Archive for Video Essay

Surviving (and thriving) the Video Essay

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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.

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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