Common App Essay #20

  • Acceptances:USC, NYU, Pepperdine, Chapman
  • Copyright:Rowan Born
  • Submitted by:Anonymous

PROMPT: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. (650 word limit) 

The best decision I ever made was a spontaneous one.  Ending freshman year, I wanted to throw in the towel and leave public school behind. I thought my friends from ten years of private Christian school were correct about public school being full of heathens. I was out of my element, unhappy, and ready to reduce my class size of 300 strangers back down to 20 people I had known my entire life.  I trudged through my high school halls, feeling no sense of school spirit or belonging. What always brought my spirits up, though, was my honors English class, as it allowed me to pursue my love of writing. Seeing my aptitude, my English teacher pulled me aside and said the words that changed the entire course of my life:  “You should apply for yearbook.”  Despite not knowing anything about yearbook, I was flattered by her suggestion, so I picked up the yellow application for the 2014-2015 yearbook staff. This decision was made so nonchalantly that I didn’t even tell my best friend about applying. The few people I did tell, however, advised me against joining. “Yearbook’s too preppy,” they said. “You won’t fit in.”  I cast this advice aside, deciding to follow my own instinct telling me to go for it. I made it past the first application stage but barely skated by the interview stage. After arriving late to the interview, it was not my promptness but my honesty that got me on staff. “I don’t have a good excuse for being late,” I said. “but I won’t be late again.”  Next thing I knew, I was on staff. What I thought was going to be just an extracurricular, however, turned out to be anything but. Instead, I found the sense of belonging I had been longing for. My world flipped upside-down: I no longer trudged through the halls, longing for times past; instead, I walked and found familiar faces that smiled at me as we crossed paths. I was excited by this new world of journalism, eating up every new bit of information. I was finally able to share my love of writing and media with like-minded friends, and at the end of sophomore year, I was encouraged to make the leap from being a writer to Editor-in-Chief.  Initially, I was hesitant about taking such an unorthodox path to the top position, thinking I had to take a middle-ground position before climbing to the top. My advisor, however, told me the words that changed my life again: “Apply for your dream position,” she said. “You never know what will happen.”  Despite my reservations, I filled out the blue editor application, and following the supplemental interview (to which I arrived on time to), I was not only given the role of copy editor (my intended middle-ground position), but also surprised with what I thought was the impossible: Editor-in-Chief.  At that moment, I realized I had broken down the walls of stereotype. There was no one person who belonged in public high school or in yearbook or along a set path to follow; this journey was mine to take.  If I had never spontaneously filled out that yellow application, I not only would have never discovered my love for journalism and communications, but I also would have never found my true voice and transformed from a timid, reserved follower into a confident, driven leader. I learned not only to take charge of making a yearbook, but also to take charge of my own life goals, no matter how improbable they may seem. I was never going to let anybody, especially myself, hold me back ever again.  Most importantly, I’ve come to value the lesson that if one stops learning and challenging oneself, one stops growing. Last time I checked, complacency isn’t an option for a leader.  I’m glad I didn’t go back to private school.

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