George Mason Video Essay Requirements

Video Applications Encourage Students to Tell Their Stories

Posted: March 2, 2010 at 11:05 am, Last Updated: March 2, 2010 at 11:09 am

By Catherine Ferraro

Thinking about applying to college? Get your guitar or dancing shoes ready. At George Mason University, it’s show time.

Mason is one of the first universities in the nation to encourage potential students to submit videos about themselves — in addition to or in lieu of an essay — as part of the application process.

With the explosion of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the way information is shared has changed. For Mason admission officials, it only made sense to extend this growing phenomenon to the application process.

“We began thinking about video essays several years ago because the massive growth in applications to Mason increased the importance of giving students a way to personalize their applications,” says Andrew Flagel, dean of Admissions.

“Since interviews can be an expensive and time-consuming process, using technology to incorporate videos offers a novel approach as competition for admission increases rapidly. The video essays allow students to convey their energy, enthusiasm and creativity directly to the admissions committee.”

In developing their videos, students have no constraints other than to adhere to YouTube guidelines. So far, the Office of Admissions has received more than 75 videos accompanying applications. In one, a student sings original songs while playing a ukulele; in another, a student creates a scrapbook; and in yet another, a student retells the classic “Cat in the Hat” story. Videos have been submitted from students with a wide variety of interests, including theater, global affairs and business.

Since last year, students have been submitting videos for acceptance into Mason Ambassadors, an Admissions Office program in which Mason students share their pride in the institution by hosting prospective students, participating in admissions events and elite university functions and guiding campus tours.

Impressed by the strength of the candidates and the originality of the videos, Flagel and other admissions officials decided to offer the video application option to high school seniors vying for a spot in the incoming class of 2010.

Most of the videos focus on similar themes, such as a student’s involvement in the community, travel experiences and entrepreneurial spirit.

The videos are evaluated by the same admissions team that reads the applications. Academics are still central in all admissions decisions. Flagel also notes that the production value of the videos is not considered. Instead, the admissions counselors are interested in what motivates and excites a student about attending Mason.

According to Flagel, the videos haven’t radically changed any admissions decisions, but they have helped convey why certain students would be an asset to the university.

A unique aspect of the video application process is that they are posted, with the student’s permission, on theMason Metro web site and can be viewed and commented upon by anyone. In fact, the admissions team has called attention to some of the best videos to let potential students know the option is available.

“The advantage of having the videos available for potential and current Mason students is that they are able to see the diversity and talent that exists at the university,” says Flagel. “I hope we will eventually receive thousands of videos from students who have great things to say about Mason.”

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For years, video essays have been a staple on applications to art and design schools across the U.S. (and abroad)... not to mention a requirement for film school hopefuls.

These days, four-year colleges and universities are beginning to push the boundaries of their application criteria to include video essays.

Schools like George Mason University, Tufts University, and St. Mary's College of Maryland are now accepting videos as part of their admissions process.

It's important to remember some schools may accept videos only as a "supplement" to the traditional application, while others may look to videos as an accepted alternative to written essays.

So, why video essays?

Every college-bound student is looking for ways to make their school applications stand out, and "get noticed" against the thousands of other similar applicants.

Video essays allow an admissions officer a further glimpse into the personality and charisma of a student... and it just may be enough to make a stronger case for admission.

What's more - from cell phones to webcams and point-and-shoots - students nowadays have the tools to quickly and easily create video essays.

Simple Steps To Make Your College Video Essay

In most cases, students applying to colleges will post their videos on YouTube, and then simply send the schools the link to the YouTube page that hosts their video. It's not uncommon for some students to go as far as to send schools a DVD.

Remember, the video essay is a fairly new phenomenon, and as such, there aren't many rules yet. But there are a few key points to guide you:

  • Be yourself. (Admissions counselors can usually tell if it's a script written by parents)
  • Be as brief as possible.
  • Make sure the sound and overall quality of the video is adequate and flawless.

That's it. Your video shouldn't be overly polished. Colleges don't want a big production... they're looking to get a feel for who you are as a potential student.

That said; don't pour too much time into your video essay. While growing, the number of schools that accept them is small - and the number that accept them in lieu of a regular essay even less.

And on the other side of the coin, there is still continued debate over whether video essays have any bearing on admission decisions.

In fact, some colleges contend that - because the admissions process is 100% confidential - video essays made public on YouTube undermine that confidentiality.

That said, video essays are a nice way to get to know a student - and perhaps make the student memorable.

Finally, the biggest rule to keep in mind with your video essay: Be concise, to the point, and present yourself as who you are; a student that is ready to take on the world!

To Your Success,

Scott Weingold

Co-Founder, College Planning Network LLC
Publisher, - The free educational resource of College Planning Network

Scott Weingold is the publisher of and also co-founder and principal of College Planning Network, LLC - the nation's largest college admissions and financial aid planning firm. Scott has been ranked the #1 "College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About" in the U.S. by, and he co-authored the book, "The Real Secret To Paying For College"

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