A brutally honest college essay: how I overcame two daunting challenges

September 7, 2021 — by Carolyn Wang
Photo by Carolyn Wang

Common App Essay Prompt #2: 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?

Recount one time when I faced a challenge? I’ve faced far more than one. In fact, I am the master of overcoming obstacles. I’ve overcome so many challenges that I doubt anyone could even keep up with me.

For example, I got pooped on by a bird in elementary school. I was minding my own business while eating school pizza when an extremely inconsiderate seagull decided to do its business on my shoulder. 

The. Horror. 

Imagine having icky white bird excrement oozing down your shirt in front of all your friends. I was so flabbergasted that a bird could have the audacity to do this to me. Why not use the privacy of its nest instead? Or at least a windshield?

Luckily, I didn’t falter from the setback. Taking advantage of my growth mindset, I conjured up a solution that only a genius could devise: I rushed to the bathroom, took off my shirt and put on my jacket instead. No shirt equals no bird poop. Problem Solved. Boom. Bam. Done.

Then when lunch ended and recess began, my friends cajoled me into climbing up the tallest set of pull-up bars in the playground.

Although I am afraid of heights in general, peer pressure fueled by adrenaline enabled me to successfully will myself up the bars like an unassuming kitten.

However, much like every cat in existence, I could get up but I couldn’t come back down.

I was terrified. Looking down, it was as if the ground had sunk lower while I somehow seemed to be floating higher, and higher, and higher.

All my attempts to climb down seemed to be in vain, until the school bell rang and people began lining up at their classroom doors.

It was at that moment when I realized that I couldn’t be late to class and break my perfect on-time streak. That, to my surprise, was worse than falling to my demise.

And so, with the full energy of a hyper kindergartner, I flailed my arms wildly in the air, screamed on the top of my lungs and catapulted down into the tanbark. 

Did it hurt? Oh yes, it sure did. But did I make it to class on time?

Of course.

Thus, my on-time streak was maintained, I overcame my fear and learned an important lesson — in times of distress, prioritize something even more distressful to counter that initial distress, and every problem will be solved. 

I have encountered multiple ups and downs in life but I’ve learned to overcome all of them utilizing growth mindsets and my ability to think far outside the box. So please, please, please, accept me into your school.


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