Regular readers of our college admissions blog know all too well that if there’s any one thing that can torpedo an applicant’s chances of admission, it’s arrogance. Maybe it’s a subtle brag in a line within the Personal Statement. Maybe it’s a boast of how much money a student raised for a particular charity in an activity essay. Maybe it’s a description within an activity in the activities section in which a student puts himself on a pedestal over his peers. No matter a student’s grades and scores, no matter his legacy status, no matter his extracurricular achievements, arrogance will likely be the death knell of his case for admission.
Why Arrogance is the Enemy in College Admissions
In our experience, most applicants don’t even realize they’re boasting in an essay or in other parts of their applications. It never ceases to amaze us how many students (and their parents) don’t even realize what a brag is on a college application. Maybe they’re just so used to tooting their own horn that they don’t recognize how that line about how I singlehandedly saved the South African economy from collapse might come across. And, yes, that’s an extreme example but arrogance has a way of popping up in much more subtle ways in college admissions. Sometimes it takes a third party to realize, “Wow. I can’t believe I said that. I don’t even like me.” And when a student’s chief objective in highly selective college admissions is to present as likeable, as someone admissions officers can get behind and root for, well, arrogance is the enemy.
A Harvard Applicant’s Arrogance Nearly Cost Her Admission
In the Harvard admissions case, arrogance nearly cost “Megan” (her name was changed when Harvard released her file as part of the discovery process of the SFFA v. Harvard case) a spot in the incoming class at Harvard. You can read more about Megan in a piece in “The Harvard Crimson” by Shera S. Avi-Yonah and Molly C. McCafferty entitled “‘Arrogance.’ ‘Small-Town Insecurity.’ Here’s Why Harvard Hesitates to Accept Some Applicants.” And while Megan was able to overcome her display of arrogance, most applicants aren’t so lucky. Most Harvard applicants who brag don’t end up earning admission. So take a lesson from Megan because she’s the exception, not the rule. Harvard’s overall admit rate for the Class of 2022 fell below 5%; the school doesn’t have to admit any arrogant applicant. So don’t be arrogant — not to your teachers, to your counselor, in your college applications…nowhere. And if you think it’s arrogant, it probably comes across that way. And if you don’t think it’s arrogant, it might very well come across as arrogant anyway!
Want an arrogance reality check before you submit an Early Action / Early Decision application on November 1st? We’ll go through each component of a student’s Common Application and supplement to let you know precisely what’s wrong so some of these mistakes can be corrected before the deadline. If interested, sign up for a free consultation and we’ll be able to set up that one-hour arrogance check within the next couple of days.
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