Sample Essay on Adversity

Colleges want to get to know who you are beyond the numbers, and a question about adversity often allows a student to display his or her strengths in a convincing way. Below is a sample essay on diversity that allowed the student to get into her first choice college:

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. At first, I let my mother convince me it wouldn’t be that bad. However, my father, always the family realist, hid nothing. I could see from his reaction that I was in for a horrible two years.

This wasn’t just any brace. This brace was a demon made of plastic. It weighed four pounds and went from my upper thigh to my armpit. When I first saw the brace, I promised it, “I will never accept you.” I was someone unknown to myself when I wore it. I stood at an exact angle of 180 degrees as I walked. I was not able to make any sudden movements as I sat. I couldn’t bend down to tie my shoes. I would awaken in the middle of the night to loosen the Velcro straps around my rib cage so I could breathe. My arms had cuts under them due to the chafing. I was a size six, instead of a size two. I was a ghost inside of that thing. I was plastic.

My mother was just as devastated about that thing as I was. However, she tried as hard as she could to lie to herself, and to me, about it. She tried to look at the positives – things like buying a whole new wardrobe. I saw the negatives – I wasn’t shopping for clothes that would look good on me; I was shopping for clothes that would look good on that apparatus. When I had it on, I wasn’t Carly anymore; I was disabled. I was defined by my crooked spine.

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, but I do know that my back and my life are both consequences of the choices that I make. Today, my scoliosis is rarely on my mind and I am at ease with myself once again.

I still have my brace. It is a physical reminder of both the adversity I’ve faced and the fortunate life I live. It is also an emotional reminder, one that tells me to stand up to the challenges I face while remaining true to myself. I keep it in my closet, hanging with my old clothes. Once in a while, when trying to explain myself to a new friend, I pull it out. It never disappoints.

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