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Opening Arguments

Fakin' it

Wow. Getting into college must be tough if you have to create a flaw to be acceptable:

If there's a sign of the times in college admissions, it may be this: Steven Roy Goodman, an independent college counselor, tells clients to make a small mistake somewhere in their application — on purpose.

"Sometimes it's a typo," he says. "I don't want my students to sound like robots. It's pretty easy to fall into that trap of trying to do everything perfectly and there's no spark left."

What Goodman is going for is "authenticity" — an increasingly hot selling point in college admissions as a new year rolls around.

In an age when applicants all seem to have volunteered, played sports and traveled abroad, colleges are wary of slick packaging. They're drawn to high grades and test scores, of course, but also to humility and to students who really got something out of their experiences, not just those trying to impress colleges with their resume.

The trend seemingly should make life easier for students — by reducing the pressure to puff up their credentials. But that's not always the case.

For some students, the challenge of presenting themselves as full, flawed people cuts against everything else they've been told about applying to college — to show off as much as possible.

This is probably good practice for what students will face out in the real world. You know what they say: If you can fake authenticity, you can fake anything.