the bush. Take note that for your video essay to be up to par, you have to bring the following skill sets together:

Steps for Writing and Shooting a Video Essay for College Application

A video essay is your chance to make a great impression, so you must learn how to create one. The steps for creating a video essay are almost similar to that of a written essay. However, you will need to have technology skills to put everything together.

Read to Understand the Instructions Given

Colleges and universities usually provide guidelines and instructions on how video essays should be created and structured. They will also tell you how long your video should be, so pay attention to the instructions. Overall, you should aim for quality over quantity.

Create a Topic

After reading the instructions, decide on the topic for the video. Some universities may ask you to talk about a particular topic or give a personal introduction.

If you are writing a personal interview, make sure you answer the following:

In other words, say why you will be a good fit for the school.

Other colleges may allow you to choose a topic that interests you. If this is the case, you need to brainstorm great topic ideas. Think of what will best represent you as a person and why you desire to go to the particular institution. Remember that a good topic should be lucrative and exciting. It should also generate a successful video essay.

Outline Your Points

An outline is an organized list of all the points you intend to talk about in your video. It will help you create a strong narrative that the representatives will follow from the beginning to the end. The college representatives will look at different things in your video, including your production skills. So make sure you create a good script and practice several times to come up with something worthwhile. You can use your phone for this, and once you feel satisfied with the results, proceed to the next step. If you are illustrating a point, include anecdotes or story highlights.

Start with a Strong Hook

The opening of your video essay can make or break your initial impression. A strong hook makes an assertive claim about the chosen topic. It should grab the viewer's attention right from the beginning so that they want to listen more. A strong hook could be a thought-provoking question or a brief story about your life. Remember that you only have a few seconds to grab the attention of the admissions committee, who are probably busy, so make the most of it.

Introduce Yourself to the Admissions Board

Next, you need to introduce yourself. Mention your name, age, hometown, educational background, and interests. Take advantage of this opportunity to establish a connection with your audience.

Say the Course You'd Like to Pursue

Once you are accepted at the institution, say what courses or programs you would like to pursue. Explain why the particular program is dear to you and what motivated you to choose it. Doing this will show the audience that you have a clear vision about your education journey.

Additionally, share the qualities and strengths that attracted you to the school and the program. This can be the extracurricular activities offered, internship opportunities, campus culture, etc.

Share the Skills and Values Your Bring

Do you have special skills or strengths that will benefit the institution? Include them in your video essay. This is your chance to sell yourself and show that you will be valuable to the school. If you are skilled in any extracurricular activities, such as sports or music, that will impact the school, include them in your video.

Share Your Dreams

Paint a picture of the long-term goals you want to achieve even after getting that degree. Share the impact you want or create in your community or the world. Tell the committee how your degree will help you achieve this dream.

Shooting the Video

Shooting a high-quality video demands that you have high-quality gadgets. Fortunately, we live in an era where digital cameras can produce high-quality pictures and videos. If you do not have a digital camera, use your iPhone or Android smartphone. Keep the following in mind when using your phone:

If you want steadier shots, consider purchasing a gimbal stabilizer, an external microphone for better audio quality, and a video tripod.

Plan Your Shoot

If you want to create a high-quality film like a pro, plan the production from start to finish. To do this, create a storyboard. A storyboard is simply a series of interpretations of the scenes in your video that pre-visualize your final footage and desired shots.

Use Imagery

What are you depicting in your video? Think of your background. If you are in the bedroom or living space, make sure it is clean and tidy. Take advantage of your trophies if you have one and display them, particularly if you earned them from extracurricular competitions.

If your room or house is not good enough, film the video outdoors, like in the backyard or a nearby park. Whichever background you choose, make sure it reveals a part of your personality.

If you use images and clips in your videos, make sure they directly depict what you are talking about. A rich library of these images and clips will help you select the correct ones.

Correct the Color of Your Shots

If you want to highlight certain elements, evoke emotions or set the correct atmosphere, then you need to manipulate color. There are lots of color editing options you can use to improve your video. Professional editors use either color correction or color grading. Color correction ensures color in each clip is consistent throughout the film or color grading to give the video a different look. Both of these features are important, especially when you want to make certain scenes as realistic as possible.

Editing Your Footage Using Software

Before you send the video, you must make sure it does not have any errors. Properly edit your video to submit a polished final cut. Some of the techniques you can use include:

Several free video editing software can help you garnish the clip attractively. For instance, Videoleap is a great software that you can use to edit essays on your smartphone. The tool gives you control of all the tools to ensure your footage comes out great. You can also try the following Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, or DaVinci Resolve, which offers a free comprehensive lite version.

Make sure you merge all the images into a single clip to create some form of narration. While doing this, ensure you keep your target audience in mind.

Tips for Making Your Video Essay Stand Out

Remember, you are competing with thousands of students for a chance to join that particular institution. Therefore, you need to make sure your video stands out from the rest. The following tips can help ensure this is possible.

Have Good Lighting

One of the best secrets for creating a high-quality video is having good lighting. Consider the types of light you will need and where you intend to place them to achieve your desired effect. If you are using lamps and sun because you are on a budget, think of how you can make them work to your advantage.

Dress Decently

First impressions matter a lot, so you need to ensure you are presentable. Wear presentable clothes like you would for a one-on-one interview. Make sure your hair is well groomed and you have positive body language. Doing this will boost your confidence and help you pass the message across.

Answer All the Questions Directly

If you have any questions, you need to answer them as they are. To make things easier, write all the questions and answers as well as the timestamp on the clip where you have answered them.

Practice Your Answers Instead of Reading Them Out

Your target audience will get bored and distracted if you read your answers from a piece of paper. Also, avoid memorizing the text, as it will come out bland. Make sure you practice all of your responses and hit all the points before you begin shooting the video.

Show Your Personality

For the admissions boards to get to know you, they need to see your personality. Therefore, be yourself and talk about the things you love. Talk about your interests and what keeps you going even in tough times. Also, try to relax while doing this. Be the best version of yourself rather than the applicant.

Watch Video Editing Tutorials

If you do not have any skills in video production, you need to watch a few tutorials to guide you. Many of these tutorials are free and easily accessible. Some of the websites you can try include Video Copilot, Skillshare, and Red Giant, which have many specific tutorials on how to create videos.


Video essays are an important part of the college application process. It serves as a personal introduction to your college application. Even though not all colleges ask for them, those that do expect high-quality and engaging content, this is the chance to sell yourself to the admission board and increase your chances of being accepted.

To come up with a high-quality video, you need to have the right topic, an outline of all your points, and the right hook to capture the audience's attention. You must also plan your work well by creating a storyboard, having the right tools, and using imagery in your film. Additionally, you should edit your work using the right software to ensure the final footage is great.

Finally, as you create your video, keep in mind that the goal is to tell a compelling story. Do more than the basic, and embrace the opportunity to create aesthetically pleasing and emotion-evoking content that will convey the intended message. Use the technical and practical skills you have to achieve this rather than adding unnecessary effects to impress the admissions committee.

If you need help with writing a perfect video essay write-up (call it a script), including the talking points and directions, do not hesitate to place an order on our website. GradeCrest has expert writers who can help.