What is the biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome in Life, and what specific steps did you take to overcome it?
My life has been filled with many obstacles to overcome. However, I always thought of them as challenges. So as I sort out the biggest obstacle I think of my biggest challenge. In addition, even while I selected my divorce as my biggest challenge, I am not sure if I would call it that. I remember people telling me that divorce was like death. Death, I do not think so because I had five children to raise on my own and with a song by Gloria Gaynor, "I will survive" I started my journey.
As one of fourteen children, I was introduced to hard times all my life. I had two loving parents who kept a roof over our head and food on the table. One of the most important things my family stressed was education. We all completed high school and some of us were afforded the opportunity to attend college.
I attended a business school instead and receive certificate of completion six months later. The training came in handy because jobs were plentiful for data entry operators and I was always able to get a job. In addition, within the same year, I was married and eighteen years later I was walking out the door. I remember the song "I Will Survive", loaded my five children in my car, and headed for Florida. I explained to the children what was going on, why and how. I had no promised of a job, no place to stay and about two thousand dollars.
Equipped with the knowledge and the experience of hard times and doing without, I was ready to be all that I needed to be for my children. I came across the book "Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do" by Robert H. Schuller, after reading this book it help me put things into perspective. I got rid of the notion that I was a failure and became optimistic about everything.
In late August when I arrived in Jacksonville Florida, an old family friend owned a house that needed a lot of work. However, the children and I saw potential, it had a roof, windows, and doors. Each of the children had a pillow and a blanket and the floor was comfortable. We now had a place to call home, and I had high hope that I would find a job before my money ran low. I enrolled all the children into their various schools, two in high school, and two in Junior High and the youngest in day care.
I eventually found a job, all five children completed high school and college with two degrees each. I am thankful for the challenge I had and was determined to stay positive throughout those years. There were many days we had no electricity, no phone, or running water. However, staying positive was always the flavor of the day. It was hard but painting a picture of a brighter day was more beneficial for my children to thrive. The biggest obstacle was getting pass self and focusing on the challenge at hand and that was to provide a safe, stable, productive, and optimistic environment for my children.
"So as I sort out the biggest obstacle I think of my biggest challenge."
--this seems a little unnecessary. Its like you are kind of just playing with semantics here--
"In addition, even while I selected my divorce as my biggest challenge, I am not sure if I would call it that."
--But you just did call it that. Its like saying, "I would say that my biggest problem is math, but I am not sure if I could say that." If you don't want to talk about the divorce because you dont think it was your biggest challenge then just don't bring it up at all.--
I attended a business school instead and received a certificate of completion six months later.
"In addition, within the same year, I was married and eighteen years later I was walking out the door."
--I see that you clarify what door you are walking out of later in this paragraph but here it just causes confusion. Try rewording this so that the reader knows you are talking about the fact that you were walking away from your marraige. (I initially thought you meant you were quitting your job or something.)--
Overall I think you have a good story here but it is unfocused. Maybe it's just me but I got the impression that you were not going to talk about your divorce because you stated that you wouldn't call it your biggest challenge. Also this seems more like a life story rather than a particular instance. Make it clear that you believe your divorce should be the main topic of this paper and why. Also narrow your time frame down so that you only talk about the immediate events that lead up to and follow that time period. Good luck!
This is my first scholarship essay and I thank you for your comments and I will on this some more.
Thanks again I am so thankful for this website and each of you.
Cut out all that weak stuff above! :)
Start with the attention grabber:
I remember people telling me that divorce was like death. Death ? I do not think so, because I had five children to raise on my own after my divorce, and with inspiration from Gloria Gaynor's song , "I will survive" I started my journey.
...roof over our heads and food on the table.
Equipped with the knowledge and experience from having been through hard times , I was ready to be all that I needed to be for my children. I came across the book Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do by Robert H. Schuller, and it help me put things into perspective.
Notice above that I changed the bok title to italics. Use " " marks for song titles and article titles, but use italics for book titles.
This is an inspirational essay! Congratulations, and BTW read Man's Search for Meaning by Frankl.
Thanks Kevin and I really do appreciate you the team and this website. And I will get the book you suggested.
As one of fourteen children, I was introduced to hard times all my life.
