When It’s OK to Lie

by Judge Josh on December 8, 2010

Sheri’s trying to get me in trouble today.

Hey Josh,

Hey!

I’ve got a pretty great thing going on. I’m currently a debt-free sophomore in college with a 3.86 cumulative GPA, my family is supportive of me, and I’ve never had any trouble with people bullying me about my race, religion, or other attributes. To be honest, my life is pleasantly boring, and there have been very few conflicts holding me back.

ok-to-lie

It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, Jiminy Cricket. (That's Jiminy Cricket on his nose, right?)


That is very, very great, I agree.

This causes a slight problem when it comes to applying for scholarships and leadership positions on campus, though. It seems like every single application I fill out, interview I attend, or essay I have to write has some variation of this prompt: “Describe a time when you made an ethical decision and overcame adversity, and describe what you learned from this experience.”

Yeah, and justifiably so. One of the most important determinants of success anywhere, in my not-so-humble opinion, is the ability to bounce back from loss, defeat, adversity, etc.


Having lived a relatively adversity-free life, I can never think of anything to say for this question.

Nothing? It doesn’t have to be anything huge, like holding your Mom and Dad over a cliff and having to choose which one to drop. There’s gotta be some hard choice back there in your experience, no? Booze, drugs, cheating on your boyfriend, cheating on a test, witnessing others doing any of the aforementioned…nothing? If you failed the ethical test and did the wrong thing, that’s cool, too.

I’m afraid it makes me look naive or somehow more privileged (and therefore, less worthy) than some of the other people applying for the same scholarship/position.

Well, it does make you look naive and more privileged, but not less worthy. Luckily, I’m gonna kick open a door for you today.

I have an interview for a freshman mentor position (basically, they help freshman learn how to thrive in their classes and stay sane) this Saturday and I’m sure the question will come up. What should I say?

Well, I’ll give you two choices:

1) Make something up. That’s right — lie.

I give the advice to lie on your scholarship application in another post on this site, and I always catch hell for it from a few dozen people, but that’s OK. It’s still something I don’t have a problem with in certain circumstances, and this is one of them.

Here’s the thing: the entire question revolves around the sensitive, personal type of situation that people rarely talk publicly about, and certainly is rarely documented. Those are exactly the types of things that a lot of people end up lying about on scholarship applications, job applications, resumes, etc. — non-provable, non-verifiable stuff.

So if you feel like you’ve really gotta show someone that you can make it through adversity AND you really can’t think of any example where you’ve actually done so in your own life, AND you really want/need the job or scholarships — sure, make something up. Who’s going to call you on it? Nobody.

Word to the wise, though — don’t tell any stories about people dying who are really alive. You know, because they might show up someday, and then you’ve got some explaining to do.

2) If you don’t want to lie, you can always use this blog post as your dilemma. I mean, you did write in asking my opinion, and I do have a lot of readers and this is a relatively high-profile site in the whole college-advice area. And I just told you to lie.

Isn’t that dilemma unto itself? Hmmm, this guy told me I should lie and pretty much guaranteed me I’d get away with it….but I chose not to, because (I’m so honest, that’s so wrong, whatever).  And voila, there you have it — an ethical dilemma, served up special for you by me!

Yeah, look — even as someone who preaches the virtues of selfishness fairly often, I’m not going to suggest very often that you lie. Most of the time, you don’t need to — most people have a compelling enough story and skill set to get what they want out of life. But there are times where you have to put on a dog-and-pony show for people, and sometimes you gotta embellish a little.

That’s life, and it’s never going to change. I say, play ball. If you need throw a little bullshit out there to get what you want, absolutely, go for it. People all around you are already doing it.

Just make sure there’s nothing that stretches the truth to ridiculous proportions (“I invented burritos!”), nothing that’s verifiably false (“I have 25 years experience designing websites.”), and nothing that’ll nail you to the wall later (like claiming to speak Swedish for a Swedish-interpreting job when you don’t speak any Swedish).

