College Essays

University of Richmond Supplemental

Prompt (University Of Richmond Supplemental)

Tell us about a time you learned something unexpected. What did you learn, and what happened next? (300-650 words)



Thanks to the delicious vanilla cream donuts at Dunkin’, I spent the first 15 years of my life being a bit of a chunk. I would only exercise when I had to for basketball practice, and I always felt like it was a punishment. Who would want to go to the gym if their memories of working out were puking in the bathroom stall with teammates after running suicides? Regardless, I did have ambitions of improving my strength but I was scared. 

I didn’t have the slightest idea of proper form, and the fear of judgment kept me away. I stressed that if I stepped foot into the gym, everyone would stare at me, wondering, What is he doing here? This negative outlook wasn’t just in the gym but everywhere. I constantly worried what others were thinking of me and that doubt took a toll throughout my life. Everything changed, however, when one of my friends, who was smaller than me, told me that he had started working out. I was so surprised and impressed by his courage that he inspired me to give the gym a try.

I still remember my mom dropping me off. Instead of entering the front door of the YMCA, I felt like I was on a quest through the fiery pits of Mordor. Each step past the entrance felt like I was walking in slow motion. I kept my head down, feeling all eyes glued to me. I sat down to do my first exercise, a bench press. Simple enough, I thought; Just push the bar up and down. After finishing my first set, I noticed a very muscular guy walking towards me. Here it comes, I thought. This guy is going to make fun of my form and ridicule me for not knowing what I’m doing. I tried not to make eye contact until it was very apparent he was about to talk to me. As he opened his mouth, we locked eyes, and I prepared for the verbal assault, but his simple words changed my life. “Your form is a little off. Go again, but let me help you fix it so you’ll be perfect next time.” 

That was when I realized I was, in fact, not in Mordor, but just a gym. Nobody was making fun of me. Nobody was staring at me and laughing at my bad form. Nobody was questioning my belonging there. I was the one being so harsh; everybody else just wanted to help. 

I hadn’t realized until then just how caught up I was in what others thought. I had been the one holding myself back. That day, the gym unexpectedly became a part of who I am. It changed my negative perspective to a positive one; it taught me mental and physical discipline, the value of hard work, and the importance of focusing on myself instead of what I think everyone else is thinking. 

Now, I aspire to be like that stranger who probably has no idea that his random act of kindness changed my life forever. When I walk into the gym, I keep my head high, say hello to everyone I know, and introduce myself to unfamiliar faces, welcoming them into our gym community. I love inviting a beginner to a workout so they can follow me around to perfect their form and then I can see their progress over the coming weeks. I don’t just keep my head high in the gym; I keep my head high everywhere now. I want to help people who feel insecure and socially awkward like I did once because I know what a hindrance it can be. I try to instill in them that the only opinion about yourself that matters is your own. You never know where you will meet a new friend, but if you’re always looking down, you’re never going to find one.


Tips For Writing

  • Get all of your ideas on paper. Just write and don’t pay attention to the length at first.
  • Have multiple drafts. You are not going to get it right on your first attempt.
  • Have multiple people look at your paper. It is always helpful to get as many opinions as possible.
  • Write about something that you actually feel passionate about so that your essay is authentic.
  • Write like how you talk, you don’t want to be formal and sound like a robot. You want the college to connect with you from your essay.
  • Take your time. I would start writing it as soon as possible so you have a lot of time to edit and let the ideas sit with you.
  • Use different spacing and paragraphs so your essay is easy to read.
  • Have fun with it. You don’t want to make this process too stressful for yourself.

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