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Successful Portrait of a Graduate:

When it comes to presenting oneself to seek admission to a sought-after school like TJ, not everyone is readily self-aware and ready with anecdotal evidence to show their best self. FCPS identified essential skills known as Portrait of a Graduate. We do not know what questions they will ask to see if you have that profile, but by knowing yourself and reflecting on what skills you have learned so far, you can paint a powerful picture of yourself.

Before the test, take a moment to reflect on various things you have done and what you enjoyed the most. Perhaps you found satisfaction in helping your peers or the school to be better. It doesn't matter how small it may seem; what you learned is more important.

Jot down these ideas and think about how you can present yourself concisely so unfamiliar readers can learn about you quickly. This perspective is essential.

Below, I have listed attributes and activities I have been involved in and think would be worth mentioning under that. This is only a guide to find your own activities- not a required list.



Phil Jackson: "The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team".

  • Possible activities you can connect

  • Odyssey of Minds

  • Science Olympiad

  • Team projects in class

  • We the People

Remember that while you will mention others, it is essential to keep the focus on you. As someone reading what you wrote, I want to know what YOU did or how YOU were affected, not about someone else.



Nicholas Boothman: "It's much easier to be convincing if you care about your topic. Figure out what's important to you about your message and speak from the heart."

  • Possible activities you can connect

  • Debates

  • Student Government

  • After-school club leadership

  • Community service

Goal-Oriented & Resilient Individual:

William Ernest Henley: "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."

Winston Church Hill: "Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It's the courage to continue that counts."

  • This might be a good time to discuss any activity you are passionate about, feared to do, or hesitated to get involved, what you did and how you accomplished it

  • Completing a project of your passion in any subject or hobby

  • Learning something new (new coding language like JAVA)

  • Learning a language

  • Overcoming fear of riding a bike, skating, a challenging class, personal setbacks, etc.


Albert Einstein: "The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination."

  • Science project

  • Either something you worked on or see feasible at TJ specifically

  • Writing a song/Composing music

  • Science fair

  • Math Olympiad

  • Be careful to focus on more of how thinking about math differently helped you succeed here



John Quincy Adams: "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."

  • Student government

  • School band (section leader, mentor to other students, etc.)

  • Extra-curricular club leadership (captain of the Science Olympiad team)

  • Sports (Focus on how you used your knowledge or power to help others)

  • Community Service (Focus on how you inspired others to join you in doing good in our community)

Problem Solver:

Gerhard Gschwantner: "Problems are nothing but wake-up calls for creativity."

  • Olympiads – Science & Math

  • Sports

  • Group projects

  • Writing software

  • Personal hobbies

  • Built furniture

  • Fixed a broken car

You'll notice these are not the exact words FCPS defines in Portrait of a Graduate (official list: This is on purpose, because we want you to think about what each part means to you. By using different vocabulary, we hope you think about each trait in many ways. You will also notice that some of the activities we mentioned above appear in multiple sections. Unfortunately, the prompts you will receive are not enough for someone to learn everything about you. In this situation, it is best not to list your resume but to focus on some activities that may be applicable in several instances. As one of my English teachers once said, "with depth comes complexity." We are all complicated, and when someone reads your responses, you are one of hundreds, if not thousands of applicants. If you want to stand out, being focused on the core parts of your personality and activities will not only be effective at painting a picture of your STEM interests but also at painting a portrait of you as a person.

Sharing an anecdote on the lighter side.

This is not an example of how you should respond to a prompt. See if you can identify the core takeaway that made me a better, stronger person. If this was written for the SIS, I would severely trim the story aspect and add to my personal reflection:

"In my final year of Science Olympiad, one of the events was related to chemistry and took place in a lab. Thus, pants were required, which my teammate was unaware of. He came to know this as he was entering the event, which left us little time to find a solution. I was asked if I could volunteer in his place as I did not have an event right at that time, and I was wearing pants. I knew very little about chemistry and did not have an iota of preparation for this event. To my surprise, I could relate to the questions and made common-sense choices with everyday observations. Coupled with another partner's skills, we surprised everyone (including myself) as we medaled in the event (3rd place). This event proved to be instrumental in our team qualifying for the next level of the competition. Everyone around me congratulated me, and I cherish that experience. I felt good because I realized the inner strength I did not know I have . Discovering I can adapt to a changing environment, this small moment in history does not seem significant, but I proved to myself that even when something does not go my way, I can still be strong and excel past it."

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