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Tips for Taping

by Nathaniel Dolquist

Some high schools and colleges now require or encourage a video submission with your application. Anyone can film a short video about themselves, but if you incorporate these professional acting tips you’ll eliminate many of the mistakes that make admissions teams roll their eyes.


  • If you can, find a ring light or softbox to provide front or side light.

  • Sunlight is one of the best light sources and can make you look great. Film facing a window to take advantage of it

  • However, DO NOT film yourself standing in front of a window or strong back light. It will turn you into a silhouette!

  • Make sure that the light isn’t altering your skin tone. Yellow light bulbs can make you look sickly, and lights that are too bright can make you look washed out or flat.


  • Frame your shot from the chest up.

  • Don’t cut off the top of your head.

  • Center your face in the frame.

  • Look slightly to the side of the camera lens. Looking straight into the lens is unnerving for the viewer.

  • Film yourself against a solid color background. Walls work well for this. Filming in front of curtains, windows, or blinds can be distracting.

  • Make sure the background color allows your whole outline to be seen. For example, if you have dark hair, don’t film in front of a dark background because your hair will blend into it!


  • Make sure there are no sirens, pets, air conditioners, car noises, fans, or other distracting sounds in your video.

  • This means that if a car drives by while you’re recording and you can hear it when you play the video, you should re-record if you can.

  • Make sure your voice can be heard clearly. Consider purchasing a small lavalier mic that works with your equipment to get the best possible sound quality.


  • You DO NOT need to be a professional editor to make your video look good.

  • There are many inexpensive editing programs that don’t require installation, like WeVideo.

  • DO NOT go crazy with effects or transitions. Admissions teams prefer to see a clean, simple video that’s about you.

  • Film in 4K if you can. If not, use the highest definition you can.

  • Make sure the video starts with you talking, or with one second of silence before.

  • Don’t forget to trim any extra “dead space” off the end as well.


  • Know exactly what you’re going to say.

  • Enunciate so that the viewer can understand every word, but it doesn’t need to sound like Shakespeare.

  • Breathe! Have fun! Chill out! If you can find a way to feel relaxed and free it will come through beautifully in the video.

  • Don’t be afraid to show your personality. They want human beings, not robots.

  • Smile and have fun!

  • Don’t belabor. Once it’s good enough, edit it and send it in.

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