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"Come see, quickly!" Common App essay on experiencing failure

Chantal 2 / 8  
Aug 17, 2013   #1
Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did ot affect you, and what lessons did you learn from it?

"Come see, quickly!" Makhosi beckoned me. Putting down my lunch box, I got up and entered the a sword through my heart. I wanted to comfort her. To hold her hand. To hug her- something! But consultation room. My eyes met with those of the elderly woman in the corner. A single crystalline tear fell from her eye and landed on the crumpled tissue she held in her trembling hands. I was unsure whether what I sensed was either forlorn hope or unbearable despair. Before I could decide, deep intermittent breathing shifted my gaze to the Jack Russell lying on the table. He was clearly on his last legs. Suddenly the whole scene made sense; the poor lonely lady running her hands through her greying unkempt hair, the nurse reaching for the bottle of Euthapent. Each muffled sob was like before I could act, Makhosi whispered in my ear, "How pathetic."

I mumbled something in agreement but my eyes were fixed on the woman. My face conveyed indifference, a skill I had mastered over a week of working at the SPCA. Likewise, I did not comfort the poor woman for fear of being labelled "pathetic" as well. The nurse stuck the needle filled with the blue venom in the dog's paw and we watched as his breaths slowly tapered to complete silence. The stony silence was broken only by the woman's sniffling. Makhosi and the nurse turned to me expecting my usual reaction. I remained 'indifferent'. Mourning the death of a dog was seen as the equivalent of crying after killing a mosquito.

I did not foresee these kinds of scenarios occurring at the Bulawayo SPCA. In fact, when I signed up for volunteer work there I expected to find more animal lovers like myself. I did not expect to be mocked for getting teary when an animal was killed; especially one I had gotten to know over a few days. I did not expect the quizzical looks when I spent my spare time talking to the admitted animals or playing with them. I did not think for a second that treating the animals as I would a human being was seen as a strange and unnecessary practice.

On my second day of work, I witnessed the death of six dogs. A majority failed to receive adequate treatment due to lack of funds, and the remaining portion were culled because of overcrowding in the kennels. I asked the nurse about the euthanasia rule which stated that an animal could not be killed in the presence of another animal, the practice of which had long ceased. The look the nurse gave me answered that, and any other question I would have in the future. I was an eighteen year old volunteer. My job description included mopping floors and doing any arbitrary duty required of me; I was not brought in to change things. My opinion wasn't worth much among qualified people who had worked there for years. As a result, I failed to make any significant changes to the practices I saw.

My failures plagues me for a while. However, I don't regret volunteering there. Although I was somewhat traumatized, I learnt a lot of things. Firstly, I faced the sobering reality that bad things happen all the time, and I may not always be able to stop them. I got a taste of the real world; a world where everything isn't always dandy, and I proved to myself that I was strong enough to endure it all. Ironically, I feel stronger now after my failure.
bkim2468 2 / 4  
Aug 18, 2013   #2
One thing I would say I noticed is how it was more-so telling a story for 95% of it until the last few sentences where you described it. Although that's great you're telling a story, I did like how you expressed the emotions running through you and others while working at the vet, but I would try and reinforce your points somewhere earlier in your piece so that the College admissions will be able to get to the point without becoming too bored until the end (won't know if they will find this story interesting or not). So my piece of advice would be to just reiterate your point sooner rather than saving it for the very end of your piece.

Other than that I think it's a solid essay and you'll be set.
dumi 1 / 6,927 1592  
Aug 20, 2013   #3
One thing I would say I noticed is how it was more-so telling a story for 95% of it until the last few sentences where you described it.

I agree with bkim2468. It's a bit overdone! Your focus should be on describing your failure and how it affected you as a person. So, I too suggest you to identify the points that would respond to the prompt directly and bring them in your writing much sooner. My suggestion does not mean that you should take off all your emotions out from your response. But take off parts that really do not contribute to your case.

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