One question I am frequently asked by candidates who have the option of submitting a video or writing an essay is, “Which should I choose?” (Of course, some of the time it is not an option, you have to do a video.)
But if you DO have the choice, here are some things to think about:
1. Does it matter?
“No.” Though it’s sort of hard to believe. When admission committee members are asked this question, they will assure you that it doesn’t really matter. And they will insist on this point. My own experience has been mixed: I have seen great videos end with a rejection; while the written essay ends with an acceptance. This to me is at least reassuring.
2. Which is easier?
In reality, what makes a captivating video is more your videography skills than being a compelling candidate. Even more importantly, video creation can take a really long time, particularly if you are not experienced. The question then becomes how best to spend your time. If it takes two hours for you to write an essay and two hours to create a video that’s one thing. If it takes two hours to write an essay and 20 hours to create a video then the answer becomes clear.
3. Which is richer?
From which will the admissions committee learn more? It has been my experience that a written essay will tell a more unique and intimate story than a video ever does. My biggest problem with videos is they can be terribly superficial. In the video essay, the admissions committee wants to see an absolutely different side of you. In most cases, videos don’t accomplish this, as they just tell the same story again, only this time with sound and pictures. Plus, most videos are actually pretty boring. Five minutes is a long, long time.
So, what to do? To reassure yourself, do a little detective work by combining YouTube (where the video lives) and LinkedIn (where you can see where the applicant landed for business school). The results can be surprising as the candidates with the best videos, frequently don’t get accepted to their school of choice. Plus it gives you a sense of the quality of the other applicants’ videos.
My own default is create a video ONLY if you know how to do it AND you feel like a video will communicate a side of you that can’t be done in prose. If the application on which you are working would be your first foray into creating a video, forget about it. The result will likely end up being the worst of all worlds: a crummy video telling a crummy story. After all, even if you create a video that is Academy Award quality, it will do you no good if you are a weak candidate in other ways.