You’re not running for office

The first question in the recent Republican presidential debate was, “What is your biggest weakness, and what are you doing to fix it?”

Imagine if a candidate had answered:

“It’s a constant struggle for me to stay organized.”

“I tend to start a lot more projects than I finish.”

“It’s difficult for me to admit that I was wrong.”

I’m not a political strategist and this isn’t a post about politics. But if presidential candidates admit a real weakness during a televised debate, it will be dissected and analyzed and even used against them by their opponents. That’s politics, especially in the age of the Internet where sound bytes and video travel fast.

Teenagers don’t have this problem.

Everyone has weaknesses. The college admissions process might send a message that you have to be great at everything, but the truth is that college applicants who see their own weaknesses and can even be open about them project a self-awareness and confidence that even many adults struggle to embrace.

If a college essay prompt or a college interviewer asks you about your weaknesses, don’t panic. Don’t be ashamed. And don’t try to spin your answer to something that’s actually positive like, “I’m too committed to community service.”

The question isn’t designed to trick you. And admissions officers aren’t going to point to that weakness as a reason not to admit you unless you reveal something concerning like, “I have a very bad temper,” or, “I get very depressed when things don’t turn out as I’d hoped” (neither of which bode well for students entering a college environment).

Instead, think about your weaknesses. What makes them challenging for you? Is it something you’re trying to improve or something you’ve just had to accept about yourself?  Then just tell the truth.

You’re applying to college, not running for office.