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Common App Personal Essay - Prompt 2 (2016-17)
Prompt: The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
Example
When I decided to select this essay prompt, some of my friends told me I was crazy. After all, why would I admit to people, especially college admissions officers, that I had actually failed at something? Besides, how do we define failure? Does it mean not measuring up to standards, as in a grade or even a restaurant? Or does it simply mean making an attempt without achieving the desired outcome? Indeed, some people's failures could be others' successes.
Still, as high school students, we tend to think we're infallible. I can state that firsthand based on my experience with standup paddle, or SUP. I am very interested in studying environmental science, and many of the best colleges for the major are located near bodies of water. When I went looking at campuses, I saw that SUP was all the rage; at some colleges, it was not only a sport but a credit-bearing course! The students I spoke with told me, "If you're serious about applying here, you've got to get good at paddle!" I looked at some videos online and figured that as a good swimmer, I would not find standup particularly challenging. After all, I'm relatively thin, have lean muscles, and eat plenty of protein. I couldn't have been more wrong.
I learned the truth at the end of the summer, when I participated in a four-mile fundraiser to support beach conservation. I had signed up on a dare from a friend who knew of my interest in learning to paddle by the time I got to college. To prepare for the race, I watched YouTube videos and downloaded SUP magazine. When I showed up on race day, I was stunned to see a crowd on hand and realized that pros on the SUP circuit were racing. There were participants of various ages, some of whom had brought along children and pets.
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Next, volunteers checked me in and gave me a board, but the rest was up to me, up being the word of choice. While I was able to stand on the board, I couldn't stay on it. Just a moment of hesitation was all I needed to . . . fall! The more I fell, the more I thought about falling, which meant of course that I was getting farther and farther behind the pack. While we were not in an ocean, there was a slight current, and boats in the distance created waves. I continued to "fall" behind. As I approached the midway point, contestants were already paddling their way back, including a woman with her labradoodle positioned confidently at the front of her board! I felt alone. Out of breath and bruised, I made a U turn and boarded back to shore. I hadn't even completed the entire race course. In my mind, I had failed. But my parents always taught me, as did my junior year English teacher Ms. Cavuto, that we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. Since my incident with SUP, I have appreciated athletes whose sports are different from my own. I don't assume that since I'm younger and more slender that I'm necessarily more athletic. I helped keep the beach clean, and I stopped my bad habit of judging others based on their appearance. I also realize that taking risks also increases the likelihood of failing. When I go to college, I know there will be more "failures": a poor test grade, a roommate mishap, or even a bad SUP race. And I realize that before I get too deep into my studies, I had better get a grip on the science of currents and take a course in water safety.
When I go to college, I know there will be more "failures": a poor test grade, a roommate mishap, or even a bad SUP race. And I realize that before I get too deep into my studies, I had better get a grip on the science of currents and take a course in water safety.