Kellogg and Yale’s spontaneous 60 second MBA video essays tend to stress a lot of people out, but don’t worry! Angela Guido is here to walk you through why MBA video essays came to exist, what their purpose is and how to best prepare. Along the way we’ll be looking at some Kellogg MBA video essay questions and, in general, chilling out about the whole thing so you can best share your authentic personality with the admissions committee and future MBA classmates.
Make sure to stick around, because in just a few days we’ll be releasing a HUGE video on the MIT Sloane video essay (and anywhere else that lets you plan and film the essay in your own time).
Good luck! And if you found this useful, let us know in a comment! We love hearing from anyone we’re able to help with our free MBA advice.
Table of Contents
Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:
Hello, everyone. Welcome back to MBA Monday. I'm Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol. And this week we're talking about how to ace your video essays for Kellogg, Yale, and any other school that springs a spontaneous not quite an interview/not quite an essay video essay on you after you submit your application.
Why Video Essays?
Before I get into how to ace your video essay, I want to talk about why the video essay entered the picture in the first place. It's a little-known fact that it's admissions consultants that forced schools to get into doing video essays. Why, you ask? Well, look. Back in the day when I applied to business school, there was no such thing as an admissions consultant. Whatever you submitted in your essay was your work, or maybe with the involvement of many friends and family helping you express yourself a little bit more clearly. Then along came admissions consultants that help MBA applicants do a much better job, in some cases, of presenting themselves to the admissions committee. And along with good actors, we always get the bad actors. And so a handful – maybe more than a handful – of unethical admissions consultants go so far as to actually write your essays for you and/or to really make the language and writing perfect, even if you're not an excellent writer, or even a native speaker of English. So over the years, what started happening is schools would admit candidates that they thought were amazing and really ready to survive in a native English speaking classroom, whose English skills were not up to par.
How does that happen? You might ask. Well, imagine there's an unethical consultant writing your essay for you in perfect English, even though you don't speak perfect English. And then you happen to be assigned to an alumni interviewer who also speaks whatever your native language is, and for convenience's sake, you just end up having the interview, not in English, but in your native language. And there we have an amazing candidate who's maybe a great candidate for business school, but not quite ready to hang in a fast-paced all-English environment. So the number one thing that schools are validating in your video essay is: can you even communicate yourself in English? Can you speak fluent English? Doesn't mean you can't have an accent. Doesn't mean you have to speak native English. You can have as thick of an accent as you want. You can make all kinds of small grammaticals mistakes as long as you are – (see, I just did that!) – make all kinds of small grammatical mistakes. As long as you are able to make yourself clearly understood, you're passing the test of the video essay. So first and foremost, the video essays are really a test of your English-speaking abilities. That's number one. That already should put you at ease and take a lot of pressure off because most people who are applying to Kellogg and Yale and other schools that have video essays, your English is like – if it's not native -, it's definitely good enough. So you're already really qualified to do well on these video essays just by virtue of the fact that you've learned how to communicate in English.
The second thing that they're testing in the video essay is your personality. So they're trying to understand what are you like in person. Now, it's not a substitute for the interview, and schools will say this very clearly. If you're admitted to Yale or Kellogg, you will be interviewed. So the video essay is not a substitute for the interview. It's just giving the full admissions committee the chance to see you sort of live and in person, and importantly, to see how you communicate spontaneously. So this is really a chance for you to let your personality come across in these video essays in a way that an essay on a written piece of paper could never fully capture. So again, all of this should put you at ease because the video essays are just there to validate your English-speaking skills, and then to just kind of see who you are as a person. They're trying to get to know your personality.
First thing you want to do is don't sweat it. Don't sweat these video essays. They're just one part of the puzzle. They likely are not going to be a deal maker or a deal breaker. But given that it's mostly about who you are as a person and how you communicate, I have a few tips for you as to how to prepare so that you're prepared to just show your best self, even when you get a curveball question that you're not expecting.
Content and How to Prepare
In terms of the content of the questions, Yale this year is being a little bit more cloak and dagger. They're not giving you any insight into what the questions are. In years past, they've been everything ranging from behavioral questions to questions about active live, social, and political issues to sort of fun quirky questions like “If you could go back to any point in history, where would you go?”. They're trying to put you through a range of questions so that they can see how you think and how you communicate at a variety of different levels.
Kellogg is actually doing exactly the same thing, but they're being a bit more transparent about the questions that you're going to be asked this year. You're going to have three questions for your Kellogg video essays.
- The first one is “Please introduce yourself to the admissions committee.”. So, you're going to have a few seconds to prepare, then the camera will start filming. You will have 60 seconds to give your answer, and then the camera will shut off. So you want to make sure that you're ready to answer that question within 60 seconds and so don't plan an answer that's 90 seconds because it will just get cut off. So in this first question, it says, “Consider this your opportunity to share what you would want your future Kellogg classmates and our admissions committee to know about you. What makes you, you?”. I'm not even going to give you a lot of advice on this content because you should really just trust yourself. Keep it simple. Say just a few things. In 60 seconds, you can't say a lot of things. My best advice is not to memorize a script. Do not write it out fully, neither by hand, nor typing. Instead, plan three or four bullet points that you want to get across in that amount of time. The three or four most important things that you want to convey. Practice with that bulleted list spontaneously a few times, possibly chatting with a friend, possibly chatting with a friend on Zoom or on Skype, and then just be ready to improvise based on your rough outline in terms of whatever it is that you want to say about yourself to the admissions committee and your future classmates. So don't overthink it. Just keep it simple. Talk about yourself and improvise.
