How to Boast Without Being Annoying in Your College Essay

how to boast without being annoying in your college essay

Let’s face it; college essays have to boast, even if it’s a flimsy humble-brag.

How do you then discuss everything you’ve achieved without boring or offending your reader? How can you boast without coming off as boastful?


Bragging that is annoying and isn’t associated with values:

When my team won first place at the UN Global Debates Program in 2010, I knew I wanted to work in politics and international issues. We were able to beat our competitors because we did a better, more thorough study and backed up our claims better. We worked hard to get that award, and I’m very happy with myself.

Bragging that’s connected to values:

I no longer try to avoid problems, which is much more important. As a member of the 1st Place team for the 2010 United Nations Global Debates Program on climate change and poverty, I had the chance to find solutions to problems that touch other people. This was a lot of fun. I’ve always been interested in global problems, and I want to become a foreign affairs analyst or diplomat by studying international affairs with a focus on national identity.

In the second example, the author shows that she has become bolder and is finding solutions to problems that affect other individuals. So, her fancy UN Global Debates Award isn’t just a way to show off; it’s also proof that she has or is working on building this value.

Bragging that’s annoying and not connected to values:

I am a native speaker of both Hebrew and Farsi and a natural language learner. During my family’s annual trips to India and biannual travels to Jerusalem, I learned Farsi. I believe that my proficiency in languages makes me an ideal candidate for your program.

Bragging that’s connected to values:

I also enjoy sharing this appreciation with others and have taken it upon myself to eradicate mathonumophobiconfundosis, the term my Calculus instructor coined for “extreme fear of Math.” A small group of students and I have devoted our after-school hours to tutoring our peers in subjects ranging from Pre-Algebra to AP Calculus B/C, and I believe that my proficiency in Hebrew and Farsi has helped me communicate with some of my school’s Israeli and Iranian students. There is nothing more satisfying than watching a student solve a challenging problem without my assistance.

The first writer gives you a cringe, isn’t it? The focus of the second example is on assisting others. However, the author justifies his boast (his ability to speak Hebrew and Farsi) by tying it to one of his values, which is actually quite altruistic.

If you’re stuck on how to include your accomplishments into your essay, think in terms of value —> accomplishment that proves that value —> scenario that ties the two.

Community —> voted MVP of lacrosse team —> rallied the team to win an important game after one of our best players was injured.

Empathy —> established an award-winning mentorship program —> assisted a new student and her family in finding accommodation.

Curiosity —> won the national science fair —> tried dozens of variables and did hundreds of assessments.

When composing an essay, it may be best to begin with your personal values. This makes the boast somewhat subtler and more palatable. 

It is an art, not a science, to weave your boasts and achievements into your personal statement. But if you lead with your values, you can subtly and charmingly introduce your impressive accomplishments.

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