Updated: Dec 9, 2021
Schools want to see how you interact with others, especially to solve problems. These crucial skills can be broken down into two categories, leadership (give) and collaboration (take).
You need to demonstrate both to have a well-rounded application.
If you are in a leadership position in your essay, you should focus on a collaboration skill. If you are not in a leadership position, you should focus on a leadership skill.
This is important for balance.
If you focus on leadership skills when you actually are a leader, you'll seem arrogant.
If you focus on collaborative skills in a collaborative position, you'll seem passive.
Only focus on one key strength (total, not one per category) for each essay.
How did you contribute to the group?
creative problem solving
delegation of tasks
ability to mentor others
willingness to take responsibility (not just for yourself, but for the team you are in charge of)
initiative or proactivity
ability to resolve conflicts or mediate arguments
ability to perform under pressure
How well can you work with others?
consider others’ perspectives (especially when they disagree with you)
open-mindedness: try new things, learn new skills, or take on new roles
help others in a group setting, even if it doesn’t pertain to what you are directly responsible for
tolerance of diversity
flexibility (especially when things don’t go your way or are unfamiliar)
ability to understand the bigger picture
admitting you were wrong
This is not an exhaustive list; my goal is to provide enough examples of each that you can determine your own key strength(s) in each category.
How do I show these traits?
Cause and effect with a specific example is the best way to prove you have these traits.
Cause = your strength
Effect = the positive impact this strength had on the group related to the main goal or problem (see my post on the Action Essay)
Here's an example, using “planning skills,” “delegation,” and “willingness to compromise” as my key strengths.
Our marketing team had a week to design a pamphlet for the final concert with information about all ten bands and advertisements. I knew that without a clear timeline we would never make the deadline, so I broke down the project into hour-long tasks. I assigned these to members of the team based on their strengths and schedules.
However, our lead editor told me that it would be impossible to do all the writing and editing in the time that I had allotted. She seemed quite frustrated. I told her that I understood how much pressure editors have and consulted her regarding which team members with the lightest workloads might be capable of picking up some of the copyediting.
With her revisions to my original timeline in place, we not only finished ahead of schedule, but produced what the musical director said was the best flyer he had seen from the program in ten years.
What are your key strengths? How did you use them to help your group solve a problem or accomplish a goal? Let us know in the comments!
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