How to write an application essay: describing your strengths and weaknesses

Most people are just as timid describing their strengths as their weaknesses. They don’t want to appear over prideful, or give the impression they’re trying to be better than someone else. Describing weaknesses can be just as tricky. Yet your application essay wants you to do both. How do you do it in a tactful, professional and interesting way? It’s not easy but it is possible.

Use these tips to help you with your application essay:

  1. Remember that a weakness doesn’t mean you have to absolutely fail at something. It just describes an area of your life where you really struggle. You’d like to get better at it but haven’t found a way yet. For example, you could ask yourself one of the following questions:
    • What are your weaknesses as a team member?
    • What are your weaknesses in showing patience?
    • What are your weaknesses in being able to confront someone?
  2. Similarly, a strength doesn’t mean you have to be better at it than anyone else you know. For example, you might be good at singing. But of course, there are other singers better than you. Some questions to help you find some strengths you might not have thought of:
    • What are your strengths in dealing with other people?
    • What are your strengths in staying motivated when others give up?
    • What are your strengths in doing what’s right even when the wrong thing would be easier?
  3. Don’t make empty claims. Give the committee some details and examples to back up what you’re saying. Don’t simply say that you’re the best person at calculating math in your head that you know. Give some support for your statement. What are some examples? What exactly can you do? Give specifics.
  4. Make sure you are following the instructions for the application essay. They may list particular prompt questions that you have to answer. It’s always most important to follow all the application instructions first and then after that, use some other helps and hints you can find to polish it up.
  5. Don’t use vague words. Make each word count and make sure it does a good job of describing precisely what you want it to. For example, instead of saying, I worked hard for someone who couldn’t pay me, say I mowed lawns for all the widows and single mothers on my street because I knew they needed the help and couldn’t afford to pay.

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