- Second question, “What path are you interested in pursuing, how will you get there and why is this program right for you?”. So interestingly, Kellogg is putting their personal statement into a 60 second video essay format. This is really the only place in the application where they directly ask you: Why Kellogg? How are you going to use Kellogg to get ahead? Why is Kellogg the right fit for you? This is the only place where they asked that point blank. So this question is really, really important and you really want to prepare for this. 60 seconds is not a long time so again, you're going to be able to cover at most three or four bullet points. So do a little bit of research, come up with an answer that feels compelling and inspiring to you, include a discussion of your goals and why you're passionate about that, and then the rest is going to be about Kellogg. And so again, have a thoughtful answer here. Go beyond the basics, but don't memorize it. Improvise it. Have the points, practice, etc. I'm going to be a broken record on that one because so many people ignore this advice. They try to memorize it. And when you memorize something, you come across, not as you. You come across as just a little bit stilted, a little bit robotic, and neither of those looks are a good look for Kellogg. Kellogg is a really warm, vivacious, you know on average, extroverted community style. It's a student-led community. So all of the student groups, a lot of the career services even, are led by your peers. It's a group of people who love to be together, who love to collaborate. It's like a team spirit kind of place. Robots, stilted, awkwardness is not a good fit. So don't memorize. Again, just be yourself on camera improvising your well thought out answer to number two.
- And then question number three is going to be a question about a challenge you've faced. This is almost certainly going to take the form of a behavioral question. Tell us about a time you overcame a challenge. Tell us about a time you faced a conflict in a team. Tell us about a time you got a negative piece of feedback and how you recovered. So, you're going to see this when we get into Interview week. That behavioral questions are huge in many MBA application interviews, and on average, to really do justice to a behavioral question, you need at least 2 minutes. Kellogg is only giving you 60 seconds here. So this is a question that, in our experience, is the hardest one for our clients to answer because they have to kind of cram quite a bit into a very small space. So, to prepare for this question – because you don't know how they're going to phrase it – it's really important that you not plan a specific answer, because if the framing of the question is different, you will be totally thrown off. You will have to quickly reframe the answer while you're talking or you'll give an answer that doesn't fit the question, which again reflects really badly on your communication skills. So think through two or three or four challenges that you faced in your career and then think about a couple of bullet points as it relates to each of those challenges. Those bullet points are: What was the situation? (You guys know the S.T.A.R framework.) What was the task in front of you? How did you overcome it? And then what was the happy ending? So just think through that and then for each of your challenges, make sure that you've got those details vividly in your mind and then improvise a few times to make sure that you're able to kind of tell the story within 60 seconds and then really show up for the video essay ready to improvise, because again, you don't know exactly how that question is going to be framed and a lot of what Kellogg really wants to see is how you're able to communicate when you're not fully prepared. That's going to give them a sense of your personality. So have fun with it. Smile. Enjoy the answer. The last thing you want to do is come across as a deer in headlights. That's not going to help you for Kellogg. Not a good look. And have fun with the answer.
One of the best things that you can do to prepare yourself for these video essays is to make sure that you look good on that webcam. And in the era of Zoom calls dominating our lives, I'm sure I don't have to tell you that not a lot of people know how to look good on Zoom. It's actually really important that you frame your camera and set up your lighting in such a way that really makes you look like yourself. So here's tip number one for most of you. Your laptop or the camera on the laptop is going to be well below eye level, which is not just unflattering. It makes you look down on the camera, which doesn't feel good for the person watching it. So you want to prop your laptop up on some books so that the – I need more books, this isn't quite high enough – , you want to make sure that the camera is kind of like, right at eye level or just slightly above, slightly below eye level. And then you want to make sure that you're framed in the shot where you're taking up most of the screen and your eyes are at roughly the 3/4 mark. Here are some shots from famous movies you know and love. It's not a coincidence that those shots are all framed the same way that actually creates the best experience for the audience. And the admissions committee is your audience. You want to create a great experience for them.
So put the camera in a good spot, frame yourself well in the shot and then make sure to set up your lighting so that you can be seen very clearly. For most people that means you're gonna want a slightly indirect source of light. Here for MBA Monday we have the light right over there. It's coming diagonally at me. It's not head on. It's not directly from the side, making me look sort of like all shadowy like freak show. And it's really important to make sure that you're well-lit enough because it’s not a good look in the dark. You just don't look as great when you're not well-lit, right?
Okay. And then last thing is, dress in a way that represents you. Business casual, of course, is the way to go for most people. But if you're like me and you, you know, you have a little bit of flare in the way you present yourself, feel free to do that. Wear a colorful shirt. Wear a fancy tie. You could even wear a Kellogg sweatshirt or a Yale sweatshirt if you really want to go that far. But express yourself in every aspect of how you present yourself in those video essays, in the content of what you say, in the way you improvise and be yourself on camera, and in the way you set up the shot and you'll be doing the best that you can do to help yourself with these schools.
We're putting in the discussion a couple more links to what the schools themselves are saying about their own video essays so that you can really rest at ease and know that this is not a test, it is not an interview, it’s just a chance for you to show them who you are and how you communicate so that they have a more complete picture of you as an MBA candidate. Have fun. Good luck. And don't forget to come back next week for MBA interview week. We've got one video every single day helping you get ready for your MBA interviews which I know, if you've been following our channel, you are definitely going to need. See you next time.