As college admissions to the most selective schools has gotten more competitive, too many future applicants are afraid to experience, or to admit, failure. But there is such a thing as a good failure.
If you try out for the varsity soccer team and get cut, it’s not fun. But that doesn’t mean it's a bad failure. Maybe you use that free time to do something else you’re excited about? Maybe you use getting cut as motivation to come back even stronger next year? Maybe you find a way to be a part of the team anyway by being the team manager, or taking photos of the games, or running the fundraiser? Any of those scenarios turns that failure into something good.
Most successful students—and adults—have experienced failure. If you put yourself out there enough times to go after things that aren’t easy to achieve, you’re going to fail every now and then. There’s no shame in it. It may be a big fat cliché with cheese, but the real failure is never trying.
One of our most successful applicants at Collegewise wrote her essay about how she had lost every election she had every run in…badly. But she used each of those opportunities to find activities that were even better suited to her. And she ended up at Notre Dame.
Sure, not all failures are good. I’m not suggesting that you should blow off studying for your biology midterm just so you can experience failure.
But if you have a good failure, don’t be ashamed about it. And don’t be afraid to share it with colleges (especially if they ask you about a failure and what you learned from it). It takes a mature, confident person to admit defeat and to move on positively.
Colleges don’t expect you to be perfect. And in fact, most will be impressed by good failures.