— What do you guys think? Any harm in the occasional white lie to get what you want, or is 100% honesty the best policy? Let us know in the comments below.

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

James December 8, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Honesty may be hard when you’re grandma gives you a really ugly sweater, but justifying lying by saying you want/need something is a slippery slope. I can’t condemn this as criminal (i.e. if my friend told me they did this, I would shake my head and smile in amused disapproval), but I wouldn’t consider doing it myself.

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Trent December 8, 2010 at 5:15 pm

I gave a white lie to win a scholarship and it didn’t kill me. Just make sure you don’t have to lie again when you make the initial lie.

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Shelley December 8, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Food for thought. Sometimes adversity to one person is not felt that way by others going through the same thing. Some people are able to blow things off and not feel it was adversity, just typical life, and move on. You may be one of those. So if you were looking at your life story through the eyes of someone else, would they see adversity? Sometimes family protects their youth and takes the adversity on their shoulders so a young person doesn’t have to even know it exists, but they can’t do that and protect you once you are on your own in college.

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jacqueline December 8, 2010 at 6:37 pm

this is completely unethical. there are people out there who haven’t had the luck of being “adversity free” — that it is their adversities that have made them who they are today. often times during those times, usually out of control of the student, that student has not been able to pull out a perfect gpa. in light of that, essay questions like the one we’re talking about here give those students, usually under-served students who are a far cry from privileged, a chance they would otherwise have to go to college. Jerks like you, who would lie on their applications would only contribute to not giving those who deserve it, a fair chance at college. Lying on your application in this regard shows major lack of judgement, and someone who would step on the next person to get ahead. you should not be mentoring a single person if you can’t be clever enough to write about an honest situation. people like you make me sick.

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Cory December 8, 2010 at 8:03 pm

I like how #1) you automatically assume she’s going to lie even though the second part of the post gives her an opportunity to take the moral high ground, and #2) you think that anyone who might be tempted to lie on a scholarship application is “privileged” and undeserving of an opportunity.

Self-righteous people like you make me sick 😛

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kat December 8, 2010 at 9:35 pm

I was under the impression that Jacqueline was aiming her comment at Josh.

I’m going to say, don’t lie. I feel seriously uncomfortable about the dog-eat-dog tone of this post. If all else fails, do what Josh suggested and make him out to be the bad guy.

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Anonymous December 8, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Wow, calm down. Some people don’t have it as tough as others, but it doesn’t make them less worthy or deserving of a scholarship. So she hasn’t faced any really difficult situations in her life. That doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be given a chance to try something just because so far her life has been good. Who is anyone to decide beforehand that she is not worthy of being a mentor just because she hasn’t faced all the troubles of the world? Are you suggesting that there should be a scholarship for people who have less adversity than others then? In that case, would it be alright for people to give a white lie and say that they have had no difficult situations in their life and take the scholarship away from those who truly had no difficult situations? lmao that’s ridiculous.

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Jason December 8, 2010 at 11:51 pm

I feel your pain.

It’s not like Josh hasn’t given ethically questionable advice before. In fact, if I remember correctly, his main thing was simply giving the facts the way they are and what one should do if one has the ambition of getting ahead…not saving your immortal soul. 😛

All this means, Jacqueline, is if you ever have the privilege to become an interviewer/scholarship judge, watch out for the liars. And reward those who tell the truth.

I hope I’ll never have to fall into the ethical dilemma of unadulterated selfishness or dying/going bankrupt/lose big. Even so, this entire website is a good cynical reminder for the over-optimist that *Hobbes was right*.

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Ara July 23, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Welcome to the real world. My adversity was growing up being taught to lie through your teeth to get what you want. Lying, past-time of the privileged. It’s the way it is. Get over it.

The fact of the matter is that while some people read The Chronicles of Narnia in grade school some of us studied The Prince. Lying about “having adversity” is wickedly tame.

I await preaching.

