Trending: Video Essays & Group Interviews in College Admissions.

Over the past few years, top business schools such as Yale, Wharton, Kellogg, and NYU Stern and undergrad programs at Tufts and George Mason have started asking applicants to submit video essays along with their application or participate in group interviews. This new component, public speaking or ‘speaking to the camera’ in some cases, provides students an opportunity to add a new dimension to their application. While some students see this as an opportunity to shine, others detest it utterly, because it makes an already uber competitive and stressful process even more so.

Yale, through video tools on its website, captures timed responses in real time without allowing for advance preparation. Candidates have 20 seconds to think and 90 seconds to record each answer. This helps the admission officer in assessing the  applicant’s ability to think quickly. Also, the technology allows such schools to ‘interview’ more candidates, no matter where they live; thus saving everyone resources. Other schools such as the NYU’s Stern School of Business ask applicants to submit a prepared ‘Personal Expression’ essay that can be in the form of a video. 

It seems that more and more colleges are taking their cues from art and film schools, who have required application supplements such as portfolios and video clips for a long time.

Another similar development that seems to be gaining momentum is the introduction of group interviews. First school to add this element, known by ‘group discussions’ in India, was the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school. 

After Wharton unveiled its group based interview last year, a procedure in which a team of six applicants tries to solve a real-world business scenario in about 40 minutes, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business introduced its own style of group exercise. Ross applicants are provided a pair of words which they are expected to weave into a story of their won and then, as a team, connect all word-pairs into a business challenge and present a solution.     

The logic behind group interviews is quite simple. The schools felt that the admissions process had become too familiar. More and more candidates had started coming to the traditional interviews ‘too rehearsed’ which made them all sound the same. With the group interviews, the schools are trying to introduce some unpredictability as to how the candidates react and behave in a ‘live & dynamic’ setting.

Some students may not like them, but, in my opinion, real time video essays and group interviews are somewhat effective ways for the schools to know their applicant pool a tad better. After all, the admission committee's goal is to matriculate students who have personality, can work in teams, and possess good interpersonal skills, because these skills are as important, in the eyes of employers, as the person's technical knowledge.