How to access (and prepare for) the admissions video essay

While traveling up and down the West Coast for two weeks I’ve gotten many of the same application questions about resume formatting, reference preferences, experience recommendations, etc. I’ve also noticed that prospective students are intimidated by the newest addition to the admissions application: the video essay.

For those of you who don’t know, the video essay is a new feature for this year’s application. The video essay was added by popular demand (by both applicants and admissions committee members) since the SIPA Admissions Committee does not offer in-person interviews. Applicants will be given a policy-related prompt, they will have 60 seconds to think of a response, and then another 60 seconds to respond on camera. OK, well when I type it out like that I can understand why so many applicants find it intimidating. But it really isn’t as scary as it sounds.

To explain what I mean, I’ve quickly put together a video of me walking through the video essay and explaining how to answer it. Just watch the video below to see what the system looks like (or read the transcription). If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

P.S. I’ll walk you through the entire application form in a Facebook Live session on Oct. 24. RSVP here if you’d like to join me!

Video Essay Transcription

Hello everyone. My name is Kaitlyn Wells and I am the assistant director of admissions at SIPA. Today I’m going to walk you through how to access the video essay component of application system. I’ll also explain to you how to respond to the essay prompt and how you can best prepare for it.

When you answer the video essay, the recording platform is already built into the application system. So you only need an internet connection, your computer, and a microphone, such as your computer’s internal microphone. Unfortunately, you can’t answer it on a mobile device. So if you don’t own a personal computer, make arrangements with your employer or your local undergraduate school, or visit a public library or a friend’s house.

So first off you will need to log into your admissions application. Once you are in the system you will need to select your application program and application term. Once the information is entered you will see a new dialog box on the left-hand side for the video essay section of application form. The video essay section is called video response on the left side.

Once you click on it you will see the instructions for the video essay. Please read the instructions carefully. In general you you will be prompted with a question can You have 60 seconds to think of a response. Then you will have 60 seconds to verbally respond to the prompt camera. Keep in mind you can only answer the video prompt once so make sure you’re fully prepared when you answer the question. And no, you cannot resubmit your response.

To prepare for it, you will begin this section by answering the test question. Click on the red Start Test button to begin.

And this is what the Testing Mode looks like. Make sure you review your video and audio outputs. You can view your mic level with the green pulsating bar to the right of your preview screen. Since it’s a test environment, you’ll only have 10 seconds to issue a test statement.

Once you’re ready to begin, click the red READY button. You’ll see a countdown to get you started. Then begin your statement. You’ll see another countdown with your remaining speaking time.

When you run out of time, you’ll be prompted with a series of questions asking you to watch and listen to the video and to verify your settings are good to go.

I really encourage all of you to take advantage of this step. Sing the happy birthday song, ask yourself why you’re interested in SIPA, discuss what you ate for dinner last night — anything to get you comfortable with speaking to yourself in front of the camera.

Once you’re ready to being the official video essay prompt, check the box that you’re ready to begin and you acknowledge your computer is working fine.

Then click the green READY button, which will give you your official prompt question. The prompts are completely randomized and we have a bank of a few hundred questions. They are related to policy and international affairs, current events, and the like. If you want an idea of the types of questions, just think about what an employer might ask you about your dream job, or review SIPA’s personal statement and short essay prompts for an idea of the topics that might be covered. Please don’t let the video component intimidate you. The responses will be completely individualized to your personal thoughts and experiences, and there’s no single right answer. This is just to give the admissions committee a stronger understanding of who you are as an applicant.

If you have any questions, please give the Admissions Office a call or send us an email. While we can’t tell you what the question will be, we can clarify any confusions you may have about how to submit your response. And in the rare case if you can’t submit the video, do contact us right away so we can look into the issue further. Just bear in mind that we can track in the system if your connection timed out or if it was user error, so be mindful of that prior to reaching out.

OK, well that’s everything. I wish all of you luck on your applications. Have a great day!

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