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Remember: The video essay is available after you submit your application and pay the application fee.

The Video Essay component of the application process can seem terrifying, but fear not because we are here to help! At this point, you might feel both relieved at having submitted your application and tired that there’s the final final step to complete the application. We’ve been there and totally get it. It’s 100% normal!

In writing this post, we found that each of us prepared for the video essay differently, which means there is no one ‘right’ way to prepare as everyone has their own process when it comes to it. We brainstormed on what we felt worked and also what we wish we had known when we were preparing.

Here are the main steps we took to prepare for the Video Essay:

Prepare like it’s an interview…or a first date – George-Ann MIA ’20

The video essay is a conversation between yourself and the Admissions team. There’s no judgement or pressure to be uber gregarious. Instead, prepare to chat about anything from pressing current affairs issues to your favorite flavor of ice cream. Read some news articles about current affairs, write and practise some talking points about yourself, relax, and, most importantly, be yourself.

Unlike an interview, there’s no expectation for you to be fully kitted out in a suit and tie — dressing comfortably is fine. Just remember that this is an externally facing video so wear something that you’d be comfortable wearing meeting new people.

Give yourself time – Stuart MIA ’20

Remember, you can only start the video essay after completing the rest of the application, so it’s important to give yourself plenty of time prior to the application deadline. As with anything, technical issues are certainly a possibility, and you don’t want you to be stressed about missing the deadline.

One thing that all of us did early in the process was test our microphone and camera. I personally used Skype to test everything prior to even accessing the video essay, but you will also do this in Testing Mode within the video essay application. I also made sure the lighting was good and the microphone could clearly capture my voice (try to complete the essay in an area with limited background noise or use a headset). Looking and sounding my best helped improve my confidence, and I’d certainly recommend starting early as one of the best ways to make your video essay experience go smoothly.

If you do encounter technical issues, don’t panic, you’re not the only one. First, follow the steps outlined here to try to troubleshoot the issue. If that doesn’t resolve your issue, contact the admissions office immediately and they can provide further assistance.

Take It Easy – Steven MIA ’20

So, I did the exact opposite of what George-Ann said and got decked out in a suit and tie (oops) and it was completely unnecessary (still looked good, though). I got way too amped for my question and almost stumbled out the gate. If I were to do it over again I would:

  • Breathe and take a couple of seconds to read the question.
  • If it is a policy question you know well, don’t try to jam all your knowledge into the video. Just answer the question and tag on anything extra after if there’s time.
  • If it is a policy question you don’t know much about, focus more on what you have heard and what you think about it, or possible future developments of the topic.
  • If it’s question about yourself, don’t overthink it, just speak calmly and slowly. Don’t be too concerned about providing the “right” answer.

Make those 60 seconds count – Nabila MPA ’20

Yay, you’re ready to do that Video Essay! Once you’re done with Testing Mode, click the green READY button. This will give you your official prompt question. You will have 60 seconds to prepare for your answer so use those 60 seconds wisely! But, no pressure. Really. No Pressure.

When I was preparing for the video essay, the general consensus on graduate school forums is that there is no one type of question. So I figured I should think about how I can best tackle any answer that comes my way, since the questions can really range from Brexit to the ideal SIPA student. My solution was to focus on structure, structure, structure. The general framework I used is a high-level essay structure. Effectively, a clear and concise 30-second elevator pitch that answers the question.

When answering my question (Sadly, I forgot the question the moment I was done with the video essay because, adrenaline), I listed 3 points/ideas as a starting point and built it up by including examples to support those points. While I was tempted to go into a lot of details, I felt that the more ideas I had, the less clear my answers would be since 60 seconds goes by so quickly. You’d be surprised how much you can get done in 60 seconds when you need to! After that I took a deep breath to calm my nerves, and to remind myself to speak slowly, as I watched the seconds countdown to deliver the answer.

Lastly, remember there’s more to the application than your Video Essay. The video essay is just one component of the application and it provides the Admissions Committee a sense of who you are given there is no opportunity for interviews. So just remember this is not the do-or-die factor for your application.

Good luck!

Want more resources?
Click here for a walkthrough of how to access the app and what it looks like, see this post.
Click here for a post on what to expect in the Video Essay.