Want to Stand Out In Admissions? Try Making Fun Of Yourself

Want to Stand Out in Admissions? Try Making Fun of Yourself

If college admissions taught us anything this past year, it’s that getting into college is only going to get tougher. So, what can you, as an applicant, do to stand out? Try some self-deprecation.

Jay Matthews, an education columnist for The Washington Post, recently explained why making fun of yourself can actually be a helpful tactic if you want to be remembered fondly by admissions officers.


Granted, Matthews isn’t recommending applicants to completely downplay all their achievements, but rather, reframing how they talk about them.

“Discussing your success on the school baseball team would work better if you mentioned the time you struck out three times in a row, leading friends to suggest you’d do better with a blindfold at your next at-bat,” Matthews says. “You can be justifiably proud of your senior essay on how to reform U.S. trade policy with Asia. But don’t you think college admissions officers would be more likely to enjoy, and remember, your account of trying to change the school mascot from the Crusaders to the Cockroaches?”

In short, self-deprecation can be a useful tactic for adding a flare of personality to your application.

“It will leave the impression that as brilliant and accomplished as you are, you will not be a drudge,” Matthews says. “You do not take yourself too seriously. You will be fun to have around, at the dorm, in class, at dinner with the dean.”


Matthews suggests utilizing self-deprecation in your essays. Here are some examples he shared of how to use it in your writing.

“I learned much from volunteering at the local hospital. Although one time I was so clumsy I almost disconnected an intravenous drip. At least I think that was what it was.”

Or: “I thought my speech on why I should be elected student body president was a triumph until I tripped on a cable walking off the stage and fell on my face.”

The theme in all of these is self-awareness. As Matthews says, “mentioning a character defect sends the message that you have matured to the point where you can deal with it.”

Of course, the self-deprecation tactic isn’t for everyone. It’s a difficult tone to achieve but if you can pull it off, it can make all the difference.

“Doing this may scare you,” Matthews warns. “If so, don’t do it. You need to be comfortable with whatever you send to colleges. Your parents may not like you departing from standard college application traditions. But then again, they might surprise you and reveal what they consider your most endearing flaws.”

Sources: The Washington Post, Inside Higher Ed

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