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College Essays And Interviews: Someone I'm Not?!

OnMyWay2013OnMyWay2013 1304 replies34 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
edited August 2012 in College Admissions
I know the main emphasis around applying for college is "be yourself", but I'm very shy and very much a follower. I've been putting off thinking about college for a while (I also procrastinate a lot) because I've lived my whole life stifled by parents, and between that and self-doubt, I'm not very independent, I haven't taken the most rigorous classes in high school because I didn't think I could handle the workload, and I don't really do any ECs, especially those with leadership positions because, like I said, I'm shy and a follower...

I feel like all of these traits are things that will probably get me rejected from a lot of colleges, especially those I really want to go to (Ivies, MIT, Johns Hopkins, etc.) because they're looking for leaders who are confident and innovative and don't back down from challenging themselves.

So, my question is: Would it be bad to, during an interview or in an essay, only talk about my best traits, which are curiosity, passion, grades, blah blah blah, but then have this gaping hole where all these other things are supposed to be?

Or should I honestly tell them that I'm shy and doubt myself a lot, which would explain the courseload and ECs and a huge part of my personality but probably will make them think that I can't handle their college?
edited August 2012
20 replies
Post edited by OnMyWay2013 on
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Replies to: College Essays And Interviews: Someone I'm Not?!

  • pandamicpandamic 400 replies8 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    You should focus on your best traits and put things in a positive light. Like, you can say you're shy, but then say that you're working on coming out of your shell and becoming more confident. Then, you could talk about how that college would be a good fit for you and how you plan to be more outgoing in college.

    Something like that! :)
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  • ReallypeopleReallypeople 128 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    You really ought to ask yourself in what kind of environment you would flourish. If a college values highly motivated, confident, outgoing people, you might very well find yourself struggling to make your place there. You might do better in a more nurturing environment that will help give you confidence. Perhaps one of the College That Change Lives or other small LACs?
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  • OnMyWay2013OnMyWay2013 1304 replies34 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    ^ I've never really considered that. It's a good idea, but my dad really wants me to go to an Ivy, and my dream has always been that I would go to this place where the best of the best get in and if I spent enough time around these highly motivated, confident, outgoing people, then I would become one of them too...

    But now I could easily see myself going the other way too... :( It's such a toss-up, but I'm tired of doubting what I can do. I'm always either staying away from something and regretting it, or going for something and failing and regretting it...
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  • LydiaSofiaLydiaSofia 68 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Honestly, you could apply for a mix of both... I was dealing with a similar situation - whether to apply to theatre conservatories or LACs (ivies didn't appeal to me because I wanted a smaller, more individualized undergrad... I applied for Brown, but that's it)... so I wound up applying to a few conservatories, and 3 LACs... So you could pick your favorite ivies and your favorite LACs and a few safeties and see where you land?

    I mean, I'm not sure if that's the most conventional approach, but I wasn't sure what I wanted when I was applying to college and that approach landed me exactly where I should be - my first year was the best year of my life so far...
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  • LydiaSofiaLydiaSofia 68 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    And honestly, from how you've described yourself, I think you owe it to yourself to take a look at some LACs. There are plenty of motivated people who attend - some of them even qualify for ivy educations and choose otherwise because of the individual approach. I really understand the fear of regretting not going for it as far as ivies go. I still think about that from time to time. But I figure proving something to myself and my family is not the reason to apply to schools. It was ultimately about what kind of college experience I wanted that would allow me to figure out exactly who it is that I am and what I want to do. For some people, that very well may be an ivy - someone who thrives in competition for example but some flourish more in a smaller, nurturing environment. But anywho, it doesn't matter where you choose to apply as long as it's your choice. Best of luck!
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  • M's MomM's Mom 4507 replies55 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    "my dad really wants me to go to an Ivy, and my dream has always been that I would go to this place where the best of the best get in"

    Sounds like you have several issues:
    1) your dad wants something that isn't necessarily right for you
    2) you want to avoid conflict/make him proud (either or both)
    3) you (and possibly he) have some misconception that 'the best of the best' don't go to LACs, or only go to Ivies.
    4) how do you present yourself well to selective schools

    Frankly if you are really as you describe yourself, you really should check out the LACs. Sounds a lot more like your optimal learning environment. You and your father both should spend some time getting educated about what they have to offer - especially to someone who is shy and doesn't like taking charge or being the center of attention.

    As for your essays, of course you focus on presenting your strengths. Not everyone has to be a leader, even at an Ivy. They want creative types as well. And people who have unusual backgrounds and perspectives. And people who are confident that they have something important to offer the world, even if it doesn't involve leading others. And people who have shown exceptional promise or talent in a specific area. If you are demonstrably one of those, don't worry about the lack of leadership positions. Highlight what you do bring to the party.
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  • ptontiger16ptontiger16 568 replies12 threads- Member
    Do you want to go to an Ivy? You said you didn't take the hardest course load because you thought you couldn't handle it. What would you do if you get into an Ivy? It'll be like your toughest courses in high school, but four or five of them a semester. Would you spend your free time studying or doing other productive things?

