If you follow the four rules explained below, you will increase the chance that I, and AdCom readers, will believe and care about your story. Finally, if we finish your essay with a feeling that we would want to work with you in a team, then you will have successfully answered the question, and therefore increased your chances of being interviewed, and admitted.
Perhaps I don’t really understand what you’re getting at, and in that case I apologize for misunderstanding. I do, however, think you’re giving learning from failure short shrift – even as those you quote at the beginning of your post might over-value it.
Richard is no star athlete, and he has no over-inflated sense of his abilities. The honesty of the essay is refreshing. And the focus of the essay is perfectly on target for option #2 ("Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?").
The essay presents a clear moment of failure, and Richard clearly learned a significant lesson from the experience. Richard has taken what could be a clichéd topic—the athlete at bat in a position to win the important game—and turns the topic on its head. The admissions folks will enjoy the novelty of the approach.
College admissions officers read lots of essays about sports. Indeed, many college applicants seem far more interested in playing sports than they do in getting a college education. One of is the hero essay in which the applicant boasts about the winning goal that won the championship game. However impressive the moment may have been, such essays tend to come across as self-absorbed, self-congratulatory, and detached from the actual qualities that make for a good college student.
I've played baseball ever since I could remember, but somehow, at fourteen, I still wasn't very good at it. You'd think that ten years of summer leagues and two older brothers who'd been the stars of their teams would have rubbed off on me, but you'd be wrong. I mean, I wasn't completely hopeless. I was pretty fast, and I could hit my oldest brother's fastball maybe three or four times out of ten, but I wasn't about to be scouted for college teams.
Many college applicants will be uncomfortable with this question. After all, a college application should highlight your strengths and accomplishments, not draw attention to your failures and setbacks. But before you shy away from this essay option, consider these points:
If you can't tell, I'm a fan of this prompt. I would much rather read about an applicant's learning experience from failure than a catalog of triumphs. That said, know yourself. Prompt #2 is one of the more challenging options. If you aren't good at introspection and self-analysis, and if you aren't comfortable with exposing a wart or two, then this may not be the best option for you.
Keep in mind that your failure does not need to be, as my son would phrase it, an epic fail. You don't need to have run a cruise ship aground or ignited a million-acre forest fire to choose this essay option.
This list could go on and on -- there's no shortage challenges, setbacks, and failures in our lives. Whatever you write about, make sure your exploration of the obstacle reveals self-awareness and personal growth. If your essay doesn't show that you are a better person because of your setback or failure, then you haven't succeeded in responding to this essay prompt.
Whether you are writing about failure or one of the other essay options, keep in mind the primary purpose of the essay: the college wants to get to know you better. On a certain level, your essay isn't really about your failure. Rather, it is about your personality and character. In the long run, were you able to handle your failure in a positive way? Colleges that ask for an essay have , so they are looking at the whole applicant, not just and . By the time they finish reading your essay, the admissions folks should feel that you are the type of person who will succeed in college and make a positive contribution to the campus community. So before you hit the submit button on the Common Application, make sure your essay paints a portrait of you that makes a positive impression. If you blame your failure on others, or if you seem to have learned nothing from your failure, the college may very well decide that you don't have a place in the campus community.
While the essay is successful, keep in mind that your own essay needs to have nothing in common with this sample. There are innumerable ways to approach the idea of a "challenge, setback, or failure," and your essay needs to be true to your own experiences, personality, and writing style.
"Striking Out" isn't an overly clever title, but it gets the job done well. You immediately know that this will be an essay about both failure and baseball, and the idea of a dramatic strikeout sparks reader interest and makes you want to continue with the essay. succeeds in focusing the essay and sparking reader interest.