An Essay on Adversity

As juniors begin to turn their thoughts to the college application process looming in front of them, now is the time to start to generate ideas for a stand-out essay. There is no doubt that the essay has the power to set a student apart from the pack, and is often the most challenging part of applying to college.

To get your thoughts flowing in the right direction, we'll be posting a series of essays over the coming months on commonly asked essay questions. In the below essay, the student was responding to a question asking her to describe a personal challenge. She also used the same essay in modified form to address additional essay topics from other colleges on her list that asked about a life-changing experience, personal value,  and personal trait/individuality, among others:

I found out I had severe scoliosis when I was twelve, and suddenly, like my spine, my life became a twisted mess. I was told that if I didn’t wear a brace twenty-three hours a day for two full years, my spinal cord would shift and I would need surgery. In the beginning, I let my mother convince me it wouldn’t be that bad. However, my father, always the family realist, hid nothing in his reaction to the news: I was in for a horrible two years.

After two excruciatingly painful months, literally and metaphorically, I made a decision: I was not going to wear the brace. I was going to accept my physical fate, and work on being the Carly I knew I could be; whether I was standing straight or otherwise. I was well aware of the risk I was taking, but I also knew that I was prepared to assume responsibility for this choice.

As luck would have it, the curve in my spine did not get worse as I grew, though this was not something anyone could have predicted—a lucky twist in the tale, if you will. And though I was not left with a severely crooked spine, many questions remain: If I had worn my brace, would my back be straighter? Was I right to shun my brace, or was it stupid – a risky gamble and a mistake? I will never fully know the answers to these questions.

Resolution for me came through introspection and acceptance. I understand myself better as a result of this experience, as well as the world around me. I see that the cards I was dealt were not very bad in the grand scheme of things. Today, my scoliosis is rarely on my mind and I am at ease with myself once again. But I still have my brace. I keep it in the closet, because I never want to forget the experience. Once in a while, when trying to explain myself to a new friend, I pull it out. It never disappoints.

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