    Ivies really like ECs. You can tell them you have a passion for something, but how can they believe you if you've got nothing to back it up? Do yourself a favor and go to a college you want to go to, not just where your dad wants you to go.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34079 replies376 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Yes, Ivies like ECs. And kids who challenge themselves and show results. It's one way they can tell if you have"the stuff" to make it in a challenging college environment, what sorts of responsibilities you will take on and so much more. I suspect you understand that. And more.
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  • MommaJMommaJ 5580 replies189 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    You haven't offered your stats, but if you didn't take the most challenging courseload in high school and don't have impressive EC's, the Ivy's and MIT may not be realistic choices anyway, and this may less of a dilemma than you think.
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  • OnMyWay2013OnMyWay2013 1304 replies34 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Um, I posted this in another thread, but these are the colleges I want to go to:

    Harvard (I'd apply Early Action)
    Johns Hopkins University
    Boston University

    And my stats...

    Rising senior

    Cumulative GPA: 3.92 UW, My school doesn't weigh them
    SAT I: 2300 (R:730, M:790, W:780) I think this was a miracle from Heaven, honestly
    SAT II: Bio M: 750 (Another miracle) and Math IIC: 800

    All Honors Freshman year (Out for a few months due to medical leave but still got the credits)
    All Honors Sophomore year, one AP class
    All Honors Junior year, two AP classes
    Planning on taking one Honors course, four AP classes, and one Enriched class Senior year (Economics to fulfill a requirement)

    I haven't been pushing myself as hard as I probably should have because between freshman and sophomore year, I was trying to get back on track with tutoring, etc. and I was wary of AP classes for a while.

    APs: World History (3), Biology (5), and BC Calc (5), Planning on taking AP Euro, AP Lit and Composition, AP Physics B, and AP French

    Classrank: 38 out of 363 as of first semester junior year, I don't know if this is still accurate


    Marching Band Color Guard and Indoor Color Guard for 2 years, soon to be 3
    Member of National Honor Society for 1 year, soon to be 2
    Member of Black Scholars for 2 years, soon to be 3
    Participant in North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad for 3 years, soon to be 4
    Cellist for 5 years, participant in various school-run and independent orchestras, quit due to illness Freshman year

    Community Service:

    Assistant Teacher at Church for ages 2-4 and Grades K-4 for 6 years, soon to be 7
    Counselor for summer and school year Bible clubs for Grades K-2 for 2 years, maybe 3
    Teacher of missionary-run inner-city Philadelphia Bible clubs for ages 5-13 for 2 years, maybe 3
    Counselor/mentor for a Christian Day Camp for a week for four girls ages 9-12 for 1 year, maybe 2
    Participant in various church-related Christmas events, including an Angel tree party for children of incarcerated parents for 2 years

    No recognitions or awards. I think I can get good recommendations, but I am neither a good writer nor a good speaker, so the essays and interviews could as easily hurt me as help me.

    Planning on majoring in Cognitive Science, Neuroscience, Neurology, etc. or Communications Disorders if they offer it

    Could someone recommend some other good, not-Ivy colleges then, possibly in the Mid-Atlantic, New England area? I live in PA but I really want to go out of state because I want to get away from my house and family... :P
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34079 replies376 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I originally thought this wasn't a serious thread question. Still not sure.

    What sort of hs? Competitive or average? The comm svc is sort of unilateral- ie, religious focus, interactive, you are only working with young children. Anything else where you break out of that? Band and orcehstra are pretty self-explanatory, but for other school activities, you'll need to note your responsibilities and impact.

    The trick to interviews is, like essays, "show, not tell." It's fine to smile and say, I'm usually a little quiet," but offer a handshake, look 'em in the eye, have relevant questions to ask and some sense of your better answers to the common questions. And, know each college well.

    For back-ups, look at the top 20-30 LACs. That's where lots of smart kids who miss an Ivy admit end up. I don't like USNWR, but it will serve you, in this case.
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  • OnMyWay2013OnMyWay2013 1304 replies34 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    My high school is pretty competitive, but I don't know for sure.

    I looked at some LACs, asked my dad if I could apply, and he pretty much said that he's not going to waste his money and I'm not going to waste my time on an LAC with the kind of major I want. He thinks I'm trying to hide from opportunity, and that I'm guaranteed to get in an Ivy (even though he knows nothing about applying to colleges and the fact that grades aren't all they look at) and my learning style or confidence level has nothing to do with it.

