The latest from Collegewise: counselor bio videos

Last year, our Collegewise filmmaker, Frank, suggested that we offer biographical videos of our counselors. Families want to meet the person they’d be working with before they hire a college counselor. While we offer a free introductory meeting for just that reason, we have lots of families who work with us online because they don’t live in a city where we have an office. And we wondered if even those families near our offices might appreciate the option of watching a two-minute video in addition to—or even in lieu of—a face-to-face introductory meeting.

So how do you make a bio video that someone would actually find interesting and engaging?

Frank and I tackled that question before tackling the project. And after some good brainstorming, we realized that Collegewise had already found the answer for us. A great bio video should be the filmmaking version of a great college essay. So we started the project by following our college essay advice.

1. Don’t try to impress; just be honest.
The resume can answer the question, “Is this counselor qualified?” The video should help answer the question, “Do I like this person?” And the best way to get someone to like you is to just be yourself. Nobody wants to watch a slick sales pitch. We wanted these videos to represent the real person the counselor is, not a fake version of who we were trying to guess someone might want them to be. That’s College Essay 101 at Collegewise, and we knew it wouldn’t lead us astray when making our bios.

2. Own your stories.
The best way to stand out from the bio video—or college essay—pack is to tell stories that only you could tell. We call that “owning your stories,” and you do it by injecting detail. Done right, no two Collegewise bio videos should be the same because no two Collegewise counselors are the same. Yes, they may have similar backgrounds, experiences, hobbies, etc. But the details behind those shared traits is where the magic is. Our videos had to capture it.

3. Don’t repeat information from your application.
Our counselors have bios on our website that detail their education and experience. A viewer doesn’t need that information repeated for them. So our videos had to reveal information that wasn’t anywhere on the resume, or new information about the topics on the resume.

4. Sound like you.
We wanted these videos to be authentic representations of each counselor, something that would make their friends and family who know them best say, “It’s just so you.” So we didn’t write scripts. We didn’t tell them exactly what to say and how to say it. We didn’t over-prepare or over-polish. First takes, like first drafts, are rarely perfect, so Frank did plenty of retakes. And like our essay editing process, he chose what clips to leave in and what to leave out, and shaped what the counselors gave him into interesting and compelling stories. But the finished product should not be a polished-to-perfection version that only exists on film. It had to look and sound like the real counselor we know and work with.

Our most important victory condition for this project was that if the counselors liked their own videos, if they were quick to share them with their friends and family or even to post them on social media, we’d know that we hit a home run. That’s exactly what’s happened.

Frank is still finishing the videos and they’re not up on our website yet. But here are a few sneak peeks for blog readers. I’m so proud of the work he’s done and of the counselors he captured. And I hope you enjoy getting to know them as much as we have.