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I'm writing an application to a summer school. The school will teach a range of topics and I admit that I may be over qualified for some. That means:

  • I may have more knowledge with other applicants
  • Some topics may teach what I already know
  • Some knowledge I have may even be unique perspectives to lecturers

Nevertheless that doesn't mean that I know everything:

  • Other applicants are also have many activities and background
  • The lecturers are also respectful and have more knowledge than me
  • There are topics that I totally don't know and want to learn more

I also have a small community (fan if you wish) around my blog, which have some KOLs in there. I post my application in there, and an alumni who is closed with the staffs of the school comments in private that the application looks like I'm showing off with careless attitude.

I agree, because I do have that feeling. I think when you are overqualified, and be aware of that, then naturally your confidence is reflected in that. I try to limit that, but the more I read my application, the more I feel I care about them and not showing off at all. Not only I want to be honest, but I want to give as much what I have or know so that they find me interesting and worth to be accepted. I think it's a win-win, and a normal practice.

Here are what I include in my application, which I think can be perceived as showing off:

  • Works that relate to the subjects (I agree that it can be perceived as comments or even debates. Not many people can do this → trying to do this is showing off)
  • Names of some KOLs
  • Comments of them about my works
  • Communities that I create
  • Other materials that are shared by many and may be useful

I get that it always depends to the readers, so maybe there is nothing to worry. But given that I see this is a great opportunity for networking and learning, I want to prepare with my best.

KOL: Key opinion leader. It's a term in marketing, basically means a person is well-known in the niche field and their voice is respected. They usually be an expertise but not necessary.


Let's say the subjects taught in that schools include math. In math there are two branches: geometry and algebra. The school will teach both but will focus more on geometry. I have a couple articles about algebra, which contain concepts that relevant to geometry, or even create a debate in what they would teach. As for the interpersonal experiences with that proofreader, we are just online friends that have never met, but know that we share some core interests.

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    Hi there. What's the main question/goal here ? Can you please clarify ? – OldPadawan Feb 29 at 6:07
  • @OldPadawan I have edited the title. Is that better? – Ooker Feb 29 at 7:12
  • You need to edit the question, not just the title. What exactly is your question? It needs to be precise, focused, and not opinion based. Please check out the help center for guidance on how to write a good question for this site. – Johanna Feb 29 at 8:03
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    @Raditz_35 oh, I think I start getting what you mean. Let's say the subjects taught in that schools include math. In math there are two branches: geography and algebra. The school will teach both but will focus more on geography. I have a couple articles about algebra, which contain concepts that relevant to geography, or even create a debate in what they would teach. As for the interpersonal experiences with that proofreader, we are just online friends that have never met, but know that we share some core interests. Is that better? – Ooker Feb 29 at 18:17
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    Why did you create a new tag for "blog"? This is a site for interpersonal skills, not writing tips, so I don't think that's really useful or relevant category here. – Em C Feb 29 at 19:21
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What would happen if someone applied who didn't have a blog with fans who are key opinion leaders? Would they not be allowed to attend? If having something isn't a requirement, why are you mentioning it? Would it perhaps be used to choose between two qualified attendees when there isn't room for both? You really need to know why you want to mention this.

For example, I'm very active in C++. I've had dinner with the person who invented the language. People on the committee follow me on Twitter. Would I put that on an application for training on the language? I would not. I've written dozens of books on C++, trained hundreds of thousands of people, and delivered keynotes the world over at C++ conferences. Would I include that? You betcha. One set of facts is relevant, one is not.

What I see no sign of in your question, perhaps because it isn't in your application, is why you want to attend this course. Do you want to learn something? Learn a better way to teach something? Are you planning to pass on this knowledge in your blog? Do you want to meet the other attendees? The instructors who you respect? If you focus on saying things about the course while saying things about yourself, a lot of the showing off falls away, even if you say the exact same things about yourself you were saying before.

Compare

  • I have 10,000 followers
  • I can't wait to learn more about [specific topic]
  • I can't wait to learn more about [specific topic] and share it with my 10,000 followers

See how the first is irrelevant showing off, the second is flattery but does show you know what you're applying to, and the third combines the two to let you show off while demonstrating that you know what you're applying to, and even makes the showing off relevant. "Choosing this applicant will amplify our message by getting to the applicants followers," the selection committee might think.

Finally, the truly famous in their fields, the ones followed by key opinion leaders, don't need to tell people how famous they are in their fields. If you ran a C++ conference, you would already know who I am and wouldn't need me to remind you. Anyone who needs to tell me how many followers/listeners/subscribers they have on a topic I teach on is probably not as famous as they think they are. So if you say less about yourself in the application, that actually says more: it says you're confident that you're already well known. Mention the blog, once. Don't provide a laundry list. If you are a mover and shaker, they don't need to be told. If you need to tell them, you aren't.

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  • I think I get why I wrote that way. It seems like I answer those questions unconsciously. Say you are an expertise in C++ and I present my research on the impact of C++ in minority communities, or its usefulness in solving psychological problems, then by nature those questions will automatically be answered without me explicitly saying it? I agree I should explicitly say it though – Ooker Mar 1 at 5:54
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My experience in writing application essay is slim but I've written and reviewed a good deal of cvs / cover letter during my professional life. Based on sources I would think that this experience is relevant as to what purpose serve those documents and how they are used.

It's difficult to highlight what could be the problem in your essay without having it at hand. Given these conditions my answer is likely to be dissatisfying to some degree, but I'll do my best to give you general advice as how to not be seen as showing off.

  1. Presenting objective facts, not subjective evaluations

If for example I have 10 years experience working in a field I would say I have 10 years experience working in that field. I would NOT say I have a lot of experience, or that I'm very experienced in that, that would be a subjective evaluation.

As an example in your very question, presenting followers as fans or "KOL", or that you "created" communities is all but an objective fact. That someone that reads you is a "KOL" have very little to do with an objective fact or a proof that you did quality work.

  1. Be careful with quotes

When people praise your work and you repeat that praise, you are making the implicit statement that this praise is deserved and that your work is indeed good.

I would be very wary to include these quotes as relevant to your reader. They are great tools to advertise your work but essentially not really good at giving you credit for being a good student.

If anything you could cite people as being likely to recommend you, but it's also more tactful to let them express recommendation privately than having to quote them saying that.

  1. Show interest in courses

The staff most likely want to weed out applicants that are:

  • Unmotivated
  • Don't have minimum background to follow lectures

A very decent chunk of your application essay should address the first bullet. For example, you could use related work not as being proof of competence but rather interest. In a traditional cover letter, I often advise to articulate points into a I/You/We kind of structure, and I would argue this is quite important not to be seen as showing of that you remind what you could be learning and how interesting you find the lectures there.

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  • If there are some things that aren't clear enough or don't apply to your situation we could discuss that in comment and I'll edit. – Arthur Havlicek Feb 29 at 15:12

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