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Common App Essay - Inspire Distance. Concerned with passive voice and cliches.

Writing has always been one of my weakness. Even though running is something I passionately feel about, I still struggled when composing this personal statement. I will greatly appreciate any and all comments. I'm open to any criticism too. So please, feel free to butcher the paper if needed.

Also, if you think this essay is just loaded with cliches. Please say so, this is one of my concerns. Or if you can spot any usage of passive voice (something I struggle to fix and comprehend, I really think I just created more problems when I tried to fix them in this essay). Is it bad to write about sports? Thoughts about the creativity and/or the format of the paper?

Thank you in advance for just taking the moment to open this.

Inspire Distance


Your essay is a tad cliche, but it's probably not as bad as you think. Most of the cliches are loaded in the last paragraph, so if you were to cut that a little, then it would not be much of a problem.

I understand what you're trying to do stylistically by chronicling the times of day, but for me, it's just sort of distracting. Your story tells itself- I don't need a detailed agenda to keep track of what you're describing. Of course, the decision is totally up to you, though.

The passive voice was not a noticeable problem to me. What seemed more of an issue is your constant switching back and forth between present and past tense. Even within a single sentence, you sometimes go into another tense. For example, "As I sat on metal bleachers underneath covering given by the stadium, I fall underneath an umbrella of thoughts." "Sat" is in past tense, while "fall" is in present tense. As a reader, that sort of inconsistency is unnerving and distracting.
Yay. Thank you for replying Vulpix. I really do the appreciate the outside perspective that you are giving me. I've been anxiously checking this thread and other thread like every minute.

Hmm, I was afraid so. I will definitely see what I can do to revamp my conclusion. Perhaps I shouldn't include two sentences about "the white flag" and the sentence I am taught to leave nothing behind but the sweat that will come.?
It will be tough to describe my feelings without the use of cliches Lol.

Oh. My English had brought it up to me, stating that I needed to work on passive voice in this particular essay. So I began trying to figure out how to change it in to active, and I'm afraid, that I just created more grammatical errors (present and past tense). In the example you mentioned "Sat" is in past tense, while "fall" is in present tense., The previous draft before this one, I had used the word fell, and I believe that I was pretty consistent with the tenses in other areas too. Lol

But thank you for the response. I will definitely continue to revise this essay. Always room for improvement.

So the stylistic format of my essay is distracting? I was hoping it would be a means to "pop out" my essay more so and connect to the nature of a runner, since runners and times are inseparable with one another.
Coming into the district stadium on that wet morning in May, I could...

above, that might not be better, but it is how I would do it.

No fair saying writing is hard for you. You obviously write very well, so own up to it; otherwise some of the struggling writers in this forum might feel bad about themselves, seeing a good writer saying his writing is bad. Ha ha...

This is all so good! I like the way you used the times as subheadings... it made the reading an interesting.. um... sort of realistic experience.

At the end, you are very eloquent, but I think it is necessary to be very specific there. It is important that this is not just a flowery essay about running. I recommend connecting the race and defeat to a clear goal you have -- revolutionizing the practice of dentistry, or whatever it is. Connect this race to your life plan that starts with this college education.
Thank you Kevin for the encouraging feedback.
And yes, I do agree, changing the first sentence to wet morning in May sounds a little better.
As for the conclusion, I am not sure if I made any improvements. I really think that I just added more writing that does now flow well with the overall theme.

Here is my new version...


10:00 a.m.
Coming into the district stadium on that wet morning in May, I could not help but think that I was seeded last in my race. According to my odds, decided by a mere paper, I was set to finish last. Those race seeds and the idea that running is hard work seemed to be undeniable truths. The efforts that I had placed into my relentless runs so that I can feel that district track beneath my tired legs meant little. Dedication does not always mean clear victory.

11:00 a.m.
As I sat on metal bleachers underneath covering given by the stadium, I fell underneath an umbrella of thoughts. Those thoughts are the passage ways which led me to envision the possibilities and opportunities that may arise in the moments of my race. Such thoughts are needed for my success because through those thoughts, I can scrutinize every step I will make, person I am to pass, and lap to take. It is from that examination of details that I realized...others will also have the ability to cross that white finish line first.

3:00 p.m.
As the hour of my race came near, I began my slow warm up. By this time in the season, going through my awkward motions in the drills and stretches was all too familiar. The movements of my jog began with the slow shuffle through wet pavement. Then, gradually those movements would become fiercer, uncontained with expressions of confidence. However, the confidence expressed by my movements in my warm up did not match the thoughts I had as I took my steps up to the white starting line. The other runners I stood by sought for the same finish line I did. They will hunt for every opportunity to win and to tear down any other runners. On the track, runners are sharks of vicious tenacity.

Before the smoke from the gun faded off into chilled air, I began the chase after my fellow runners. In my pursuit, a digital clock stood high and still with vibrant numbers unaffected by dulled skies, labeling me with seconds, then minutes. The clock pointed rudely at me as if to decide whether I will fail in my pursuit to be the first to cross the white line. Although I was continually marked with seconds, ":18, :19, :20", I am forced to focus my attention elsewhere. With every step I took, I was driven to hunt for the opportunities to step away from my defeat.
Even though parts of me fear that my fellow runners, sharks, will devour me and leave me in pieces if I tried to take their opportunities. I shoved those fears away, established confidence and continued on in my race. Fear, doubt and all other obstacles must be shoved aside to reach dreams.

3:02 p.m.
I was not victorious that day. Nor was my place in the race good enough; ending up in fourth place in the last stretch was still two tenths of a second away from regional. As I returned to the stadium, cries of frustration and anger overcame me. I had never been so close to tears and far away from humility as I did on those metal bleachers. After all, I ran faster than what was expected of me by those set of place seeds.

Now in the off season of track, I still continue to put on my broken down pair of running shoes after school. Often before my run, I will take a small visit to my high school's Career Center to check for college scholarships. These visits to the center are nothing new, a simple routine similar to that of my running warm ups. One day however, a counselor brought up a question regarding my mom's current visit to Cambodia, "Phanith, your mom must be happy to be able to see family over there?" Unfortunately, my mother faced hardships in Cambodia which have led her to lose those closest to her. With my hand behind my head, I told my counselor sheepishly, "Not really." Of course, my counselor would pursue further to find out why I had said answered in this manner A few minutes later, she tells me "So, this is why I you're so determined". I gave her small laugh, and told her yes and no.

As I left the center and proceeded to the lockers for my running shoes, my thoughts remained with those previous minutes. I belong to an immigrant family whose members have been separated from one another for years. My mother and I immigrated to the United States when I was an infant. Five years later, my three older brothers did the same. My mother, brothers and I are only together because of my mother's convictions in family and her unwillingness to not submit to defeat throughout those five years.

No longer facing defeat like I did that day in May, but rather the chilled winter winds, I continue to run. I do not consider myself to have the most talent in running, but I run with personal satisfaction, win or lose. Although at times, losing may irritate me enough into moments of frustration. Yet, I remain determine and run into unknown finishes because like my mother, I have learned that moments of defeat are necessary.

I choose not to raise the white flag because as long as I continue to reach for my finish line, a dream, nothing can truly defeat me. Defeat in running solidified my desire to reach for distance and with that desire, my own belief.

I believe in always running for that finish line even in the face of defeat.

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