Consider Your Failures: A Different Approach to Writing Application Essays

When you're writing a college application essay, consider talking about your failures.

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As humans, we like painting ourselves in the best light possible. It makes sense: We want to be seen as successful, as people who have accomplished things. What we sometimes forget is that talking about our failures can actually be a way to do this. Here’s a different approach to writing a college application essay:

How considering your failures can help your college essay.

When you’re writing your college application essay, you want to show the college who you are, and you only have a few hundred words to do so. You could talk about how winning that contest made you feel, or how awesome it was to get that leading role in the show, or similar achievements. But what if you talked about your earning second place instead of first? About being a bench-warmer for three seasons? Sure, you could talk about a great success…but what if you talked about the many failures that lead up to that success?

How we deal with our own failures and shortcomings says more about us than how we deal with success. Do we rise to the occasion anyway, or do we mope about how it should have been us? Failing at something—and acknowledging fault as our own—is a learning opportunity. The world is full of challenges, and we are not going to succeed the first time at everything we do. Instead, we learn, and we grow.

College is going to be rough.

College will be full of such challenges. Adaptation is key to survival. You can showcase this by admitting to college admissions that you are not perfect and have struggled. You have taken the time to deal with adversity by bettering yourself in some way. In our ever-changing world, that means a lot. Remember the words of Robert F. Kennedy: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”

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