- The latter part of this sentence could be stronger. It sounds awkward.
[I attended a business school instead] and receive certificate of completion six months later. The training came in handy because jobs were plentiful for data entry operators and I was always able to get a job. In addition, within the same year, I was married [but] eighteen years later I was walking out the door. [I remember the song "I Will Survive"], loaded my five children in my car, and headed for Florida. [I explained to the children what was going on, why and how]. I had no [promise] of a job, no place to stay and about two thousand dollars.
- Instead? Instead of what?
- Perhaps you should explain the importance of the song instead of just mentioning it like a passing fancy. Though the title of the song is pretty revealing (I personally know the song), I wouldn't blindly wager that the people in the judging committee know of the song.
- The second to the last sentence could probably be shortened to: I explained the situation to my children.
- Your last sentence seems to be contradictory with your claim about always being able to get a job.
- You should emphasize the lack of funds. E.g. and a meager two thousand dollars: it wouldn't last us long.
Cool! Thanks, Jay, for all the great help you have been giving people.
Thanks Jay, I will be a better writer because of each of you. I am looking forward to returning to school in the summer and I am sure I will keep my writing up.
Thanks again to everyone.
Hey, I'm glad to hear you got the Frankl book. That has taken me through some tough times. It is psychotherapy based on helping patients find meaning for their suffering.
Frankl tells one story of a physician whose wife had died. Frankl helped that guy find meaning. The guy could not stand the grief he was feeling. Frakl writes:
I refrained from telling him anything but instead confronted him with the question, "What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first and your wife would have had to survive you?" "Oh," he said, "For her, this would have been terrible. How she would have suffered!" Whereupon I replied, "You see, Doctor, such a suffering was spared her, and it was you who have spared her this suffering-to be sure, at the price that you now have to survive and mourn her." He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left my office. (Frankl 117)
That gives me chills every time I read it, including this time.
Very powerful and thought provoking.
This post is another in my series on how to address the college application essay prompts from the Common App. This year, you have seven prompts from which to choose as an anchor for your essay. Each prompts presents its unique possibilities and challenges. Today we will look at the “obstacle/failure” prompt. This a fairly straightforward prompt that allows you both to tell a good story and to reflect on how your experiences have shaped your beliefs, your expectations, and your understanding of what it is to be human.
The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
Obstacle / Challenge / Setback / Failure
The key word here is obstacle, along with its various synonyms that appear in the prompt: challenge, setback, failure. Very few things we achieve in life come easily on the first try. Often, something impedes our smooth movement toward our goals. Sometimes we are able to overcome the obstacle. Sometimes we are not: we fail. Thus, the first order of business in addressing this prompt is to clearly identify the goal you were trying to achieve. What was it you wanted? What was the objective? What hopes did you have? Then the second order of business is to clearly identify the obstacle (or challenge or setback or failure) that rendered the achievement of your goal more difficult—or even impossible.
Incident or Time
As with any essay, you need to tell a story. Whereas the previous prompt uses the word “story”, this prompt invites you to “recount” this process of setting a goal and having trouble meeting it. This is the story of how things did not go according to plan. Your story should have a beginning, middle, and end. But it must be brief.
Learning From The Experience
Whenever we fail—and we all do—we have to figure out how to respond to that failure. Often we gain something from the experience. Perhaps we learned a valuable lesson. Perhaps we redirected our energies in a new way. Perhaps we have developed a greater understanding of our own strengths and weaknesses. The key element to successfully answering this prompt is to reflect on how this failure affected you and what you did as a result of it. So, after you have told your (brief) story, you should do quite a bit of reflecting on how this experience led to personal growth or greater understanding of the world around you.
Fundamentally, a good college essay will do two things. First, it will recount an interesting story in which you are the main character. Then the essay will give meaning to that story through the reflections you share with your reader. Together, the story and reflection will provide a window onto your strengths and weaknesses as a person, and allow the reader to have a fuller picture of who you are.
Have fun writing!
Educational consultant and admissions expert
Filed Under: Application Tips, College EssaysTagged With: 2017-2018 applications, best college essay, college essay advice, Common App, great college essay, Ivy league admissions essay