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Sudo nim December 13, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Same. Machiavelli, art of war. I’m a child of a man who is a vietnam vet, spent 10 years as a policeman in Cabbagetown and Downtown Atlanta, finally worked through lawschool, and whose not paying my way. No child of vietnam vet scholarships are showing up unless said vet is dead or has a purple heart. Lying is part of the game, lol.

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clownbaby December 8, 2010 at 7:08 pm

here here, josh. pragmatics is king, and the scholarship/grad school application process is a zero-sum proposition. in other words, being a starry-eyed beacon of virtue gets you very little in these arenas where only a select few can make the cut. this is not to say virtue is unimportant, as it actually makes society work, but sometimes you just gotta play hardball.

and i think shelley makes a great point that “lying” is not actually necessary if you know how to look at your own life from another perspective. everyone has experienced SOME adversity; the trick is figuring out how to make it come to life and pop off the application page.

finally, i think jacqeline is missing the point here. the adversity essay is only a tiny part of the application, so if you’re counting on your true life sob story to get you in the door, it’s usually not gonna happen. if you want a good shot, you need to have a suite of application nuggets that put you ahead of the pack (e.g., high gpa, mentoring, tutoring, honor societies, volunteering, etc.). it’s not going to help to use the sob story as your EXCUSE for pulling a 2.5 gpa… it’s usually only going to help if you have an above average gpa IN SPITE OF your tragic life circumstances.

and just for the record, i’m a low-income, first-generation, (i.e., underserved) student who has faced adversity… not one of those silver-spoon-in-mouth prep-schoolers who’s riding the gravy train.

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Michael December 8, 2010 at 7:32 pm

I strongly disagree with the idea that you should lie outright on a scholarship application. If nothing else, you’re going to think back on it and be ashamed for winning something you didn’t win fairly. The other thing, which Josh mentions, and which should really be the point of his whole post, is that this essay question is not about whether you were born in a shack in Papua New Guinea. It’s about how *you* handled a tough situation. Pick a situation, any situation, which gave you some trouble, and write about it with creativity and zest. If, on the other hand, you can’t even handle the adversity of this question, you don’t deserve the scholarship.

Anyway, I find your advice on this to be pretty unbelievable, Josh. How about plagiarism if you can get away with it? What’s your stance on that?

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Aethelfled December 8, 2010 at 7:48 pm

@jacqueline – Whoa, ease up on the fire and brimstone there! First of all, Sheri never said – or even implied – that she was considering lying to answer this kind of question. It is in fact because she is honest and lying did not occur to her that she sent Josh this question. Second of all, Josh did not give her unqualified license to lie either. Before *and* after he mentioned fibbing, he pointed out alternate ways of approaching the issue. Just because you disagree with Josh’s assessment that it would be ok to lie in this case doesn’t mean that you need to get angry at Sheri.

@Sheri – While Josh is correct that you’re unlikely ever to get called on it if you make something up to answer this question, personally I would advise you to stay clear of even small fibs on something like this. It is far to easy for a small lie to grow, and a big lie will trip you up sooner or later. And that’s ignoring the moral argument, which I’m choosing not to get into because there’s far too much grey area. I would recommend that you think about some of those smaller scale ethical dilemmas Josh mentioned. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been tempted to cheat on a test, for example, or who hasn’t had the opportunity to engage in cruel gossip. Think about how many of these everyday, miniature ethical dilemmas the typical high school or college student wrestles with on a daily basis, and pick one from your own life that you remember particularly vividly or that had particularly noteworthy consequences and develope that. Since you are applying for a position as a freshman mentor, this kind of everyday ethical crisis may even make a better impression than a story about overcoming dramatic and comparatively rare prejudice based on race, religion, etc.

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Michael December 8, 2010 at 7:52 pm

I’m sorry, but I agree with Jacqueline, and I think clownbaby is the one missing the point. Lying about something like this demonstrates a serious lack of integrity–even if nobody else knows about it. It should not be done. Just tell the darn truth. Josh’s second piece of advice is the correct one to take. This person’s “adversity” is having to decide whether or not to lie on their application about adversity. They overcame that dilemna by NOT LYING. Were I an application referee, that would make far more impression on me.

