Application Components – Short Answer Questions, Video Essays and Optional Essays

While the essay questions may get the bulk of your attention, there are other crucial application components that require significant effort including short answer questions, video essays and optional essays. Below is Personal MBA Coach’s advice on how to tackle each.

Short Answer Questions

Do not underestimate the importance of the short answer questions. Set aside adequate time to perfect these answers. Many schools, including HBS, have lengthy short answer sections that will require significant time. These questions serve a few important purposes. First, they allow you to share additional aspects of your candidacy. Naturally, there are many accomplishments and traits that you will not cover in your application essays; this is your chance to share these important successes. The format of the short answer section also allows admissions committee members to easily compare you to your peers. Ensure to take the time to stand out by carefully selecting the accomplishments discussed. Wherever possible, these answers should be complementary and not repetitive. Finally, short answer questions are a test of consistency and cohesion. The voice used here should match that shared throughout your essays and should paint a credible and concrete image of who you are as a candidate.

Video Essays

Videos essays are increasingly used by top programs to assess applicants. After all, you will have limited career success if you are unable to nail an interview, so this is adcom’s way of evaluating your physical presence / delivery. For some schools, such as MIT, the video question is provided in advance and applicants submit a pre-recorded video with their applications. For other schools, including Kellogg, Yale SOM and INSEAD applicants are asked to record videos on the spot within two days to one week after submitting their applications.

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For these statements, be yourself. These videos offer admissions committee members the chance to learn more about you on a personal level. Potential topics include goals, passions, values and hobbies, among other more challenging questions. While you do not want to sound overly rehearsed, it is important to practice for these videos. If you have the question, write out a rough script in advance of filming. If you do not, practice sample questions. As you practice, consider factors such as audio quality, demeanor, and fluency in addition to the content itself. Personal MBA Coach has proprietary software available and a list of prior questions asked to help candidates prepare for these videos and includes analysis of sample videos in its comprehensive packages.

Optional Essays

Most schools offer candidates the chance to complete an optional essay. However, DO NOT feel compelled to answer these questions. In most instances, I only advise candidates with extenuating circumstance to provide additional information here. (There are a few schools where I do advise all candidates to answer the optional question, but this is the exception and not the rule). Such extenuating circumstances include low GPAs, gaps in employment and an unusual choice of recommenders (i.e. not asking a direct supervisor).  Keep in mind with these essays: be brief and to the point. Do not offer long-winded excuses or any more information than is needed.

Need help? Personal MBA Coach is willing to be your guide. Founded by a Wharton and MIT graduate, we regularly help applicants navigate their applications each year. We also conduct mock interviews with former M7 interviewers on our team.

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