Woman with curly brown hair in overalls adjusting phone on tripod in living room

How to Make a College Application Video That Will Impress

Creating a video can be a great way to enhance your college application and stand out from the crowd. Here's how to make yours shine for admission.

More and more colleges and universities are either providing an option for applicants to submit a video essay with their admission application—or even requiring one. In fact, some schools are now allowing students to submit a video instead of a traditional application. While this last option isn’t recommended, there are a lot of reasons recording a video could really strengthen your application. For students with unusual or perhaps less tangible qualifications, or just great on-camera charisma, a video can be a great way to enhance your candidacy. A video can also demonstrate creativity and initiative. Here’s how to make your video an asset to your college application.

Prepare well in advance

Creating a solid video can be tricky and time consuming. Like any other part of your application, you should be brainstorming ideas and preparing long before the application is due, writing scripts, and practicing ahead of time. You want to allow enough time for you to be able to put together a carefully organized, well-crafted video, and it’s likely you’ll have to record it several times before it’s perfect.

Related: Your Simple Guide to Junior and Senior Year Admission Planning

Read directions carefully

...and make sure your video fully addresses any prompts. A focused video will help admission officers get to know you and how you meet their specific criteria, but indulging in unrelated content can seem superfluous and possibly even undermine your application. Of particular importance is the length of your video; if the application calls for a two-minute piece, don’t fall short of or exceed that time by more than a few seconds.

Get help

Your video should be authentic, and admission officers are not looking for a professional-quality video (unless you’re going into an audio-visual field), but taking the time to edit your video conscientiously can really make a difference. So if you have a friend that is particularly adept at producing videos, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Also, have your friends and family serve as a test audience so you can receive helpful feedback.

When possible, show rather than tell

Your video shouldn’t simply be your written essay read aloud; you want to take advantage of the medium. Include scenes of you scoring the big goal, your lead role in the school play, or volunteering in the community. Some students also use props or visual aids.

Be concise

There’s no need for flowery language or overly long narratives. Everything you say or show should be purposeful. Sometimes less is more.

Be dynamic and show your personality

The rest of your application probably provides your grades and test scores, so no need to repeat such information here. The precious few minutes you have should primarily serve to allow the admission officers to get to know you better. Share your opinions and interests about academic topics or current events, but avoid extremely controversial matters.

Related: How to Tell Your Story in Your College Application Essay

Remember your audience

A little eccentricity or humor can be charming and help you stand out, which is good. But, ultimately, you don’t want to seem like anything other than a highly qualified, diligent student. Be professional: dress the part, speak with proper grammar, and be confident, just as you would in an interview. And don’t overshare! While videos can be useful to describe some of the unique experiences you’ve had or challenges you’ve overcome, certain intimate details can be inappropriate. When in doubt, be conservative with your content.

Looking for more admission advice and how-tos? Explore all our articles on the college application process!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress


High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me find Allegheny College with the super-user-friendly search tool for both schools and scholarships. Using CollegeXpress, I was able to search for programs I was interested in studying and find colleges that offered those programs. Also, once you search for the college, CollegeXpress can get you connected!

Carlie Cadet

Carlie Cadet

High School Class of 2019

CollegeXpress has helped me learn about an abundance of scholarships available to me and my situation. I was able to do research for colleges in my best interest with your website. I've had multiple colleges email me and offer me multiple scholarships and things of that nature because of this website! Thank you so much for uploading scholarships I didn’t even know existed, even if my life took a huge turn and I wasn’t able to go to college straight out of high school. CollegeXpress helped me a lot in high school to be even more motivated to get into my dream college (which I did, by the way). I'm looking forward to using the materials CollegeXpress has kindly provided me for free to look for scholarships to help pay for college.

Tariq Adam Khatib

Tariq Adam Khatib

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me a lot. I am a Tanzania boy who finished my high school studies in Tanzania. I never knew I could get an opportunity to get a scholarship to study abroad. I am happy that now I know how to find the school to study abroad through CollegeXpress.

Alexandra Adriano

Alexandra Adriano

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2016

I've used CollegeXpress quite a bit as a senior, particularly for colleges and scholarships, so it's been a very big asset in that respect! I would recommend it to anyone looking to pursue a college education, especially seniors! This scholarship will help me achieve my goals in ways I couldn't have before, and I know that there are opportunities like that for everyone on the website and in the magazines!



High School Class of 2023

I’m currently a college freshman attending Towson University. My major is Information Technology, and I plan to minor in Electronic Media & Film to achieve my goal of becoming a production engineer. Upon graduating high school earlier this year, I was awarded a $5,000 scholarship from CollegeXpress, which greatly assisted in paying my tuition. Truthfully, this financial reward was the difference in affording my room and board and tuition, along with other expenses for school. My family and I haven’t stopped celebrating my award since it was bestowed on me. I will never forget this opportunity for allowing me to get my foot into my university financially.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Soka University of America

Aliso Viejo, CA

Methodist University

Fayetteville, NC

New York University—Abu Dhabi Campus

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates