Whether you’re writing a college admissions letter or a scholarship essay, it’s important to highlight what you achieved in high school -- important, but also tricky. There’s a fine line between bragging about yourself and selling yourself short. But if you walk this line correctly, you should be able to impress any committee with your accomplishments.
You’re not going to impress anyone by stretching the truth. Obviously, you shouldn’t claim to be captain of the swim team if you’ve never even been in the deep end of a pool; however, even slightly exaggerating your accomplishments may inadvertently cast doubt on them. If you were the vice president of your student council, resist the urge to say that you were the president, and if you stage-managed “Hello, Dolly!” there’s no need to claim that you also designed its sets and produced it. Chances are that you’ve done something in high school that sets you apart from the rest -- think about what it might be, and then talk about it with pride and honesty.
Speak Well of Your Success
Now is not the time to be bashful, self-deprecating or discreet. While you shouldn’t overstate your high-school accomplishments, you shouldn’t understate them either. It’s important to take ownership of what you’ve achieved and not diminish your own accomplishments by chalking them up to good fortune or by ignoring them entirely. If you’re having trouble speaking highly of yourself, imagine that you’re telling an admissions or scholarship committee about what your best friend accomplished in high school; you wouldn’t be afraid to show your pride in them. Treat yourself with the same respect by taking satisfaction in the results of your hard work.
Don’t Write a Long List
Committees aren’t interested in reading shopping lists of everything you did in high school. Pick out a few accomplishments that you’re most proud of, and focus on those. Committees are often looking for leadership and teamwork qualities, so if your accomplishments demonstrate those traits, explain how. When you’re trying to decide which accomplishments to focus on, ask yourself which ones were the most challenging and taught you more than other endeavors.
Relate to Future Goals
Your life doesn’t end when high school does, and all that you’ve achieved won’t go to waste. Explain to the committee how you plan to build on your accomplishments in the future. That doesn’t mean that you have to do the same activities in university that you did in high school. You just have to show how they will continue to shape you in the person you are becoming. If, for instance, you were captain of the debate team, you may not want to join the debate team in university, but if you’re interested in law school, the practice will serve you well.
Living in Canada, Andrew Aarons has been writing professionally since 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Ottawa, where he served as a writer and editor for the university newspaper. Aarons is also a certified computer-support technician.