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3 SOP Tips Must-Know (2/3)

Welcome back to 3 SOP Tips Must-Know Part 2!

2. Turn your weaknesses into strengths

Yes, you heard me. What do you need to share? About your imperfections, weaknesses, cracks in your armor. Won’t that make schools automatically reject me? Don’t schools want perfect applicants?

On the contrary, the social culture in the USA strongly values authenticity. We trust people who share about, talk about, even brag about their weaknesses. Of course, everyone knows that no one is perfect. This is why the people who have the self-awareness and humility to understand their weaknesses are admired all the more for their confidence and bravery. They won’t “lose face” by admitting their faults; instead, they look all the stronger for it.

This doesn’t mean you should list all of your many imperfections. With wisdom and discretion, consider the areas you’ve failed. Reflect on what you have learned through facing these weaknesses. Keep in mind: failing tests or college entrance exams does not count as failure. We’re not talking about a single test score, but about that time you disappointed your boss with a big project. The time you failed the team presentation. The internship that you couldn’t wait to finish, because it perfectly exposed your lack of skill. The time you studied as hard as you could, and still couldn’t understand concepts behind Physics, Calculus, or English.

How did you respond in these situations? Often, when we face failure or weakness, we want to cover ourselves up, to stop others from seeing our embarrassment. Your graduate school application, however, might be the very place that you share about this weakness.

In my own case, there was a season when I was struggling in a university introductory class for Linguistics. I had never learned about it, didn’t even know what it was before entering the classroom. I got a low score on my first exam, and struggled on every homework assignment, even while everyone else seemed to do so well. However, I couldn’t get enough of this class content. We covered so many topics I wanted to learn more about, but didn’t have time to explore. Grammar, phonetics, semantics, and morphology; I was so curious and passionate about this class that despite my embarrassingly low scores, I added Linguistics as my second major in college.
This forced me to ask questions in class when I didn’t understand. I sought professors during Office Hour sessions every week, and discussed topics with other students to get a better grasp on slippery concepts. Persevering through difficult, scientific lessons (for my English-major brain) forced me to closely examine different kinds of logic, learn through mistakes in research, and work through challenges I couldn’t naturally understand. Through the struggle, I became more interested in education. I could hear classmates struggling to learn English, and I could finally help explain the grammar rules they wrestled with! Thanks to this struggle, I was grateful for the deeper understanding of languages, and training to anticipate my problems and students’ questions before they appear.

Consider these questions:

  • What areas have you failed in? What have you learned through these experiences? (Perseverance, taking initiative, discipline, teamwork, communication, design and execution, time management, etc)

  • Which example could best show your weakness and allow you to share about your strengths? Doesn’t have to be related to your career goals, but better to have an example from work or internship experience here.

  • What are you working on now to continue growing through your weaknesses?


If you need help with your grad school application, sign up our 20-minutes FREE consultation.

If you want to practice/improve your English speaking, come and try out our conversation class for free for one week.

Have a nice day!

Cate Shubat

Private Tutor at Thrive English Language Center


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