Stand out through gratitude
”When you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it.”
If you know me, you have likely heard me say, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Unfortunately, comparison is a natural part of identity formation for teenagers, and social media has only increased the opportunities to measure your achievements, appearance, social status, and talents against your peers. I am a huge believer in the power of cultivating gratitude as an antidote to social comparison. The benefits of focusing on “the goodness in your life” are multitudinous. Here are three small ways this practice can strengthen a college application.
- Reflect on and take advantage of your own opportunities and strengths. Colleges know that not every school has AP classes, an SAT prep program, or even sports. They also know that not every student has the charisma to be student body president or the financial security to take on extracurriculars outside of paid work and caretaking for siblings. Colleges are looking for students who take advantage of the opportunities available to them. Look for ways to use your strengths to give back to your school or your community.
- Express gratitude in your personal essays. In almost every great admissions essay I have read, the student expressed gratitude for the people in their life that encouraged and advocated for them: parents who woke up early to take them to swim practice, teachers who stayed late to help with their science fair project, a mentor that encouraged them to apply to college. While a student’s accomplishments may be impressive, what really stands out is that they have the maturity to recognize the people that have made those accomplishments possible.
Show your teachers gratitude. Do this for its own sake, because teaching is exhausting and often underappreciated work. Developing strong, positive relationships with your teachers will only positively affect your learning. There are many small ways to show appreciation for teachers who have made a difference in your life:
- Say thank you.
- Write a heartfelt note that expresses how they have helped you.
- If it’s financially possible for your family, consider giving them a holiday present. I surveyed my teacher friends, and the most commonly wished for gifts were gift cards from Starbucks and Target and these pens.