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Anonymous December 8, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Thats fine that you think that, but I wouldn’t “agree with Jacueline if I were you.” She took it to the extreme in tone accusing Sheri. If you want to be taken seriously, don’t align with radicals. :)

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Cody December 8, 2010 at 8:13 pm

I think the argument “People all around you are already doing it.” is not the best way to justify telling a lie. “That guy murdered that other guy, so this means I can kill people! Yay!”

However, I do agree with the general tone of the article. Machiavellian antics will win the you what you want. The great ones do not adhere to their promises! Don’t get nailed to a corner, but don’t get pushed aside by those who are willing to take these steps either.

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Anonymous December 8, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Sometimes, when I think about all the things I or others I know have gone through in highschool/college (cancer, homelessness, abortions, single parenthood, and the ever present daily grind) I’m glad to hear about people like this.

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Quoter December 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm

“Always speak the truth. Then you don’t have to remember anything.” ?Mark Twain

I have the dangdest memory sometimes. 😀

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Julie December 8, 2010 at 10:13 pm

If you’ve gone through a typical high school, you’ve had the opportunity to smoke pot, engage in sexual intercourse, cheat on tests, drink alcohol, and other acts to challenge ethics. I’m sure you’re at least aware of these possibilities, and peer pressure can be adverse if you turn these offers down. The consequences if you do engage in these behaviors also can be adverse. Write what you know.

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Bernice December 8, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Lying is unethical and I wouldn’t feel right about it

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jacqueline December 9, 2010 at 12:29 am

Hey, wow — this kind of discourse is exciting. Hooray for freedom of speech. First, thanks to the “Anonymous” commenter for calling me a radical. I do have to clarify a couple of things though. One: words are words; it’s pretty hard to generate a tone from someone when reading only words. You don’t know me, and I don’t know you. Second, I stand firm on what I said. I enjoyed reading everyone’s responses because it gave me an idea of who reads the “Outlaw student” letters. I love them. In fact, often times when I’m going through a really hard time in school [masters of architecture] and want to quit, I get some email from [Outlaw], and the breathe a sigh of relief: as in, “i’m not the only one thinking of transferring? I’m not the only who totally feels like throwing in the towel?”

One thing I can say for sure is that in this game of life, I’ve come across WAY too many people who pose to be something they are not; witnessing the disparity between those of more privilege moving farther ahead than those who are under-served. If there was any chance to prevent just ONE person from becoming that self-serving awards-hungry person I come across in my day-to-day life in Boston, then I jumped on it. I’m not sorry and I won’t take back a word I said.

Lying is wrong; but people do it all the time. It’s up to you if you want to be [that] person. “That” being a decision you should prepare to live with for the rest of your life.

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Aethelfled December 9, 2010 at 10:49 am

Jacqueline,

I am not the Anonymous poster who called you radical. My own response to your initial post was incorporated into my advice to Sheri, above. However, I would like to address the points you made in this post addressed to that poster.

On your first point: You’re correct, words are words, but it is quite possible to generate a tone based on your choice of words and presentation. If you look carefully at your previous post, you’ll notice that the first half of your writing, though civil in the word choice, generally lacks capital and tends toward run-on sentences. That tends to be interpretted by readers (perhaps unconsciously) as “this writer was so full of emotion (positive or negative) that they failed to maintain basic capitalization and grammar.” In the second half of your post, your capitalization and grammar improve, but you begin making personal attacks on Sheri, calling her a “jerk,” “someone who would step on the next person to get ahead,” and not “clever enough to write about an honest situation.” Those comments then put your seemingly emotional first half in a negative context, leading the commentators to think of the post as a whole as having an aggressive, angry tone. That may not have been how you meant it, but that is why people have been jumping all over your for it.

