Photo courtesy of Injury Map
As high school students start to think about college, and as juniors and seniors start applying to universities in the upcoming months, I thought it would be useful to share with you the college essay that helped me get into the university I currently study at. To share a little bit about myself, I'm a second-year Communication and Media student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I also run on the varsity cross country and track teams at State. I applied to NC State and a couple of other schools in the fall of my senior year of high school in 2020.
I chose to do my common application college essay on running in the form of a narrative. There are many other things you can write about for a college essay (virtually, anything), and I just wanted to share with you one route you could take with your essay. I hope this article is useful for your essay brainstorming, and without further ado, here's the college essay I wrote for North Carolina State University!
It's 6 a.m. on a Wednesday when I roll up in my old pickup to the school's soccer practice fields. I nervously hop out of my truck and proceed to the warm-up. The typical North Carolina humidity and freshly cut grass make me a little sick to my stomach. Coach and I talk about the workout plan as we jog through the warm-up; four miles with sixty seconds of rest between each mile. I want to finish the miles all in under six minutes, something I've never done before. It won't be easy, but I'm up for the challenge.
As the warm-up comes to an end, we toe the line for the first repeat. "Runners, set, go!" We shoot off the invisible line that marks the start and end and establishes our pace. It's quick, but I expected it to be. I have big expectations set for myself in this workout, but I also remember that one workout doesn't make or break you. I relieve the pressure I've put on myself by easing into the pace. I soon noticed that my legs felt heavy. It feels as if I'm carrying bricks where my shoes should be. My focus is lost for a bit, and I pass through the half-mile in three minutes and two seconds. "We're off pace, Coach!" I say. He tells me I shouldn't worry, but I know that's my perfectionism talking, a trait I expect most aspiring people to possess. In the past, I would freak out over such minor inconveniences and would even give up on the workout. I've learned to eliminate those anxious thoughts and keep my focus forward. The fact that it doesn't need to be perfect is reiterated as I finish the repeat at 5:58, despite being off the pace in the beginning.
The minute rest flew by, and I was soon starting my second repetition. My shoes and socks are increasingly getting soaked from the dewy grass. They're adding weight to every step I take. The situation is undesirable, but I know it's making me a stronger person. It's a lot more exciting to race than to do intense workouts, I will say. As I run on, my focus shifts from my feet to my laboured breath. Physical fatigue is kicking in now, but I remain focused on my goals. Keeping a strong focus on the bigger picture gives every little detail its purpose. Each step I take is more important than the last. I push through the last minute of the repeat and remember how easy it would be to just quit, but I’ve learned discipline through this sport. I’m determined to do something great, so I’ll do everything I have to get there. I was so intensely focused that I ran ten feet past the line as the second repeat came to an end. 5:54 was the time.
I'm halfway through the workout. Coach reminds me to stay confident and strong. I wouldn't have gotten this far in the workout if it weren't for the confidence I've gained through this sport. I no longer feel fresh anymore as I start to push the pace in the third repeat. My dreams and aspirations propel me forward, including breaking seventeen minutes in the 5K and my desire to run in college. These workouts prove to me how strong of a person I am and how much strength and confidence play a role in reaching your potential. Despite how challenging it feels, I have the confidence to finish. A famous Henry Ford quote comes to mind: "Whether you think you can or you can't, you're right." I believe with every step I take that I can finish this quickly. I glance down at my watch to see I've run 5:49 through the line.
It's the final repeat. "Last one, fast one" is my mentality. My coach has allowed me to take off my heavy shoes, and I feel the soggy grass between my toes. I shoot off the line for the last time. As I maintain focus on the repeat, I can't help but think about the repeats before. They were hard, but I got through them. This workout is just one part of the bigger picture, and completing it puts me a step closer to where I want to be. I felt a sense of pride as I glanced down at my watch and saw that I'm ten seconds ahead of pace; my hard work is showing. Mud is being slung onto my back as I sprint down the final straight. I'm reminded that this work is helping me achieve my goals. I crossed the line of my final repeat in record time, 5:44. I place my hands on my knees and suck up all the oxygen I can get. As I slowly stand back up, I reflect on the lessons that carried me through the workout and that will carry me through life.
With college applications open and high schoolers filling them out, many may find writing the essay portion hard to do. You can virtually write your common application essay about anything you find interesting, and I sought out to write mine about running. My essay is just one example of the many out there you find to help inspire you.
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