    So now what do I do? I feel like I'm legitimately going to get rejected from all the schools I apply to...
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  • stressedoutttstressedouttt 3980 replies131 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    you're supposed to highlight your best traits in the best light for essays and interviews. not just for colleges, but through out life. no one expects you to give a complete overview of your self highlighting weakness, as well as strengths. just focus on your strengths, unless someone asks you what your weakness is (in which case you state something that wouldn't greatly diminish your ability to do what you're applying for and something you've been improving on- make sure to mention the attempts to improve)

    is there another adult that can talk to your dad about this? if you get him to talk to your guidance counselor about college admissions, it might help show him how admissions work. or maybe your mom? just to get him convinced to allow you to apply to a couple of LACs and safeties. even if he still thinks it's highly likely that you'll get into an ivy, at least you'll have some more options once decisions role around.

    just to be clear, I'm not saying you're a bad ivy applicant OP, your stats are actually pretty good. it's just good to have some other schools since it's almost impossible for anyone who hasn't cured cancer to get into an ivy
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34079 replies376 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    a. NO ONE is guaranteed to get into an Ivy or that level of single digit admissions percentages. If you and Dad had been doing your homework, this would be obvious.
    b. Ivies review holistically. That is the sum total of what you present in the app- academics, ECs, LoRs, and the personal qualities/character that they want and need.
    c. Your stats are good enough for an Ivy. Your ECs are not going to make you high end competitive.

    So if your program requires a large U with exceptional opportunities, there you have it. Look at other top U's outside the Ivy range.
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  • happymomof1happymomof1 29653 replies175 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Your stats are good enough to get you serious money at a number of places that aren't ivies, but would also mean that your dad wouldn't have to chip in one cent for your education. How about that? Go spend some time in the Financial Aid Forum reading the threads on Guaranteed Merit-based aid. You may find some places that will work for you.

    To reiterate what looking forward has written: There is absolutely no way to guarantee that you will be admitted at the ivies. Your list does not include one single safety institution. Find out how much your family is ready, willing, and able to pay for your education. Will they pay more for College A, but not one cent if you end up at College B? Ask how they feel about you taking on any student debt, and whether or not they expect you to hold down a job during the summer and/or the school year to help meet your expenses. Once you know how much money is available, you will know how deep and hard you will have to dig to find affordable places.
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  • stressedoutttstressedouttt 3980 replies131 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I think the OP understands the reality of ivies. as I understand it, it's her dad that's not allowing her to apply to other places for safeties
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  • happymomof1happymomof1 29653 replies175 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Then if Dad won't pay for the other applications, then the OP needs to scare up some spare change and to that on her own, so that she has decent options next April.
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  • xrCalico23xrCalico23 4661 replies12 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Love happymomof1 and others' suggestion of diversifying the college list. Also, like M’s Mom said, schools admit all kinds of students for their ability and for the contributions they can bring to campus.

    And you know what? Funnily, you don’t come across to me as someone who’s “not independent” or “haven’t taken the most rigorous classes”. Quite to the contrary, you were showing signs of independence by wanting to go away for college, and you took some tough AP classes and did well on the exams. Likewise, looking at your list of all highly selective schools to apply to, I would’ve thought you had quite a bit of ambition and daring! :)
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  • xrCalico23xrCalico23 4661 replies12 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    In terms of the essay, if you read over your description of yourself in the original post, you told us a lot about who you’re not, but nothing about who you are. “Shy”, “self doubt”, and so on are not personality traits. Rather, they’re more like the absence of personality traits, the prelude to that self knowledge.

    Don’t worry about shyness: over time, as you find the things you’re good at (or, can it be that you already have?), you’ll naturally want to share that with others and so take charge in that arena. From there you start to become more comfortable with your ability, and so gain confidence.

    And that confidence is not always the apparent, outward type where you rally in front of crowds or bully everyone into doing things. There is a quiet confidence people exhibit when they can reach out to comfort someone in distress who goes unnoticed, or when they, like you, can take a child by the hand and tell him, “I’m going teach you and show you the world,” because at that moment they’re not only in charge, acting as guides, but also showing certain special skills like empathy and patience that often escape those who are out there at the forefront of things. There’re different ways of being a leader, different ways of standing out or making a difference.
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  • OnMyWay2013OnMyWay2013 1304 replies34 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Thank you guys so much. This has all been really helpful. I know nothing's going to guarantee my getting into any college, and if it doesn't work out, I guess it was meant to be. But I will definitely look at some non-Ivies, keep working on persuading my dad, and start looking at what I do have to offer the world instead of pitying myself for what I don't...

    You people should become life coaches or something... And good luck to any other stressing seniors :D
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