The more time I spend as an inhabitant of this world, the more I am seeing that a successful existence here is not about skill, knowledge or good character. It is all about one’s ability to exaggerate one’s self. We all tend to flock towards the people with the biggest personalities, those who have the gift of making the most meagre and simplest of things seem cool.  I say one thing and it sounds dull. Then another person comes and says the exact same thing and this time it seems out of this world. It is never about content. It is all about presentation.

This fact is becoming a lot more real to me as I fill out applications. I naturally hate hyperbole and loudness. A part of me sees exaggerations and embellishments as deceitful, a lie. Instead, I tend to say things as they are, smiling only when I am genuinely happy and offering compliments when there’s actually something to praise. Instead of prefixing every second word with amazing, excellent or awesome, I reserve these adjectives for things that are truly amazing, excellent and awesome. And that’s the approach I take with myself as well.

Apparently, that’s the approach every admissions office doesn’t take kindly to. Up until now, I have been able to hide under the shadow of my grades to help me up the academic ladder. Even with plain, unexciting personal statements and cover letters, I have been able to end up in good places. However, it seems that the postgraduate world, nay research in general, thrives on exaggerations – the amazing, excellent and awesome. Everything is presented as over-the-top and being more ‘WOW!’ than reality. To be honest, no one can blame researchers. The illusion of supreme importance and over zealousness is the best way to secure money in a stingy funding climate.

I recently handed in a scholarship application. After writing the initial draft, I went over and made everything fiery and wonderful. “I am interested in” became “I am keen and passionate about”, and “I want to” transformed into “I have a sincere desire to”. “I graduated with a good undergraduate degree” turned into “I displayed an outstanding performance in an extremely gruelling undergraduate programme”.  Out of desperation, I compromised and caved into this loud, awesome world. Once I clicked on the ‘Submit Application’ button, I felt like a liar. I find myself unable to cope with this exaggerated person. But it is this fraudulent version of me that the world wants to see and praise. The truth is, I am a rather normal and average person – definitely not outstanding – and in reality, that’s what 99.9% of us are. Yet, success chases after those who make their normal look better than other people’s normal. All I can hope is that this discomfort in my chest is not in vain, that an offer comes out of it all.


  1. The funding being stingy is real. I mean, I also have experienced slightly the pressure of stingy funding. On one hand, exaggeration feels disingenuous. On the other hand, it is another way to survive. The tension also reveals your belief in the work you’re doing/the thing you’re exaggerating about. Is your work/that thing/you worth fighting for?
    All in all, I feel you.


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