Don’t draw attention to your negatives; instead, don’t refer to them at all.

Have I mentioned that scholarship applications are the place to put your Best Foot Forward? Sure I have. They are the pre-college equivalent of a job interview. Usually there’s one scholarship available and lots of applicants, just as there’s one job opening and lots of applicants. Your job is to convince the people doing the selection/hiring that you are the single best choice for the award/job — better than anyone else who has applied. Got it? Good.

OK. Now, you may not have been to an interview for a full-time, 40-hours-per-week gig, but your parents probably have. Go ask your dad whether it would be smart to go through an entire job interview that went incredibly well, and then, at the very end as he was getting up to leave, to stick his head back into the interviewer’s office to say, “Oh, by the way, forgot to tell you — I drink alcohol to excess and I can’t ever seem to make it anywhere on time. Bye now!” Or, ask your Mom whether in the same situation she’d say, “By the way, I plan to become pregnant in the next few months and then take my full maternity leave, during which I’ll tell you I’m coming back, and as my return to work approaches, I’ll tell you I’m not coming back at all!”

The answer to those questions, obviously, is no. Those things are your personal business and it would be detrimental to your own plans for you to disclose them to your interviewer. Remember, this process is all about you. You’re in it for yourself — to get the scholarship, to get the job, etc. No need to go shooting yourself in the foot by thinking you’ve got to disclose every single one of your imperfections. You don’t, and you shouldn’t.

We’ve all got weaknesses, and a scholarship essay is not the time to bring them up. The one exception, of course, is if it’s a former weakness that you’ve mastered and want to tell us about. But of all the possible things you could talk about in your essay, your current character flaws probably aren’t the smartest choice. If you’re failing your math class or you love bar fights or you constantly find yourself kicking puppies, then those are details that you probably want to just leave out, rather than go on about at length and then explain how you plan to fix them.

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