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Application Essays: Arrogance or Pride?

Another great guest post from, enjoy!

Many admissions essays focus on achievements that you are proud of. That focus creates a challenge: How do you craft essays that reflect appropriate pride and confidence without any arrogance or bragging ?

Here are a few tips:

1. Provide specifics that demonstrate the magnitude of your achievements. Don’t make grandiose, unsupported claims about them.

2. The Good: “While I was Membership Chair of the Dog Catcher’s Union (“DCU”), the membership committee initiated programs A, B, and C, which increased the DCU’s membership by 20% in less than one year – a record in the group’s ten years of existence.”

3. The Bad: “I used my exceptional leadership skills, which would really benefit your school, as Membership Chair for the Dogcatcher’s Union.”

4. After describing your achievement, provide the analysis that the question requests. For example, if the question asks why you consider an achievement to be important, think about it and tell them!

5. The Good: “I am proud of my record with the DCU because I was able to serve my community — despite our cause being an unpopular one — and improve working conditions for those playing a vital role in our community.”

6. The Ugly: “I believe my work on behalf of the DCU demonstrates my leadership skill and shows how I will add to the diversity of your school.

7. Don’t provide conclusions that the adcom isn’t asking for. To use again the questions that ask you why you are proud of a particular achievement, provide your reasons. Then allow the reader to conclude that your values mesh perfectly with the school’s values. See the Good and Ugly in #2.

8. Don’t make unsupportable statements. You can claim singular knowledge, experience, or achievements only if you are positive that you exclusively have achieved X or experienced Y.

9. The Good: “As a result of my experience as a trader on the Himalayan Stock Exchange, I have handled Challenges A, B, and C while trading in a developing, young securities market.”

10. The Ugly: “As a result of my experience as a senior trader on the Himalayan Exchange, I am the only applicant who can present the valuable perspective of a Himalayan professional.”

11. If discussing a weakness or failure, take responsibility for your actions. Don’t belittle your competition, colleagues, bosses, teachers, or anyone else.


Pride and confidence are qualities that schools admire, so don’t indulge in false modesty. Tell your story proudly. And follow the tips above to make sure that you don’t cross that fuzzy line into ugly arrogance and ding territory.


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