Flaws Make You Real

Many college admissions committees ask you to write about your flaws. You may think this is a trap, but it’s actually a stealthy method of asking you to evaluate your personal growth. Accepted is here with more on how to handle this tricky essay question.

A speaker recently told a story about traveling in Asia where he saw a stunning emerald. Enchanted by the stone’s beauty, he decided to buy it. On the spot.

He returned home and took the emerald to a jeweler for appraisal. The jeweler began to examine the stone through his magnifier, and as he did so, his face went pale.

“What’s the matter?” asked the proud owner of the emerald.

“I can’t find a flaw.” said the jeweler.

“Wonderful!” said the stone’s owner.

“No, it’s not. If it’s flawless, it’s a fake. A phony. It’s not real. Nothing in the natural world is flawless.” replied the jeweler.

“Then find a flaw!!!”

After a few more tense moments the jeweler found a small flaw, and the owner of the stone could again enjoy its beauty without worrying that he had been taken in by a piece of plastic masquerading as a gem.

The adcoms are trying to appraise you through your essays. If they ask you about a flaw, failure, or weaknesses and you fail to provide that proof of authenticity, then you will be a phony and fake in their eyes.

Remember what the jeweler said: “Nothing in the natural world is flawless.” Everything in nature has an imperfection, a flaw. Certainly human beings are wonderful proof of his point. But, the question becomes how do you handle yours? Do you deny they exist? Do you just throw up your hands and say, “That’s me. Take it or leave it.”

If asked, don’t hesitate to reveal a real weakness. Also, try to show how you have strengthened that area, developed other talents to compensate, or grown as you dealt with and minimized your imperfection so that over time it has become much harder to see, perhaps imperceptible.

Now if we can only get the schools to realize that when asked about their weaknesses they too should answer honestly to prove authenticity and enhance their credibility…

This article was originally published on the Accepted Admissions Blog. 


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  • Linda Abraham

    Linda Abraham is the founder and CEO of Accepted, the top-tier admissions consultancy that helps you unlock your competitive advantage. Linda has written or co-authored 13 ebooks on the college admissions process. In 2007, she co-founded the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) and became its first president. For the last 20 years Linda and her highly credentialed, experienced team have helped thousands of applicants get accepted to top colleges and graduate schools worldwide, including but not limited to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, Kellogg, and MIT. She has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, The New York Times, US News, The Sunday Times of London, Businessweek, Poets & Quants and MBA Podcaster.

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