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Overcoming Obstacles In Life Essay

Many of us faced challenges in our formative years and we struggled with them. Some of those struggles might have changed who we are or how we later approached life. Marilyn Campbell is an overcomer. She wrestled with shyness in her young years. Before you read her essay, learn a little more about Marilyn’s background from an update she sent to me:

“I never did quite get the opportunity to thank you [for helping me develop my essay]. Regarding my college process:

I applied to three schools early action: Harvard University, Brown University, and Georgetown University; I applied to Tulane University as a backup school regular decision (it can be considered a backup for those people who reside in-state).

I am happy to say that I was accepted at Brown, at Georgetown (thank you very much!), and at Tulane; I was deferred from Harvard; I am not applying to any more schools.

If there’s something I learned about applying to colleges and watching my friends apply to them, I would recommend applying to as many early action schools as possible by the deadlines. This takes away the stress and work of doing several applications at a very busy time of the year (one is taking exams or they are hanging over our heads).

At the very least, if one applies to one school early action or early decision, s/he should not wait until they receive that school’s response to begin filling out all the other applications waiting in the wings. I know that it is very tempting to wait, but after seeing what this has done to several of my friends, I highly recommend getting an early start.

Finally, I suggest that students don’t blow off their freshman year. If that happens, one will spend the next three years trying to bring up those grades.

Thanks again!


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Marilyn’s essay:

When I was a young, awkward adolescent, I considered myself to be a shy person, especially around boys. Because of this, my experiences at a coed middle school intimidated me somewhat. So, for the past five years, I have attended an all-girls school, which has helped me to become a stronger person. I have overcome my shyness and insecurities and developed much more confidence.

Ironically, I believe that my shyness, something that I consider a communication barrier, has ultimately led me to focus on a field for my life’s work: communications. Despite my aversion to it early on in life, I now love speaking to and interacting with people, be it as a friend, teacher, or public speaker. I now have a passion for stimulating conversation, and that enthusiasm manifests itself in three different and important aspects of my life outside of the classroom: peer support, volunteer work, and music.

Peer support is a high school-sponsored program through which juniors and seniors are selected to work with eighth graders who attend Sacred Heart. It involves an intensive three-day workshop where student leaders learn how to listen effectively to and become mentors for the younger students. I love this work. Once a week, I get to speak to these impressionable boys and girls about anything that I feel is important. I enjoy learning about their lives and their issues and exploring possible solutions to their problems. We study today’s society and its impact on them. I see much of my old self in these young people and that memory has helped me to help them become more confident about their everyday lives.

My volunteer work centers on teaching, through a program called Summerbridge. After school, I go to a nearby public school and tutor learning-disadvantaged preteens. Instead of dealing with the students’ personal issues, as I do in peer support, the Summerbridge focus is more on communication through education. By working with these younger students, I have come to understand the importance of helping them comprehend and apply what they learn in the classroom. Their motivation, given their circumstances, is remarkable. We discuss in detail what they are learning so that I can keep them interested and motivated. Summerbridge is another example of how communication issues are very important to me.

Not surprisingly, music has emerged as another, perhaps indirect, avenue for me to communicate with others. Singing allows me to convey my deep and personal emotions with others. When I sing, I am transported to another realm. The mundane everyday world around me disappears, and I am enveloped in my own, new space, especially when I am performing onstage. When I act, I am transformed, feeling the happiness, sadness, impishness, or even confusion that my character feels. My performance taps into that part of me where those qualities dwell, and I love sharing it with my audience. Music is a very special form of communication for me.

Perhaps the person I am today is a compensation for who I was years ago. That awkward twelve-year old, however, is no more. Now I want to show the world what I can do. Communication has become my passion. It will be my future.

Then I Will Build Them

by Patrick Masterton
(Carol Stream, Illinois, USA )

Overcoming Obstacles College Essay - If I Can’t Fly the Aircraft…Then I Will Build Them - If I could choose one person in the United States history to be my idol, it would be Jim Lovell, the commander of the Apollo 13 mission. You see all my life I wanted to serve my country as a member of the NASA astronaut team as he did. In my opinion, he embellishes all that it means to be an American as evident of his actions during the “successful failure” that was the catastrophic mission which he commanded. I believe that he and I share several common traits, such as passion for aerospace and the ability to keep a level head under extreme pressure. We both have the ability to persevere and move forward despite numerous setbacks and seemingly insurmountable odds.

When Jim Lovell was hurling through space towards the moon at over eleven miles per second, he had to acknowledge the fact that his dreams of landing on the moon were impossible to achieve after disaster struck his spacecraft. I had to come to the same realization that my dreams of ever flying in space were unattainable when disaster struck for me in the form of a diagnosis. I had been collapsing at various times without any formal cause. All of the diagnostic tests were negative until my sixteenth birthday when I suffered a grand mal seizure while talking to my friend. All of the previous attacks were now linked to epilepsy.

