Sheri’s trying to get me in trouble today.
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.
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.