Some students are confident to the point of arrogance, especially in Silicon Valley, where everyone wants to be the next Steve Jobs. With a little bit of professional experience under their belts, these students act as though they are experts at entrepreneurship. They believe that talking about themselves in an exaggerated, boastful tone will catch the eye of admissions committees.
Unfortunately, these students are mistaken. No matter how impressive your academic accomplishments are; no matter how many awards you’ve won; no matter how many internships you’ve completed; no matter how many start-ups you’ve founded or websites you’ve built – you still have a lot to learn. If you didn’t need to learn anything more after high school, why would you want to attend college in the first place? And why would a college admit someone who had nothing left to learn?
One of my goals is to show students the value of humility in their applications. Humility doesn’t mean self-deprecation. It doesn’t mean hiding your achievements, minimizing them, or apologizing for them. It simply means being honest and self-aware, and acknowledging that you are still young and inexperienced compared to the adults who will be teaching you in college. You are only at the beginning of your educational journey; you certainly haven’t reached the summit!
Admissions committees want to see that you are a person of good character who will contribute positively to the community. They are not impressed by students who are so preoccupied with financial success that they are ready to trample everyone else on their way to the top.
Humility is a sign of good character. It shows that you are flexible and open to new ideas, and that you don’t always put yourself first. Arrogant people who think they know all the answers are too closed-minded to learn. Selfish people who see college only as a way to launch a career and get rich quickly won’t bother to look beyond themselves and help make the college community a better place.
Among my students, those with the best results are confident yet humble. Be like them. Show the admissions committee that you are well prepared to take on new academic challenges and to contribute positively to campus life, but don’t write your applications as though you are such a phenomenon that college has nothing left to teach you.