The neurology team told me that I could live a normal life with the exception of two things: serving in the military and piloting an aircraft. I felt as if my dreams had been shattered. I had worked so hard in school and had planned so intently for my future career as a naval aviator only to be told that my dream was unattainable. I spent hours researching my options. The setback forced me to reevaluate my dreams and opportunities. I accepted the situation and continued to move forward.
I applied for a chance to participate in a week long summer engineering camp at Purdue University which introduced me to the field of aerospace engineering. I knew from day one that this was my new career path. I decided that... If I can no longer fly the aircraft then I will design them. I plan to obtain both my baccalaureate and masters degree in the area of aerospace engineering.

I am using Jim Lovell’s set back due to circumstances beyond his control as motivation for my own challenges. I hope that my studies in aerospace engineering at Iowa State University will allow me to impact the world in a positive manner in this new role as well as Mr. Lovell did in his role as the commander of the Apollo 13 mission. I have been able to remain in honors classes with a perfect attendance record in high school. I have played football and volleyball during school and worked full time as a lifeguard during the summers. These experiences have made me stronger and more determined to achieve my career goals.

Please consider me for the EAA scholarship. I will use the funds to off set the costs of learning how to build the machines that I had once hoped to fly. I will meet the educational challenges with the same determination that I used to overcome the epilepsy. Thank you for your consideration.

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Thank you Dylan for sharing your college scholarship essay about overcoming obstacles. Best of luck to you in college and your future.

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A Change in Path

by Ayme Houston
(Newton, MA, United States)

Personal Story College Essay - Everything changes when you lose what you know. You think you have your path planned out to the exact date and time it will all happen for you, and then in an instant it's gone. I trained 20 hours a week; 6 hours on Sundays. No social life, nothing other than gymnastics. All for the satisfaction I got when I did a routine. When I let my feet carry me across the carpet, pointing and leaping, twirling and landing. It was perfection. The burn on the ball of my foot after a turn, the glide of my ribbon across my hand before I let it sail through the air, the smack of my clubs against my palms after a toss double roll catch; gymnastics was me. It was everything. I was an elite rhythmic gymnast and everyone thought I was headed toward the National Team. And just as I was beginning to believe them, I injured my back, and my reality became nothing more than a fantasy.

I remember the day I went to see the doctor. I was sure he was going to merely suggest a couple of days rest. This I could live with. See it’s a love, hate relationship with gymnastics. There were days when I would come home from school lying about how much homework I had so that I would miss at least an hour of practice. And there were times I would lie and say I had no homework at all so I could go to practice early. At the appointment the doctor told me things I already knew; I could have stayed home for him to tell me that I had scoliosis and a twisted tailbone. He scheduled me for an MRI and I went through it in a careless state; all I could think was how overboard the doctor was getting to analyze a case of scoliosis I’ve always had. I just wasn’t that worried. I knew I would be back in the gym soon enough, well rested from a mini-vacation. I remember returning when the results were in. On the car ride over I joked about what a relief it would be to know if my baby was a boy or a girl. I even made up names for the possible genders. I walked into the office, not bothering to take a seat because I was certain it was nothing serious. Instead I was told that there was a new imperfection in my back; now I was up to scoliosis, twisted tailbone and a stress fracture. The doctor spoon-fed me this sugar coated lecture, saying “it would be very risky to continue gymnastics, you don’t have to quit, you just can’t compete or train at your level anymore but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of your gym” but I knew it meant I wouldn’t do gymnastics ever again. I felt as if the floor collapsed from underneath me.

Yes, after you lose something you were, things get hard. For the longest time I felt weak. Utterly fragile. My family looked at me with that pitiful, belittling look. The one my brothers would give me after realizing why I was home after asking why I wasn’t at gymnastics. The one that reminded me that gymnastics was really gone. I tried to find a replacement, dipping my feet in other sports, clubs, arts, but nothing quite compared. I was searching for the feeling I had when I did gymnastics. That complete satisfaction. There was a sort of security I felt when I lost myself in a routine; it was my savior. Through all my attempts, I wrote. Stories, songs, poems, diaries, they all kept me sane. I could write up a whole life for my characters, down to the exact date and time, and the only outside force was me. I chose their lives. Not injuries or doctors…me. It took me a while to realize that the two feelings came hand in hand. That when I write, and my fingers dance across the keyboard it’s to the rhythm of my story; my fingertips burn as I smack them against the keys and my hands glide over the board with intention.

Writing is my routine now; my only apparatus are my hands and fingers rather than my ball, clubs, ribbon or hoop. As overheard it may be, my loss helped me. I wouldn’t have started writing unless I stopped gymnastics. Or rather I wouldn’t have taken writing seriously. I do still feel lost sometimes. I still cry whenever I watch anything to do with gymnastics. And I still don’t have my map planned out, I have no idea how far my aspiration of writing will take me, but I know I want to walk down this path. And I know I’m no longer weak. I’m now an open book, and I like the vulnerability of that.

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Thank you Ayme for sharing your moving personal story college essay. Best wishes to you in college.

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