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Common App Essay - The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter


Common App Essay - Superpowers

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

When I was in fourth grade, I learned that I had superpowers.

It was a Wednesday; and every Wednesday after morning announcements, Mrs. Robison would pull out a random paper from the stack of writing assignments turned in to her that morning. The weekly assignment was always the same: Take this week's vocabulary words, and put them into a story. She only needed to get as far as two words into my assignment when I already felt myself sinking lower into my seat, covering my eyes with my hands as if somehow, they would be able to guard me against the cruel, judgmental opinions of the nine-year-olds around me. I had only just begun preparing myself for the road of humiliation ahead of me when the laughing began. Except the laughing was not at me, it was at the story I had written. As I pulled my hands away from my eyes, my gaze made its way across the classroom, watching the reactions of the students around me. Because of the words that I had put down on paper, my classmates were smiling. Soon enough, I was smiling along with them; not because of my story, but because for the first time in my life, I understood the power that I possessed- the power of words.

From then on, I grew more and more accustomed to this new ability. As I grew older, I expanded my capabilities. I could do anything from influencing the opinions of others with persuasive essays, to bringing them to tears through a heart-wrenching story. It seemed as if nothing could stop me until I finally encountered my kryptonite: The Lord of the Flies. I had just entered high school, ready to conquer yet another year of the English curriculum; but instead, I was met with a frown, and a C- on my summer assignment.

Though technically still a passing grade, anything below a B as an honors student with English as her favorite subject felt like a failure. I desperately flipped through the pages of my essay, my eyes following the abundance of corrections written in red ink telling me over and over again that I had "too much summary" and "not enough analysis." As the rest of the class left for lunch, I made a beeline straight for my teacher. I needed to know how I could fix these mistakes. To this day, I still remember what he told me.

"You're a great storyteller, but you don't understand the meaning behind these words."

His advice made me realize just how weak my ability really was. When I discovered my superpower in fourth grade, I had only discovered a minute piece of a vast puzzle. Words could do so much more than just tell a story. They could leave behind a plethora of ideas and lessons for the reader to dive into. With some more extra help from my teacher and additional research, my skills improved drastically as I was finally able to grasp the concept of critical analysis.

In addition to my progress, I gained a new understanding of myself. I discovered the value in humbling oneself in all situations. No matter how much I achieve, or how high I climb, there will always be something new to learn. With every superpower that a hero holds, comes an obstacle that will stand in their way. But what truly matters, is how they overcome that weakness and grow to be better versions of themselves.

Jan 9, 2018   #2
Deborah, the way I see it, you have two options with regards to this essay. You either stick with this essay and improve it somehow or, you write a new one that is more accurate and focused on the questions you need to respond to in a mature manner.

The first choice is, you need to shorten the presentation about your 9 year old self and skip directly to your failure to write a proper essay in high school. If you compare your focus on how you learned to tell a story, you will find that you did a better job on that aspect of the essay than you did on the required elements of : How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

You basically responded to the important questions in a single paragraph. while you spent 3 paragraphs and a one liner on your 9 year old discovery. The problem is that, you are using a childhood story in the essay, which reviewers do not appreciate very much because that shows a shallowness in your life experiences. The shallowness stems from the fact that you have not had a life altering, self learning experience recently that you feel could have better responded to the essay. All reviewers tend to just zip through essays that refer to such early ages and shallow topics. They won't remember it later on because there is nothing remarkable about it.

The second choice is something that I am presenting without being sure of how you will accept the advice so I am telling you now, this is just my opinion for you to consider. While I will not dissuade you from using this story since you seem to have a strong connection to it, I will however, caution you about its effect on the reviewer. It will not be a strong essay. If I were to recommend that you change this essay, I would suggest that you look towards your more recent experiences from high school or within your life (family, friends, social activities, etc.) for the obstacle or failure. Something that you did not feel bad about and discover the mistake you made within the same hour. If you could think of something more character building in terms of failures and obstacles, you should be able to present a more interesting essay to the reviewer. Then again, I am not recommending that you do that if you do not want to. The content of your essay is after all, your decision to make.
@Holt
In all honesty, I don't see the point of the first option you've offered, as you've made it quite clear that the experience I chose was not the correct one.

But I do appreciate the feedback! I'll set about with brainstorming for a new essay.


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