I’m sure you’ve heard at least one admission officer throw around the phrase “be authentic” while explaining how you should present yourself in the Personal Insight Questions. But what does that mean? How do you be authentic?
One error I consistently see students make when trying to be authentic is treating the Personal Insight Questions like they are ice breakers or get-to-know-you exercises at summer camp, where students share causal, quirky factoids about themselves. THAT IS A HUGE MISTAKE!!! Personal Insight Questions are interviews where the UCs decide if you should join them (like an interview for a job or a leadership position at a school organization). Take a moment to imagine telling cutesy stories about yourself at a serious interview and the awkward silence that follows.
So how do you be authentic and serious? To figure that out, you need to turn to Existentialism. This philosophical theory addresses the core question of the Personal Insight Questions head on: how do you assign meaning to your life (living authentically)? The UCs want to know why you make the choices you make and how you instill meaning to your choices and actions.
Below is a video from Crash Course Philosophy on Existentialism. Watch the entire video so you have a clear understanding of the context and the terms used (“absurd” is not what you think it means) before diving into the explanation of what living authentically means. The actual explanation starts at 5:26 of the video. Use the Flash Philosophy segment (starts at 5:58) as a thinking exercise for assigning meaning to your actions: neither action described has intrinsic value (one is not naturally better than the other; much like one extracurricular activity is not naturally better than another), it’s your ability to assign meaning to your choice that makes it “right” (therefore authentic) for you.
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