Top video essay tips for your specialized master’s program

Dana MacFaun is the Director of Graduate Admissions at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. She oversees admissions for both Questrom’s residential MBA programs and their specialized master’s programs. She tells us about the specialized master’s programs that Questrom offers, gives us insight into their admissions processes, and shares some tips on how to prepare for video essays.

In short

How admissions works for specialized master’s programs

Boston University’s Questrom School of Business currently offers three specialized master’s programs:

  • MS in Management Studies
  • MS in Mathematical Finance and Financial Technology
  • MS in Business Analytics

Because all of their programs are highly specialized, BU Questrom’s admissions processes are tailored to their specific requirements. Although the admissions team is “still trying to figure out academic ability, what someone will contribute, and whether or not the programs are a right fit,” the same is “true of all [their] programs and how they evaluate.” (02:44)

Nevertheless, the admissions process for specialized master’s programs is a little bit different because applicants have different backgrounds and levels of experience. 

Prospective students usually have to submit “university level transcripts, [their] resumes, letters of recommendation, and some sort of essay, either written, video or both, depending on the program.” (03:05)

Specialized master’s programs differ from MBAs because prior work experience often isn’t required. Dana explains, “We do not require professional experience…for any of our programs, although it’s important for students to look at the class profiles for each program to get a sense of what is typical within the classroom.” (01:23)

Ultimately, the admissions team is trying to determine whether “their programs make sense [for the applicant and that [they] could come in and be a strong contributor.” (03:36)

How to prepare for a video essay

Most students are familiar with written essays within the context of admissions processes. However, many have not encountered video essays before. 

Dana explains how video essays work in the application process for Questrom’s specialized master’s programs:

“Once [an applicant] hits go, they’re going to get a handful of questions that they’re going to answer verbally with recording. So, we’ll ask a question, they’ll have about 30 seconds to think of their answer, and then they’ll have 60 seconds to record it,” she explains. (04:19)

For prospective students who might feel nervous before a video interview, Dana’s best advice is “just to be yourself. To know why you’re doing this, and be yourself.” (06:00)

She emphasizes that “if you know why you’ve chosen to apply to our MS in Management Studies or Business Analytics or [Mathematical Finance] and you’re able to articulate that in 60 seconds or less…you’ll be off to a good start when you do these videos.” (06:05

In order to provide a little extra guidance, she shared a few examples of topics that have come up in BU Questrom’s video essays:

  • Tell us what you’re passionate about and why.
  • Tell us about what your teammates would say about you as a team member and why.
  • What was the best gift someone has ever given you and why was that your best gift?
  • If you could have a chance to sit down with any world leader and ask them questions, what would you ask them? What would you want to know?

All in all, the goal of video essays is “to talk with [applicants], communicate with [them], see how [they] think, see how [they] answer, but not stump [them]…They’re not meant to be hard questions.” (07:40)

At the end of the day, “if people can be themselves and let [Questrom] use [a video essay] as an opportunity to get to know them and understand their motivations and their goals, that’s really what [the admissions team is] trying to get out of it.” (07:49)

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