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"My greatest achievement was my greatest loss" (AcaDeca) - Common App prompt


answers: 2
Sep 28, 2012, 08:58pm   #
Hi, I'm doing this scholarship essay and the prompt is as follows:
Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you. (500 word limit)

My essay is below, any feedback is appreciated. My only problems is that I think the topic is boring and not unique enough; to me I feel like it's cliche. Also, I was thinking of taking out the first paragraph as I think it leads on to the story's message too much. Thank you!
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Everyone enjoys winning -- the right to brag in front of peers, friends, family, and infatuations certainly is seemingly appealing. Losing, however, is a very important experience in itself; after all what good is winning when one learns more from losing?

My school is a very competitive contender in the Academic Decathlon; we are invited to the state
competition every year and usually place in the top five. In the 10th grade, the stars seemingly aligned to allow me a coveted spot on the team, a spot only two sophomores before me in my school's entire history had achieved. I studied day and night for my spot; studying in class whenever I could and even prioritizing Decathlon before everything else. I yearned to hold that seat in history for the third sophomore to ever make the team, and had the scores to qualify, but a junior instead replaced me on the day the final roster was due. I could only assume my coach decided that she was more mature than me and felt remorse that she had not made the team the previous year, but that was just an angry, disappointed, and confused 10th grader thinking. Why didn't I win? I vowed to prove myself, and I believe I did. But, this essay isn't about me trying out the next year and becoming the all-time highest scorer in history or something like that. I learned much more from that loss than what I could have had I continued on as a member of the team.

I competed that year at the western Regionals of the World's Scholar's Cup, an international team competition filled with subjects such as Team Debate, Team Essay, Economics, Literature, Fine Arts, etc. I wanted to prove to my coach that he had made a wrong decision it was the only thing my overconfident, immature 10th grade mind could think of. But looking back at that event, I didn't care that I scored the highest in my school, that I took home more than 10 medals, including 3rd in Team Debate, 2nd overall in test scores, and 3rd overall in the entire competition. I triumphed over my previous loss and gained skills and abilities unattainable at that level anywhere else: speech, debate, problem solving, study strategies, time-efficiency, analyzing, synthesizing, and countless others.

My desire to be the best in these academic competitions had left me with experience vital to life. I went on to fulfill leadership roles in different clubs such as National Honors Society and my school newspaper, I excelled in my classes using the skills I had gained, and most importantly, realized the importance of loss. I recognized that if I learned from my loss, I didn't really lose much at all. Ironically, I gained; "Why didn't I win?" became "What is this loss trying to teach me?" Ironically, my most significant achievement was my greatest loss.
Oct 14, 2012, 11:12am   #
Hi mintsnapple,
Great story that you have here! I think there are some improvements that can be made.
As you stated, I think you should cut down on the elaboration of your story (i.e. the first paragraph can go).

mintsnapple:
I competed that year at the western Regionals of the World's Scholar's Cup, an international team competition filled with subjects such as Team Debate, Team Essay, Economics, Literature, Fine Arts, etc. I wanted to prove to my coach that he had made a wrong decision - it was the only thing my overconfident, immature 10th grade mind could think of. But looking back at that event, I didn't care that I scored the highest in my school, that I took home more than 10 medals, including 3rd in Team Debate, 2nd overall in test scores, and 3rd overall in the entire competition. I triumphed over my previous loss and gained skills and abilities unattainable at that level anywhere else: speech, debate, problem solving, study strategies, time-efficiency, analyzing, synthesizing, and countless others.


I see that you like to make lists and you've done it thrice in this paragraph (subjects, accolades and skills).
This may send the message to some that you are trying to impress but don't know much about what you are writing. Furthermore, the admissions board has already seen your list of achievements in other sections of your application, so you will be wasting your word count repeating them here in the essay.
It would be better that you cut down on the breadth and focus on depth instead - in other words, perhaps just focus on a couple of things you learnt and elaborate on them. The essay gives you a chance to share about your experiences where you couldn't do so in other parts of the application.

Let's take a look at the question again:
Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

This question has two requirements:
1. Share an experience that you have that you feel is significant to you.
2. Share the impact of this experience to you.

You have fulfilled part 1 well, but I feel that part 2 is sorely lacking. The last paragraph is all that it is:

mintsnapple:
My desire to be the best in these academic competitions had left me with experience vital to life. I went on to fulfill leadership roles in different clubs such as National Honors Society and my school newspaper, I excelled in my classes using the skills I had gained, and most importantly, realized the importance of loss. I recognized that if I learned from my loss, I didn't really lose much at all. Ironically, I gained; "Why didn't I win?" became "What is this loss trying to teach me?" Ironically, my most significant achievement was my greatest loss.


When you are discussing the impact of this experience (in your case, academic competitions), link it more to your personal qualities as well. What is this "experience vital to life" and how has it changed you? Perhaps consider how your opinions, behaviour, interests, attitudes etc have been affected by this. For a start, explain the importance of loss to you?

Honestly, I don't understand the last two sentences of your essay. Perhaps you could explain/rephrase them?
It seems to me that a more apt ending would be: "Ironically, my greatest loss was my most significant achievement was my greatest loss."
Correct me if I got you wrong here.



Good luck with editing! Btw do give me feedback on my common app essay as well - I selected the same question as you :)



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