College Essay: Margaret Sprigg-Dudley to attend Northwestern University


Margaret Sprigg-Dudley, Editor-in-Chief '22

One day in my sophomore history class we were discussing egos, and our teacher, Mr. Black, asked “Does anyone in here have a big ego?” He then turned to me and said, “I feel like you have a big ego.”

I was thrown off guard. I was in the corner thinking, yes, I can think of a few people in the class who have a big ego. I was not on my list, however. I was insecure and questioned everything: I don’t speak up enough, everyone else is smarter than me, I’m not doing enough.

So I left that class a little confused, and worried that I was coming off as a jerk. But here’s the thing: I had the building blocks to have a big ego, but not the confidence.

For me, confidence is something that is learned. At the start of sophomore year I became the assistant manager of our student-run coffee cart. I got the position because I committed: I showed up early, I gave up free bells, and I came in on in-service days. Two months in, our head manager suddenly left the school and I found myself running the entire operation. At first I was upset; I didn’t know what I was doing and I was afraid I would mess it all up.

That’s how I got the position, but not how I became a leader.

I didn’t know what I was doing, but I learned to fake it: I trained baristas and pretended that I had done it before, I talked to kitchen staff and pretended that I had everything under control, I led meetings and pretended I knew where we were going. While I faked it, I learned.

The biggest thing I learned was how to interact with the team. Throughout my life, I’ve had to push myself socially: I force myself to talk to people and set goals to make friends. Those skills transferred over to the club as I built relationships. I learned everyone’s name. I chatted with them when it was slow. I shared where I’ve struggled – like how I’ve melted a cup three times – to let them know that mistakes are welcome. I had to stop being insecure about myself in order to share my mistakes and opinions. I also figured out that a leader provides opportunities for others. I came up with four new leadership positions – operations, profit management, coffee cart inventory, and snack bar inventory – assigned tasks to the new leaders, and had them lead team meetings every week.

At some point, I realized that all that confidence wasn’t fake. I continued to look for leadership, but this time feeling assured that I could successfully lead. I started and led a student health council, I founded a conservation podcast, and I took on the role of editor-in-chief of the school newspaper because I cared about those issues and knew I could face the challenges.

In the middle of junior year, I realized “Oh shit, Mr. Black was right.” Before, I had been worried about coming off as a jerk. But that’s not what having a big ego is about, or at least it doesn’t have to be. It’s not about needing attention or being better than anyone else; if you’re truly confident in yourself then you’ll find ways to lift others up.

I’m proud of myself. I have a big ego, but I know I can use it for good. I can share work instead of hoarding it. I can build relationships with others. My ego’s taken me this far, and I’ll be proud to own up to it next time a teacher polls the class.