The business of getting into boarding school or getting into college poses philosophical and other questions that need to be addressed by every applicant in one way or another. I have to be me. No one can tell me how to dress. My earring is an important statement about who I am. I want them to know that I am different . . . that I am not like most of their applicant pool.
Ultimately, each applicant must make individually informed decisions about how to present himself or herself: in the interview, in photos that may accompany the application, even in print via the normally required candidate essay. Before choosing total self-expression, though, it might be helpful to point out that there are risks and potential costs associated with every type of personal presentation, but especially those that might be considered controversial.
You may choose to wear your nose ring proudly to your interview, assuming that the admissions officer will be, at a minimum, tolerant – possibly even impressed. You might be right. But you might be wrong. In most cases, interviewers – for schools, for jobs, for any other kind of selective admission – assume that you are presenting yourself in the best way you know how, whether you are or not. Traditional clothing and ornamentation do not offend most people, and they do not raise questions of drug abuse or counter-cultural leanings in quite the same way as facial tattoos or blue hair might.
Life in a competitive world is difficult enough without limiting your options at the starting gate. If you want to maximize your opportunities for success, avoid a confrontational appearance in those moments when you are vulnerable to being judged. Lose the nose ring, swallow your self-expressive pride. You just may find, years from now, as you look back on those images of yourself from high school, that you are no longer that person – the one whose individual self-expression was really a cry for acceptance, at a time when all non-conforming individualists tended to look alike.
Carter P. Reese,
Director, Informed Educational Solutions