On your second point: Good for you for standing up for your opinion! If you look at my initial post, you will see that I also suggested that Sheri stick to the truth, though I laid out practical rather than moral reasoning. I have thus far made a point of not commenting on the moral aspect of the decision, precisely because of the variety of firmly held and contradictory moral beliefs evidenced on this site. Whether I agree with your opinion or not is irrelevant in this case. I applaud you for not only taking a stance, but also refusing to back down when faced with harsh criticism.

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A Parent December 9, 2010 at 4:51 am

Lying? Harsh word. Fabricating a story for a scholarship application could be considered creative writing. You ask yourself, “If I were in this situation, how would I handle it? What would I do to rectify this situation?” Then you tackle the essay with all the imagination you can muster. It is best if you start with a real situation where nothing did happen, then expand on what COULD have transpired and how you would have dealt with it. Good luck to you, Sheri. Thank you, Josh, for having the courage to open yourself up to all the self-righteous abuse in the previous comments.

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Jim December 15, 2010 at 5:52 am

I am somewhat saddened by reading this response. But it makes me understand why we are where we are in today’s society. Calling outright lies “creative writing” is pathetic. It is deeply concerning that someone who calls themselves “A Parent” would advocate such an approach.

The question I have to ask here is what do we want? What do we expect? If, as parents, the best we can expect from our children is to make the most creative lie possible to achieve the desired end, then, quite frankly, we deserve the outcome.

We lose the right to be outraged when our politicians lie to us. We lose the right to be upset when students cheat and get degrees that they do not deserve. We lose the right to be upset that a doctor fudged on their internship by claiming to do work they did not really do. We lose the right to a skilled surgeon when we are on the table for a surgery that may save our life … or not.

Are you willing to start on that slippery slope? I’m not.

Jim

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Anonymous February 16, 2011 at 4:46 pm

In high school I had the adversity question posed for papers to write, and several different teachers told us the same thing: if you can’t think of anything, make it up…no one’s going to know.

I personally wouldn’t lie in a scholarship application. And I don’t condone it, because I think it’s indulting to the adversity that others have faced. But I’m not outraged at what Josh suggested. People do lie all the time, and I’m not sure why this is shocking people as much as it is.

I also find it hard to believe that one can get through high school without facing adversity…without it, I don’t see how one could grow as a person…this is NOT a personal attack on anyone, simply a thought…my point is, as has been stated before, that surely at some point she’s faced adversity. Maybe not cancer or the death of a parent, but maybe an ethical choice?

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Wesley December 9, 2010 at 8:54 am

First one must ask themselves some simple questions. Does the thing they are asking me about truly make people better? How likely is it that others have found themselves sitting there scratching their heads? I hate these kinds of questions, they rarely have jack shit to do with life and it’s mastery. Even if they did, most of the people answering them are twenty years old. How much can they have mastered? I won’t give you any advice, just a bit of knowledge I have acquired over the 20 years since I left college. Principles make a mighty thin soup. For advice I would read, The Prince by Niccol

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Melody December 9, 2010 at 10:26 am

I find myself almost agreeing with Jacqueline here, and I am nearly appalled at “A Parent’s” consideration of a scholarship application as creative writing. I have been reading Josh’s advice religiously for a while now and have never found myself inclined to comment, but I couldn’t keep quiet about this. Julie and Shelley have great suggestions about how to get around this, as does Josh with the option of making him the bad guy. Please, please avoid lying in your interview or on your application. Like others have commented, it ends up making you look like the kind of person who steps on others to get where they need to go in life. This isn’t to say that you aren’t worthy of scholarships or leadership positions by any means, and the fact that you thought twice about lying bodes well for your character. As a high-achieving student who came from a background of poverty, homelessness, abortion, abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, etc, etc, the thought of losing a scholarship to someone who fabricated adversity in their life makes my blood boil. Look carefully at your life from all angles. Maybe even ask some people around you to point out some things you may have looked over. Surely you can find something in your life, or, if it comes to that, makes Josh the bad guy write about that. I’m sure you are an excellent student and deserving of scholarships and leadership positions, but I firmly believe that honesty is the best policy. Perhaps find some small adversity in your life, and acknowledge to the committee that you are very thankful for your adversity being so small? I shouldn’t pretend to know the solution here, but I do feel that the solution is not lying.

