Archive for Video Essay

What’s in an App: admissions video essay

The holidays are just around the corner! You know what that means. You have a little under 2 months to apply to our general deadline with SIPA fellowship aid consideration on January 5, 2018. I’m excited to bring a new series to you this month about our application process – What’s in an App. Since I know many of y’all are in the thick of preparing your stellar applications, this series of blog posts will hopefully answer your burning questions and provide helpful tips about the different components of our application. We’ll be covering a different part of the application every week for the remainder of November – just in time for January 5th! Let’s get started.

Today’s post is about the – wait for it – video essay. Now, this may seem daunting and stressful; however, it’s only one part of the review process. This isn’t the be-all-end-all deciding factor for your admissions decision. This component provides the Admissions Committee a sense of who you are in person as well as your thought process and how you respond to questions. We’re not able to conduct in-person interviews because of the high volume of apps we receive each year, so this video response is extremely valuable to the committee and our evaluation process. In it’s second year now, the video response is fully integrated into our online application. We’ve made a significant change to the accessibility of the video essay this year – it is only available AFTER you submit your application and pay the app fee. Once this is done, you’ll be able to see the video prompt in your Applicant Status page. That being said, you’ll need to manage your time well and submit your application well in advance in order to access this section and test your connection, webcam, mic, etc. to ensure everything is working properly.

How does it work? We have a great video (and transcript) from a prior post, explaining how to access your video essay here. Remember, you can only access this through your Applicant Status page once you submit your application and pay the app fee, but otherwise, the process remains the same. You’ll review the instructions for the video, receive a randomized test question, have 60 seconds to think of a response, then another 60 seconds to verbally communicate this. Keep in mind, you won’t be allowed to resubmit a response. Once you have recorded your response, it is automatically uploaded to your application.

What type of questions will I encounter? Our questions run the gamut, from general background, to behavioral to policy related questions. These do not require extensive research beyond reading about current events/affairs in international affairs and policy. Also, there are no right or wrong answers. So breathe, relax, and tackle this response with confidence.

What if I experience any technical difficulties during my video response? If you experience any issues during your recording, please reach out to us at or call at 212-854-6216. Our regular office hours are Monday through Friday, 9 AM – 5 PM EST. Keep in mind, our general deadline is at 11:59 PM EST; so please plan ahead, allow time to test your audio capabilities, and contact us during regular office hours to troubleshoot any issues.

For those of you with video essay issues

Some applicants have run into technical problems submitting their video essay responses. If that’s you, here are some steps you can take to submit your video response by the upcoming deadline.

Troubleshoot with these steps first…

  1. Access your application using Google Chrome. You can download it for free here.
  2. Use a hardwired connection, such as an Ethernet cable. This will help make sure your internet connection is stable, as opposed to a wireless connection.
  3. Especially if abroad, try using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, to upload your video.
  4. Use your headset or a microphone when speaking to make sure you’re clearly understood.
  5. Test, test, and test again. Here’s a look at when I walked applicants through the submission process.

If all else fails…

We’ve updated our application system to allow you to submit your application without the video response. So after you’ve reviewed all of your materials, you can hit that submit button and pay the application fee. Then you can return your Status Page, scroll down to the Application Details section and click on the link to record your video response after the fact, but by the application deadline. (See screenshot below.)

video essay details

If you continue to have issues uploading your video response and have exhausted all options, please connect with us immediately. We can see everything you do in the application system and can walk you through the process if need be. Just keep in mind that all application materials are required for admission, so please plan ahead so you have plenty of time to upload that missing video essay.

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!

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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