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College Application Essay

by Em16


This is the prompt for my college application essay: 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 my school let out for a two week “hiatus” because of COVID-19, the first thing I did when I got home was read. Since every extracurricular activity was suspended, and homework had been canceled, I had two options: I could read a book, or turn on the television and watch the news, with all its anxiety-inducing uncertainty. I chose the former.

The book I read was Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman, which, in hindsight, seems like a strange choice. It was about World War 2 and the siege of Stalingrad, full of gory details, sorrowful moments, and despairing characters. It was not cheerful or comforting, but it gave me a sense of perspective. All the characters were consumed by their misery, but I knew that in ten years, World War 2 would be over, and their hardships would pass.

This was a lesson I would hold onto in the coming months. It would have been easy to let the pandemic consume my life. But I understood, from what I read, that COVID-19 was merely a temporary disturbance, even if it felt overwhelming in the moment.

Though it is a temporary disturbance, it has still been quite serious. So many things that filled my time, like school, friends, and extracurriculars, completely disappeared or were drastically reduced. In this emptiness, I turned to the one thing that hadn’t changed: books. Literature became my lifeline. It was the one part of my life that didn't have to change, that could continue to grow and flourish while everything else became stunted and wilted.

At a time where I was unable to go out and meet new people, I could open a book to meet new, interesting characters. I couldn’t leave my house physically, but I could visit other countries and fantasy lands in my imagination. Most importantly, from the stories of other people, fictional and real, I gained strength and inspiration. I saw them overcoming obstacles even more daunting than my own, and it gave me the courage to believe I could make it through my own struggles.

I also began to write more and more, to work through my feelings. I was overloaded with emotions, facing the normal turbulence of the teenage years, along with the uncertainty of the pandemic. To make it worse, I was cut off from my friends, who would have understood what I was going through. Writing became my outlet, the only place where I could explore my many, confusing thoughts.

Most of what I wrote was poetry, which was uniquely suited to my mind. I found it easier to uncover my feelings through metaphors and imagery rather than try to name them outright and find them elude my grasp. Through writing, I would often find fears or worries I hadn’t known were there, but had nonetheless been tormenting me. Putting those thoughts on the page took away their power to scare me, and what had once seemed scary now seemed only mildly annoying.

It’s been nearly two years since my school closed down, and the pandemic has since become an established fact. We are living with masks, with hand sanitizer, with frequent COVID testing, and that will not go away any time soon. This may seem like a depressing fact, but I choose to console myself with the lessons I’ve learned from all the books I’ve read. In life, there will be many things you cannot control, but they do not matter; what matters is your reaction to your hardships. If you can persevere and stay true to yourself, you can overcome anything. That idea means something different for every person, but for me, it means writing lots of poems and reading lots of books. There will be many obstacles I will have to overcome in my life, but as long as I love literature, I know I will always be able to find joy. 


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Thu Sep 16, 2021 1:04 am
silented1 says...



Had something to say.




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Sun Sep 12, 2021 11:30 am
RandomTalks wrote a review...



Hey Em16!

RandomTalks here with a short review!

This was a really great application essay and I think you tackled that prompt very well. It was a light, hopeful and powerful essay and you have expressed yourself excellently through simple yet strong words.

It would have been easy to let the pandemic consume my life. But I understood, from what I read, that COVID-19 was merely a temporary disturbance, even if it felt overwhelming in the moment.


I really liked this part. Covid-19 has become an unwanted intruder in all our lives and by citing this common battle everyone is struggling with you have made your essay even more relatable for people. However, the attitude showed in these few lines portrays your resilience and your will to fight these unfortunate circumstances.

At a time where I was unable to go out and meet new people, I could open a book to meet new, interesting characters. I couldn’t leave my house physically, but I could visit other countries and fantasy lands in my imagination. Most importantly, from the stories of other people, fictional and real, I gained strength and inspiration. I saw them overcoming obstacles even more daunting than my own, and it gave me the courage to believe I could make it through my own struggles.

I like how you have established your relationship with books through these simple lines. It gives us an idea of what they mean to you and how they gave you the courage to fight through the loneliness and confusion of those months. Literature means a lot to you and I think you have expressed that well by drawing comparisons from real world and the book world. You have shown us how books can teach us important lesson is life and give us courage and strength to hold on.

I also loved the part where you talked about writing and how poems helped you to identify and fight through fears that you didn't even know you had. As most of this essay is based around literature, I think you did well in establishing why you like it and how it has helped you in these difficult times.

One nitpick I noticed:

We are living with masks, with hand sanitizer, with frequent COVID testing, and that will not go away any time soon.

The 'hand sanitizer' will be in plural form as we are talking about several here. It will be: " We are living with masks, with hand sanitizers, with frequent COVID testing, and that will not go away any time soon."

That's all.

Overall, this was a really great application essay. I hope you get into this college and I wish you best of luck.

Keep writing and have a great day!




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Sun Sep 12, 2021 10:16 am
TheRebel2007 wrote a review...



Here's a small review to your College Application Essay:

At a first cursory glance, I quite like this essay, this is a neat, compact and completely adheres to the prompt. Just some changes here and there and it will be perfect, at least, IMO.

Em16 wrote:The book I read was Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman, which, in hindsight, seems like a strange choice. It was about World War 2 and the siege of Stalingrad, full of gory details, sorrowful moments, and despairing characters. It was not cheerful or comforting, but it gave me a sense of perspective. All the characters were consumed by their misery, but I knew that in ten years, World War 2 would be over, and their hardships would pass.


Um, although I haven't really read the book, wasn't the Siege/Battle of Stalingrad fought around late 1942 and early 1943? I mean, I don't know about any other siege on Stalingrad except the German one in World War 2. If it is what you are actually referring to, you should change the clause "but I knew that in ten years" to "but I knew that in a couple of years" or whatever you wish. Just for the accuracy. :p

Em16 wrote:...Writing became my outlet, the only place where I could explore my many, confusing thoughts.


I would recommend to remove that comma between "many" and "confusing" :p

Em16 wrote:... In life, there will be many things you cannot control, but they do not matter; what matters is your reaction to your hardships. If you can persevere and stay true to yourself, you can overcome anything...


I would recommend to change those you's to one's. Like, from "there will be many things you cannot control," to "there will be many things one cannot control" and from "If you can persevere and stay true to yourself, you can overcome anything" to "If one can persevere and stay true to oneself, one can overcome anything." I recommend this because, I guess you are submitting this to a college and I think, it would be more appropriate if they are written as "one" instead of "you". I hope you get my point. :p

I guess everything rest is all fine, and this is a really good essay, great job. :p





He who knows only his own generation remains forever a child.
— Cicero