When you or your child apply for private schools or colleges, you will be asked a number of questions to determine your strengths, weaknesses, personality and characteristics. Your weaknesses may not be at the forefront of your mind, but ask a family member and they are sure to give their opinion of the qualities you are lacking! You may not want to use their answers though especially if it is something similar to “does not put dirty dishes in dishwasher” or “leaves socks on the floor”. Schools do not care about those types of things. Do you know what are your weaknesses?
Schools are looking for honest answers though, and have been in the business long enough to weed through any false statements, or phrases that try to put a positive spin on everything. No, you don’t want to encourage your child to reveal that he refuses to do homework until the class before it is due, but you want to find a weakness that is understandable, identifiable and will not hinder his chances of getting into the school or college of his, or your, choice.
How to Answer What Are Your Weaknesses?
The answer to the question “What is your greatest weakness?” should not leave the school denying your application. For example, you do not want to tell them that you are an insomniac who wanders the halls in the early morning hours. You do want to be honest, but in a way that still puts you and your child in a positive light. According to acceptedtocollege.com, it is important to identify a true weakness, not try to turn a weakness into a strength.
For example, if you say your weakness is being too organized, being a workaholic, or your social life is limited because all you care about is school, the educational system will not take your application seriously. These are ways of saying that you do not have any weaknesses and everyone knows that is not true.
Since you have time to ponder the “What are your weaknesses” question and are not in a face to face interview that is on the spot, truly consider the resources you are sending to the school. These can give you a good indicator of a weakness. Ask yourself things such as:
• Do your transcripts show a low grade point average?
• Are your SAT and ACT test scores below average?
• Is your application lacking in extra-curricular or volunteer activities?
Honestly evaluating your application packet may give you a great place to begin looking for a weakness.
Then, once you identify and select a weakness, try to explain the reasons for its occurrence. If your gpa is low because you worked every day after school, using the weaknesses question to explain a low gpa is acceptable. However, the way you explain your weaknesses also makes a difference.
For instance, instead of saying your grades suffered because you worked part time, explain your reasons for working. The school may think you bought an expensive car and had to keep up with the payments or insurance. Although this shows some responsibility, it also shows a distracted priority. On the other hand, if you got a job because a parent was laid off and you were helping to support the family, the weakness in grades is explained for a valid reason.
Continue to explain the ways in which you tried to overcome this weakness. You can say that you worked with a tutor, or tried to stay after school with the teacher to make up the loss of work. Whatever things you or your child did to improve upon this weakness should be stated.
Why Do Schools Ask This Question?
Schools and potential employers use the weaknesses questions for a number of reasons. According to Forbes, the reasons can vary, but most often include:
• If a person cannot answer the question about their weaknesses, they may also struggle to answer “What Are Your Strengths?” This struggle shows an overall lack of awareness of oneself and that signals to the school and employer that this person may not be the best choice.
• When a person can specify their weaknesses, they also show a way in which they overcome them. This provides an example to schools or employers of a person’s resiliency. A strong, determined personality is important for a successful student and employee.
• Talking about your weaknesses shows that you are not conceited. You can be confident when answering questions about your strengths and abilities, but when you talk about your weaknesses, it shows a vulnerability and that makes you human and approachable.
• A way to identify any personal drama. To avoid this, present your answers without a lot of personal drama, as that can make schools and employers hesitate to accept you. Give your answer truthfully, but not rehearsed and keep your answers applicable to school or work-related concerns.
What Are Your Strengths?
As you spend time identifying your personal weaknesses, also look at the things you are good at. Again, you do not want to sound conceited when you list your strengths, but you can sound confident in your abilities. This is an important distinction to teach your children too. Build them up to be confident in the things they are good at, but teach them not to be conceited or to believe that no one else can do the task as well as they can.
Comment but Do Not Complain
When you present your weakness, try to use as facts and not emotions. You do not want to say that you HAD to work because your family could not support themselves without you and continue on to say what a burden it was and how you resent the fact that your grades suffered. This does not put you in a positive light. State the facts, but try to leave out the way you felt about the situation. Of course, you can say you feel remorseful that your grades are not what they should have been, but then speak about the ways that feeling motivates you to try harder now.
What are Some of Your Weaknesses
Maybe your child has the perfect college application with excellent grades, lots of extra-curricular activities, volunteer events and a part-time job. What do you suggest then to list as a weakness?
Did all these activities and studies render your child socially awkward? Maybe he does not have as many friends as he would like to have. The weakness could then be listed as he has a small, peer, support group, but hopes to expand his friendships in college. Or, maybe your child is extremely academically gifted, but struggles with every day skills such as managing finances. This could be listed as another weakness, but not one that would interfere with his chances of being accepted into college.
What Are Your Greatest Weaknesses
Once you have identified a weakness or two, consider which one would sound the best. You want the application to stand apart from other student’s applications, so select a characteristic that will do this. Try to present your greatest weakness with the story that shows your ability to overcome and stay resilient.
Schools want students who will put their best foot forward regardless of what is happening around them. When a student can stay focused and determined through hardship, the school is willing to work with the student to make it a successful experience instead of just writing the person off.
Taking an honest, in-depth look at you or your child’s weaknesses may be challenging, so it is important to focus on the end result of getting accepted by the school. Try to encourage your child and not let him become obsessed with a weakness or feel he needs to focus all his energy on changing himself.
Remind your child that everyone has weaknesses. We all have our individual positives and negatives that help us be the person we are meant to be. He will be a success, even with his limitations. Surprisingly, it may be the weaknesses that motivate him more than his strengths.