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Kristal December 9, 2010 at 1:24 pm

I agree with Melody completely. I couldn’t have said it better.

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Michelle December 9, 2010 at 11:10 am

No; it’s not cool to lie on a application or anyhting else. Have heard carma comes back around it may not be today but it happens. I seen people that has lied on application and it caught up with them.

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M December 9, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I’d like to point out that anything you make up won’t be as convincing as the truth. I’m sure the scholarship officers encounter many students who make stuff up, and they are probably pretty good at sniffing them out. I think that they are probably looking less at the situation you encountered, and more at your thought processes and how you changed in a positive way. Another idea: find a small adversity in your life and write about how it may prepare you for a similar situation later in life.

Morally, I think a little exaggeration is okay, but do not fabricate a story. Regardless of if you think other people are lying or what the scholarship officers think, large lies like that are wrong. Karma and all that 😉

If something has at least a grain of truth to it, your writing will be better anyway. There’s not a great substitute for personal experience, and lack of it will show through.

I realize that lying is a huge moral gray area. But in this caseyou can’t know what the judges are thinking, so I recommend going with the options that are pretty squarely in ethical territory.

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Grey_GirlPTK December 9, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Sheri,

First look over that application carefully. On most be they for work, scholarships, mentor positions it states very clearly that if you lie on it–any part of it–and get found out it is an immediate dismissal. You don’t get a hiring and you don’t get to justify the lie or explain. In some instances, certain jobs, charges may be filed against you for fraud. This doesn’t even cover what lying says about your character or integrity.

REMEBER: Integerity is basically doing the right thing, even when no one else but you knows you choose to do the right thing.

Good character and integrity are in short supply in the world. And just because “everyone is doing it” does not make it right, or better, or legit. “Everyone is doing it” is the exact reason not to do it. By not contributing to the lies out there, and not encouraging it as a way to live you will set your self apart from the “everybodies” out there. The “everyones” that have no values beyond self promotion. The “everyones” that also drive drunk, do drugs, steal, cheat, lie, rape, and murder people.

Ask yourself one question: Do I want to be mentored by a liar?

It is that simple. If your answer is no you know what to do. If it is yes, you know also.

Do you want to be mentored by a liar? Would you want your kid mentored by a liar? Your friends? Your family?

I know people that have had having an easy straight-forward life as their biggest challenge. It does happen to some. The ones that sunk to cheating to make themselves sound better have ended up continuing it through their lives. Out of six in this catagory 2 are dead, the others have done jail time. Lying doesn’t mean you’ll end up where they did, but once you win by gaming the system it becomes easy to do it again and again.

Those that kept to their values and didn’t cheat/lie have gone on to more successes. Sure they might have ended up there anyway, but they have never had to waste time looking over their shoulder wondering if today would be the day that the “little white lie” was going to bite them in the butt. Many have gotten opportunities because they were an honest, hard-working, and had integrity.

So when it comes down to it the choice is up to you. It sounds like you have been a good student, and work hard for what you achieve. You earn your way honestly. Why tarnish that track record now? You have been through high school and faced peer pressure, and at least seen some of what is out there–drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.–even if you don’t participate first hand. So that was a dilema for you right there. To be yourself, an honest person, or be like everybody else. Kudos for you for choosing the high road when things happened. You don’t need to come from a poo background, or spent time in jail, or been a drug addict to have made choices. Actually you made those choices when those things came up around you. You choice not to go down those roads.

I know it seems you haven’t had adversity to deal with, but in truth you did. I never did those “fun” things as a teen either. You no what happened..? I didn’t get pregnant, or develop a drug habit, or steal cars, or vanalism, or spend time in jail. I also didn’t get killed driving drunk or commit suicide, or attempt it. I had other dreams, and other problems as a result.

