Just being yourself is impressive enough

My friend Paul from The Princeton Review knows more about standardized tests than anyone you will ever meet, so much so that he is a sought-after public speaker who is routinely flown all over the world to teach audiences how to put these tests into perspective.  Everyone leaves his speeches glad they gave up the time to attend.  He’s also a savvy businessman who for 20 years owned and ran the most successful branch of The Princeton Review before he sold it in 2009.  He’s mentored countless employees, high school counselors, and entrepreneurs who are grateful to him for his support and advice.  He’s the picture of success.  

Next week, Paul is scheduled to speak at a prominent local high school.  Today, the head counselor emailed him asking for a high resolution headshot they could use to promote the event.  This is the photo he sent.

IMG_6144 If you know Paul, you’re not surprised.  In a word, Paul is silly.  He wears outrageous clothing.  His outgoing voicemails are always outlandish.  He’s always the first to poke fun at himself and takes only a few minutes to establish himself as the funniest member of any group.  This photo isn’t shtick.  It’s just Paul being himself.  That’s why people love and respect him as much as they do.

If you’re applying to college this fall, learn from Paul’s example.  I’m not saying every student should be goofy in your college applications.  But you should unapologetically be yourself.  Whether you’re a jock or a math geek, the lead in the school play or the tech-expert who runs the lights, a musician or an artist, a dancer or a poet, a kid who takes karate classes or one who works part time at a hamburger stand, a straight-A student or an average scholar who’s still a nice kid looking for the right school to spend the next four years, don’t be afraid to reveal yourself to colleges.  Be proud of who you are.  And never try to mold yourself into somebody you’re not just to impress admissions committees.    

As long as you’re applying to the right colleges, just being yourself is impressive enough.