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.
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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.
University of California: Freshman Essay - Prompt #5
Prompt: Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
During my first year of high school, I faced an enormous challenge: test anxiety. Prior to high school, I had always felt nervous about exams of any kind. However, in high school, the stakes became higher and test scores had a bigger impact. This was a very frustrating challenge because I was always a very strong student with high grades. I was a perfectionist on most assignments. However, when it came time for the test, I choked and felt paralyzed, like I couldn't think properly. I absolutely had to find a solution to this problem. My future depended on it. My test anxiety is the most significant challenge I have faced and overcome.
My first step towards reducing my test anxiety was to educate myself about its causes. I learned that test anxiety is common, affecting children and adults alike. I learned that it often has nothing to do with a person's academic ability. Rather, test anxiety is mostly psychological. Through books and tutorials, I learned some of the basic remedies for test anxiety. It is generally agreed that the keys to test success are preparation, organization and practice. I studied preparation techniques including relaxation, breathing exercises and proper nutrition. I also studied organization practices such as using note cards and keeping folders for each test on my horizon. Further, I practiced the tests as much as I could by reviewing quizzes and unit tests.
Once I learned these simple procedures, my test anxiety was alleviated. I learned that my test anxiety will never completely disappear, but I learned tools I can apply towards a better testing experience. Now, I have an action oriented? attitude towards tests. Instead of feeling paralyzed and stuck when I think about an upcoming test, I feel motivated to take action. Facing any future test, I remember what I learned about preparation, organization and practice, and it's go time. I even learned that these three tools could improve my life in other ways, such as attention to my basic health habits. Overcoming my test anxiety has made me a stronger, more resourceful person.