So embrace your choices. State that you haven’t had certain types of adversity in your life thus far, but given the choices you have made up to this point you hope you would continue to make good decisions in the future. You try and size up situations and do the best thing and sometimes it works and sometimes you learn something.

But don’t lie. I am 42 yrs old and so sick and tired of people saying that lying is better because it benefits them and doesn’t hurt anyone. That in itself is a great big lie. It is told by people everyday, leaders, and statesmen, politicians, and parents. But just because these folks don’t have the good character to be true to something doesn’t mean that joining them will not hurt you in the long run.

Good luck:)

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Maloojis December 10, 2010 at 2:24 am

“Kudos for you for choosing the high road when things happened. You don?t need to come from a poo background, or spent time in jail, or been a drug addict to have made choices. Actually you made those choices when those things came up around you. You choice not to go down those roads.”

I completely agree! This is exactly why Sheri is just as worthy to win just like anybody else! When I first read her question I was honestly thinking to myself, “Why bother applying for a scholarship then?”. But then I read this comment and completely changed my perspective for the better. Even though I am struggling right now with my current situation in life, I would not be upset at all if I lost a scholarship to her. Why must one make mistakes first in order to receive scholarship money? I strongly believe that people like Sheri, who CHOSE the right path the FIRST time, should not be “punished” or pushed aside just because her life may have been slightly better than the students who faced extreme adversity due to their own life choices. Not that anyone has control over every hardship they face, but most often students make the wrong choices at a young age and then have to live with them. I hope to God that judges don’t always choose the person from a disadvantaged background? I just do not see the logic in this situation: “Wow! This 36 year old single mom of 5 decided she wants to go back to school to get a degree? She overcame her meth addiction and escaped an abusive relationship with the fifth father of her child?! That’s amazing…Oh, and this 20-something year old student over here obviously hasn’t had any problems in her life. She may not even need the money since she seems to have everything she needs already from her parents. She has it easy because she doesn’t have five children to support.”

CHOICES PEOPLE. CHOICES.

The ones who choose to be a good person and follow a positive path should be awarded just as much as those who decided to turn their life around after the fact!

If I were to ever have enough money to give a scholarship to someone I would definitely consider all aspects of the person, and not solely on the background from which they came. I would definitely award a scholarship in the most objective fairest way possible.
Yay! Now I’m a lot happier that I became open-minded toward scholarship applicants who haven’t had a horrible life! Major lesson learned: Everyone derserves an opportunity to win! …except big fat liars.
:)

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AD December 9, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Recognizing privilege is also a really great quality. A lot of students go through life not even realizing how good they have it and that is worse! The fact that you realize you have it good and that you are privileged by a number of factors shows maturity and understanding of the world around you. I recently went to an essay writing seminar for graduate school and they mentioned that they have never read an essay highlighting the cultural identity of a ?white? applicant. They assume if the applicant does not mention their race or ethnicity, they are white. They said it takes an informed and culturally competent person to recognize privilege and they would appreciate an essay surrounding the reality of privilege and what that means for you. You can always go that route rather than lying. I personally dislike the lying suggestion because I am going through the grad school application process and the competition is already killer without people lying about their qualifications. I recently read a friends resume (who worked alongside me in the same positions) that was extremely bloated. She gave herself way crazy titles that made her seem extra important and qualified like ?program director? when she was simply a small group leader. My honest resume would look like beans compared to her inflated one, even though we carried the same positions. Yeah, so that lying stuff freaks me out.

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Bridget December 9, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Ha ha! This is hilarious and I love Judge Josh. I have to agree with “Parent” on this one. I would almost consider the essay a creative writing assignment too. I understand where the poster is coming from. Now, I wouldn’t want to make the entire story up because it just wouldn’t sound genuine. I would try to write about a friend’s experience maybe so the storyline sounds legit and intertwine it with how you would have personally handled the situation. I don’t know…something like that so that the entire essay is not made up and at least reflects yourself in some way. But there are so many people who lie on those scholarship essays and their resumes. Like Judge Josh said, sometimes you have to put on a “dog and pony” show. You have done so well in your studies and you deserve to win as much as someone who grew up with shitty parents. Do you think when people go into a job interview that they tell the truth? No way! I would never get a job if I said the real reason for leaving my last job was because my boss was a jerk. People do not tell the truth in interviews and potential employers do not want to hear the truth either. They always want you to tell them what they want to hear. So to all those people who say they wouldn’t lie, I bet you do in interviews.

