College Essays

Common Application

“Do you need help reaching that on the top shelf?” 

“Are you even able to touch the gas pedal?” 

And the worst of them all: “How tall are you?” 

Barely reaching the five-foot mark on the stadiometer in the doctor’s office, most people tend to think I’m either a freshman or a really tall seventh grader. The phrase “you’re too short” resonated with me all throughout high school. I was never bothered with being short for much of elementary and middle school. But when I entered high school and everyone around had grown nearly five inches at the start of ninth grade, I knew I had fallen behind. Not just with my height, but with my character. I felt embarrassed to ask for help with the simple task of lowering the poster paper from the filing cabinet. 

I vividly recall the moment where my persona no longer correlated with my height. We had been gathering materials to make human models during my Anatomy & Physiology class, and my teacher asked me, suspecting that as the only senior in the class I would be able to reach the heightened materials, to grab the clay that would be added to our models. At first, visually, reaching the clay didn’t pose a problem. But as I approached the cabinet, I felt myself slowly turning away from the daunting task—I didn’t want to be seen struggling with my stature. Before I could reach my hand up, I heard that dismaying phrase: “Do you need help reaching that?” I turned back, feeling discouraged once again, but didn’t let it damage my confidence. With a slight step of defiance, I uttered the following: “No, I can easily reach that. If I don’t try, how will I ever know?” Since that incident, I never became disheartened by any comments regarding my height. Being 5-foot was a part of my appearance, one that I wouldn’t be able to change. Each obstacle made me realize that height didn’t really matter; I found the advantages with being short. I became a master at navigating the clustered hallways in high school between the 400 and 500 wing atrium. I dominated every game of hide-and-seek and stood face front in every group photo. During those moments, I no longer carried that phrase of humiliation with me, I embraced it. My confidence allows me to stand in front of nearly 200 women to give a speech, or dance in a three-hour long performance in front of a crowd. My confidence allows me to grow into a research-oriented individual where I no longer doubt each action that I make, but continue with trust. My height never stopped me from pushing myself even more. Reaching an item on a top shelf, touching the gas pedal, and recalling my height no longer stand as a method of self-deprecation. I embrace my height, and more importantly, my confidence.

Tips for Writing:
When I start to think of an idea for a college essay, multiple thoughts go through my head. How can I stand out from the vast majority of the crowd? Can I create an impactful story with descriptions that allows my reader to feel as if they are physically in my story? What can my essay say about myself in just a quick skim by the reader? The reason I love the following prompt was because of the free-for-all that it provided. This essay did not want to learn anything about my academics, my extracurriculares, or my reason to go to the school—it simply wanted to learn about one of my unique experiences, something not reflected in my resume or application. I first get started with brainstorming a potential list of topics that interest me, and then discuss them with someone I’m comfortable with sharing them. That can be your teacher, friend, sibling, or parent (for me, it was my older sister who helped me out with solidifying this topic choice). I believe that bouncing ideas around to finally get yourself started is what produces a strong essay with an impactful point. I practically structure all of my essays the same way. I start off with a quote, story, personal experience, etc. and end off my essay with the same introductory points. This way, it helps my reader show that I am not connecting point A to point Z, but point A to point A—it comes full circle. Finally, I believe that details are the key. It’s important to show not tell with any essay, and have your experience relate to something bigger. Although you can include this story because it is something unique, you want to always end off with the why portion. Why did you decide to choose that topic and what impact has it made on your life? Even though I sometimes struggle with putting words to my ideas (experiencing writer’s block after writing consecutive essays), I always smile back at the essay I drafted and think about how much fun I had putting it all together.

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