Context is important for this one too: his sister performed right before him and got rejected, so he sings with that knowledge… and with his freshly-rejected, tearful sister offstage to his left. (Watch him glance over at her at 0:19 after the judge asks “You okay?”)

But my favorite moment happens at 2:08 when he takes his hand off the mic mid-song to show everyone that his hand is shaking–like, a lot. Watch the moment again, if you missed it, or pay attention if you haven’t yet. It’s an incredible display of vulnerability. And I love him for it. How can you not?

Lesson: Vulnerability magnetizes. 

Think about what he’s saying in that moment. Even though he is absolutely crushing it in the audition (listen to the audience), he takes a moment to say, “I’m kinda’ freaking out a little bit right now.” He shows he’s nervous, uncertain, in a word… human. 

Your personal statement is a wonderful opportunity to be vulnerable. 

And (pro tip) I believe vulnerability is especially important for high-flyers (read: students with amazing GPAs and test scores. For you, the goal of your personal statement isn’t to prove you’re hard-working, or smart–we get that, check it off your list–it’s to show us something that reveals you’re more than just a brilliant test-taker of tests and scorer of As. Show us something else. Show us your heart.

Speaking of showing her heart…

3. Grace VanderWaal: 12-Year-Old Ukulele Player