College Essays

Common Application

Three horrified pairs of eyes stared back at me as I explained to my family why it was absolutely necessary for me to climb to the top of Angels Landing. Known as one of the most dangerous hiking trails in Zion National Park, Angels Landing now stood ahead of us, and I, the whopping four foot seven inch eleven year old, was the only one in my family consumed by a hunger to continue.
Ahead of us lay a narrow ridge with 1,200 foot drops on either side. My parents exchanged doubtful looks and my brother blatantly refused to take another step. I, on the other hand, could not fathom their terror towards this portion of the hike. Uncontrollable excitement bubbled within me: this was an adventure, a journey, a challenge!
As I headed forward, my mom and brother drew back, visibly fearful for their lives, and my dad found himself trapped in the role of “unwilling companion.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I turned to see my dad cautiously scrambling around the rock face after me, looking doubtfully ahead, adjusting his glasses against the wind. I refused to retreat to safety-I had set my mind on reaching the top, and I would not be deterred.
Thinking back, it’s curious that I was almost oblivious to fear and doubt. Utterly absorbed by the path ahead, I could not be dissuaded from completing this hike-not even by the numerous signs that Dad and I passed warning us that one misstep could lead to certain death.
Clambering around the rock face, I was astounded by a vast, impressive, and immeasurably beautiful view. My eyes pinpointed my goal: the immense rock formation that overlooked the entirety of Zion’s awe-inspiring canyon. Just then, the wind skirted around my face, pulling my attention back to the task at hand. There it was before me-the dangerous ridge about which I’d heard so much. Edges without barriers gave way to absolute drops, and upon seeing this breathtaking challenge, enthusiasm cascaded through my body, running down my arms and making my fingers dance.
“Are you SURE you want to keep going? It really is okay to turn back!” implored my dad from behind-more for his peace of mind than for my own. Although presented with an option out, the idea of returning never truly crossed my mind. I was drawn forward by my desire for adventure and experience, and I tried to give some of that motivation to my (by now, somewhat incredulous) dad.
“Let’s go! Come on-it’ll be fun!” I called over my shoulder. I ran ahead, hand brushing over the safety chain, legs half skipping and half dancing as I crossed over the ridiculously narrow ridge. With a grin stretched across my face, I turned around to find Dad desperately gripping a safety chain, urging me to slow down.
Still, I continued racing to the top. The route turned steeply upwards, requiring both arms and legs. Hoisting myself up the final step, I found myself in an area of natural, quietly wondrous beauty. Looking back and forth, left and right, I began to twirl on the spot, my feet rushing to keep up with my mind as it took in the magnificent view surrounding me. Laughter welled up inside of me, beginning deep in my chest and rippling out through the farthest points of my body. Eventually slowing down, and at last stopping to catch my breath, I rested on a rock and looked out into the expansive canyon of Zion National Park-finally satiated.

Tips for Writing:
My first attempt at a college essay involved a blindly-written 900-word story that did not truly capture many of my unique qualities. Initially, I was too caught up in the “making it sound pretty” aspect of the essay and, without a lot of prewriting, dove straight in and wrote about the first thing I could think of. It took me a while to pinpoint what I wanted the central aspect of my essay to be. When I did, I tried to fit it into my first essay. Eventually, however, I had to accept that, quite often, you just have to throw everything away and start again. The starting-again was probably the hardest part of the writing experience, and it happened numerous times. In order to overcome the negativity that accompanied “starting over,” I planned out multiple essay ideas before I started writing my next version, so if the next did not work either, at least I wouldn’t be restarting from scratch. It is also very important to keep your goal in mind. While writing can be frustrating, and starting again may seem awful, this college essay is your chance to show your qualities off to your colleges, and you should do all the starting-over’s necessary to write the best essay you can.

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