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Common Application Personal Essay "Challenge: A Gift of Advancement" - feedback


hosu223 1 / 2  
Aug 23, 2010   #1
This is my Common Application - Personal Essay
Should the topic be number 6 (Choice of my own) or number 1 (Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.)?

Please, give me revision, advice, and feedback.
I would also read and give feedback for others if they leave a link.

______________________________________________________________________ __________

"Challenge: the Gift of Advancement"

A challenge is something that many people are reluctant to overcome. However, in order to advance ourselves, a challenge must be embraced. I first realized this concept when I was young.

My first challenge occurred when I was playing soccer in elementary school. One day, one of our school's best soccer players said that people who were not skilled at soccer could not play soccer after school, for they only got in his way. This was the first challenge that was presented to me. I was not able to play soccer after school because I was not good? I thought it was arrogant of him to deprive other people of playing soccer for fun just because they were not good. So, I accepted the challenge and decided to make my own team to fight against his "elite" soccer players. I invited anyone who wanted to play and, most of all, enjoy soccer. Of course, my team was full of bungling soccer players, including myself, and whenever we played against the "elite" team we would always lose. Nevertheless, we had fun having a chance to play a sport that we loved and not get discouraged for our lack of skill. Finally, a miracle happened. Our "crappy" team had beaten the "elite" team and proved ourselves worthy. Although it was one victory out of countless losses, we felt proud and I felt that I had overcome the challenge the best soccer player had given to me. I also became more confident in myself and what I could achieve. Our team continued to thrive while the other team slowly disbanded. By the end of the year we all played soccer for fun.

While my first challenge was relatively easy, the second was more troublesome. As I grew older, I became more and more attracted to studying abroad. Although it would have been easier for me to stay in Korea and learn to speak in my own tongue, I wanted to experience the challenge of living independently in an international environment and to learn English first hand. However, when I first arrived at the boarding school in Kansas, life in America was not what I expected. Almost half of the students in the dormitory were Koreans. It is not that I disliked my fellow Koreans. In fact, it was easier for me to adjust in a "foreign environment." However, was this really a different country? I was surrounded by Koreans and ninety percent of the time I was using my native language. The splendor of a challenge was lost; it was all too easy. Soon, I fell in a slump. I was lost in the parties and games we had in the dormitory. Life in Kansas was undoubtedly fun, yet something was missing. The challenge that had been a driving force of my life was gone. The failure to even start a challenge devastated me. I knew that I could not go on with life as easily as this. I finally decided to transfer to a different school. This time, I wanted to live in an American family where I could directly learn the culture and language of America. Although, I was excited that I would finally able to start my challenge to learn the language and culture of America, I was afraid of the idea of living with complete strangers with whom I could not even easily communicate. Nevertheless, when I finally met my host family, I actively interacted with them by talking to and spending as much time as I can with them. After a year of fruitfully living with my host family and with the help of my newly made American friends, I was able to succeed in speaking, listening, and writing in English as well as slowly grasping the American culture.

With the success of my second challenge of adapting in America, I was able to pursue my third challenge: to become an articulate English speaker. Although I succeeded in speaking English, I was not an articulate or sophisticated speaker. I also had glossophobia, which I wanted to overcome. So, when I heard there was a mock trial club during my second year in high school, I decided to go through another challenge. The fact that mock trial requires skillful debating and public speaking skill made me hesitant to join mock trial; however, I had to overcome my fear of public speaking and thought this was the best way to do it since I was also interested in law. As I diligently attended practices and gradually became more confident of my public speaking skills, I also became more immensely interested in the occupation of an attorney. Finally, after much preparation, our team's first match was about to begin. Even though I had practiced countless times, I was, nevertheless, extremely nervous. Practicing with my fellow team members had been painless but to articulately direct and cross a witness from a different school in front of real judges and attorneys was daunting. Regardless of my anxiety, I had stuck to my practices and when my part finally came, I was triumphant. The witness whom I had crossed was surprisingly dumbfounded by all my questions and I was able to successfully make my point to the jury without objections. Our team won the trial that day and I was elated. Not only had I found profound satisfaction in successfully crossing a witness and found great fascination in the art of persuasion, but I had also overcome my fear of public speaking. Overall, my third challenge was a success.

