5 Tips for a Great Video-Essay

The video-essay, though short, is an important component of the Early College Studies application. It is a chance for you to show Team ECS a little bit of your personality, and it is a chance to bring your application to life so you are more than simply a name on a screen.

The following are five tips for a great video-essay.

Tip 1: Prepare

Team ECS highly recommends that you take some time to prepare your response before recording it. You might choose to create an outline of your response, you might write a journal entry to get your thoughts together, or you might map out your response in pictures. Whatever you choose to do, take some time to think through what you are going to say.

This is just like when a teacher asks you to create a graphic organizer, free write, or create an outline of an essay before beginning to write. Just because you aren’t actually writing an essay with pen and paper (or keyboard!), you still should go through the same steps of the writing process.

While you can re-do the video as many times as you wish while it is a draft, once you submit your answer, your video is final. 

Tip 2: Know Your Answer Instead of Memorizing It

Know your answer because you understand it, not because you have memorized it. 

When you know your answer, you can speak “from the heart,” and when you speak from the heart, you will come across as more authentic and genuine. When you know your answer, it’s almost impossible to forget what you are supposed to say. You just know it!

This isn’t to say that you won’t practice your answer so much that you find yourself eventually saying it close to the same way each time. The point is, you will deliver your answer with more “life” if you are truly communicating what you think rather than just mouthing words that it feels like someone else wrote and you are simply reciting.

Tip 3: Practice, Practice, Practice

There is no substitution for it: practice, practice, practice. It is true that there are some people in the world who can step in front of a camera or in front of a crowd of people and think of things to say on the spot. 

The truth is, though, that’s not most of us! Or, at least that’s not most of us yet. Every skill we have is like a muscle; the more we use the muscle, the stronger it becomes. That includes your public speaking and presentation muscles. People who seem like they can get up in front of a crowd or camera and speak without any rehearsing most likely have put in hours and hours of practice previously in their life.

There are multiple ways that you can practice for this 90-second video-essay. You can practice speaking in front of a mirror. You can present to a friend, sibling or parent. You can record yourself on video and then critique yourself.

Whatever you do, run through what you are going to say until you feel confident that you know your answer rather than having simply memorized it. (see above!)

Tip 4: Make Eye Contact

This can be really challenging when technology is involved! Just like you would make eye contact with someone you are speaking to in person, the polite and proper thing to do when on video or when video conferencing with someone is to look into the camera while you are speaking. Most people (us ECS teachers included) find ourselves looking down into the computer or phone screen to look at the other person’s face, and we have to constantly, consciously correct ourselves and look up into the camera.

It definitely feels a little weird at first when you are looking into that small, dark circle at the top of the screen while you’re catching movement out of the corner of your eye on the screen itself. This is one of those things that will come with practice, so give it your best shot during the video-essay.

Tip 5: Look the Part

There’s a saying in professional world: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” It’s advice that stems back to the idea that an employer needs to be able to picture you in the job before he or she even considers hiring you; the employer is not likely to hire you for a position and hope that you grow into the job!

The same goes for Early College Studies. How you present yourself on camera communicates a lot to the admissions team. Are you hiding behind a hood, or are you confidently sitting forward in a chair and looking straight at the camera? Do you look like you just rolled out of bed, or do you look presentable and like someone that the team would feel confident bringing to one of the corporations in Stamford where we visit for workplace mentoring?

Please do not misunderstand: this is not a tip that indicates that you have to wear fancy clothes in the video, get your hair done, or anything else like that. It is indicating, however, that you are applying to a program that is offering you the opportunity to advance your studies faster than other students, the opportunity to visit multiple professional environments that others do not have access to, and the opportunity to get out in the working world through a paid internship in the technology field. This is your chance for the team to build its confidence in you that you will represent Early College Studies well!