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Parent too December 10, 2010 at 5:21 pm

I fully endorse the “creative” aspect and would echo what “Parent” said. I do not condone lying at all, but re phrasing the question as what you would do is very acceptable and demonstrates your thinking process. In job interviews behavior action questions are routine. “Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a co worker and how did you handle it?” You may be very easy going and conflict free, so start your answer that way, but continue “if I did have a conflict I would…..” Or “tell me about a time you over came an obstacle” you could answer, “I don’t look at anything I have been through as an obstacle but as a challenge and I attack challenges by…..” It demonstrates that you would be able to handle something. Be very clear however that it is not a lie. I have fired people that I found out made up “stories” to illustrate their experiences or significantly “exaggerated” actions. It is a small world and you don’t know who knows what. Good Luck

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Sheri December 10, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Thanks for all of the input! When I asked Josh for advice, lying had never even presented itself as an option to me- I really had NO CLUE what to say. As it is, everybody’s advice is very helpful, and I am going to approach this honestly, but intelligently. I plan on highlighting the fact that I’ve made choices to prevent adversity rather than saying I haven’t been faced with adversity.

By the way, I noticed a couple people seemed to think not that I don’t deserve the scholarships and whatnot, but I don’t NEED them. I may not be in debt at the moment, but I will be if I can’t earn some more scholarships or at least find a job on campus. I’ve had a good life so far, but I’m not rich.

Anyway, I think I’ll comment again with an update once I find out if I have the position or not. Some of you seem pretty fired up about it.

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Seriously?? December 12, 2010 at 2:21 pm

You should never flat out lie, that’s just stupid. Just try and make the things you have done sound better and more important than they actually were. Personally, I felt that if you wrote/talked about this dilemma, it would sound a lot more interesting than another made up generic sob story.

But, there is always something you must have gone through. You just haven’t looked hard enough. Even if you say you have, you haven’t. No one’s life is just “pleasantly boring.” Everyone has a story, and everyone has something to say. Just be honest with yourself.

Besides, would you really feel dignified if you got the award/position by lying from someone who was actually honest and genuine about themselves?

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Seriously?? December 12, 2010 at 2:21 pm

**took the award/position…

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Amanda December 14, 2010 at 1:18 am

Personally, I don’t think you should lie on applications for college entrance.
I have been through a lot of tough ordeals (mainly family related and other discriminations) and I had to “lie” to a lot of people so that my personal statements does not become the big gossip on campus (from adult to adult to students by ‘accidental’)
Since you have lied or still are living an awsome drama-free life, do not lie. You might jinx yourself.

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Corri December 14, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Ignoring everyone else on the site, besides you Sheri, here’s a fun thought. Your problem? Not having any problems to answer the question! It was a huge issue for you, because you really wanted the mentor job, but you had nothing to write about. It bugged you enough you had to ask Judge Josh and then what? You were told to possibly lie, you got tons of feedback, some of it not so nice, but you didn’t yell at anyone! You took all of the advice in stride and went on so you could get through things smoothly.

And there you have it, no lies, an issue you had to deal with, and it had some drama in it! Of course, your first choice works too, but if it fails, you can use this as a back up plan.

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Jim December 15, 2010 at 5:55 am

Touch

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Sheri December 21, 2010 at 1:10 am

UPDATE: Just found out that I didn’t get the position. I guess I’ll try again next year… :/

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Jake March 20, 2011 at 7:19 pm

You probably have gone through a lot, and I mean a lot of stuff. You must be overlooking it. You have to be, so just think back further and harder.

Good Luck.

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