With all the past challenges in my life, I have come to realize that these hardships have truly formed and improved myself. Therefore, I have continued to welcome challenges, such as the challenge of becoming a leader - becoming vice president of Student Council and captain of Mock Trial was another product of this challenge. Now, Cornell is my challenge and this challenge is perhaps the most important of all, for college is the training ground for the real world and a great opportunity to improve myself further. I would like to continue my future challenges with your college and embrace more challenges because as John F. Kennedy once said, "We choose to go...not because it is easy, but because it is hard, because that goal will serve to measure and organize the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win."

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CopperDays 1 / 6  
Aug 23, 2010   #2
A challenge is something that many people are reluctant to overcome. However, in order to advance ourselves, a challenge must be embraced. I first realized this concept when I was young.

There's a pro and con to this opening. On a positive note, it's good because the reader can quickly grasp your main point without much of a headache. Unfortunately, at the same time, the first sentence feels like a topic starter on the common app. I think it would be better if you start with a story and somehow work the quote above into it.

However, was this really a different country? I was surrounded by Koreans and ninety percent of the time I was using my native language. The splendor of a challenge was lost; it was all too easy. Soon, I fell in a slump. I was lost in the parties and games we had in the dormitory. Life in Kansas was undoubtedly fun, yet something was missing. The challenge that had been a driving force of my life was gone. The failure to even start a challenge devastated me. I knew that I could not go on with life as easily as this.

This is probably my favourite passage in the entire essay. I like how you were able to show a negative period of your overseas experience and morph it into something memorably positive :). The figurative language was probably what drew me in though.

This time, I wanted to live in an American family

This time, I wanted to live with an American family

I was elated

Elated sounds off for some reason. Try using another word.

With all the past challenges in my life

Since it is the concluding paragraph, I think it would leave an even more colourful impression if you could recount the examples you have provided using the kind of writing style you used in paragraph 3.

Overall, it is truly a very good essay. The only suggestion I would give is to make the opening more catchy. After all, admission officers go through thousands and thousands of essays, so standing out is probably the key to an acceptance letter, lol. Also, this is actually more of an important note. I think the essay is quite a bit over the usual word count. For safety reasons, most people try to keep it within the 500-700 words range, max. I know there's no actual regulation of word count, but I heard that 1000+ word essays would be looked at somewhat negatively by admission officers. Just a thought.

As for the number, I think it is more of a number 1 than 6.

If you have time, I'd really appreciate it if you can read and critique my essay.
OP hosu223 1 / 2  
Aug 23, 2010   #3
Thank you so much for your thorough feedback!

I thought the opening was weak, but couldn't think of a better opening paragraph. Now that you mention though, I'll try incorporating the introduction into the first paragraph or make it better with some creative hook.

Thanks for the compliment :) I really appreciate it!

I agree with all your suggestions and advice, especially the advice on the intro and last paragraph.

Yeah, my essay is little over 1000 and I was worried a bit, but I don't know how to abridge it.
Also, I need to shorten this essay for other personal statements. So any suggestions anyone?

I'll definitely read and comment of your essay also!
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Aug 25, 2010   #4
Nevertheless, we had fun having a chance to play a sport that we loved and and did not get discouraged for by our lack of skill. Finally, a miracle happened. Our "crappy" team had beat the "elite" team and proved ourselves worthy. Although it was one victory out of countless losses, we felt proud , and I felt that I had overcome the challenge the best soccer player had given to me. ...

living and ----> learning
...the challenge of living independently in an international environment and to learn learning English first hand.

With the success of my second challenge of adapting in America, I was able to pursue my third challenge: to become an articulate English speaker. ---- based on your writing, I think you succeeded!

I don't know what to say... this is very good, and I am afraid to suggest any changes at all. Don't mess with perfection! Please check out essayforum.com/ef-contributor-page/


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