Sharing weaknesses accentuates strengths

Seniors moving into the application process will soon be besieged with messaging and advice around highlighting their strengths, standing out, and packaging themselves to supposedly resonate with their prospective colleges. But the best way to present yourself is to do so honestly. Yes, that means bringing your accomplishments and strengths front and center. Explain them clearly and proudly. This is no time to be bashful.

But if you really want to stand out, don’t be afraid to be honest about your weaknesses, too.

Here’s a past post on the power of self-deprecation. And another with the best way to handle an interview question or essay prompt that asks you about a weakness. Finally, here’s a snippet from a former dean of admissions at Princeton who appreciated some good self-deprecation in an application.

It turns out that the willingness to admit a fault or weakness isn’t just an effective selling technique in college admissions. In his book To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, author Dan Pink shares the “blemish effect” where research showed that “…adding a minor negative detail in an otherwise positive description of a target can give that description a more positive impact.”

And seven years ago, Domino’s Pizza ran a national ad campaign admitting that their pizza was terrible. According to CEO Patrick Doyle, “We went on air on a Monday, and by Wednesday, our sales were up double digit. And we hadn’t even told them how we’d fixed it.”

The company’s stock has since outperformed Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.