Common Application: Being Vulnerable to people I don’t even know

I’m not going to lie, the college process sucks. For months I sat hunched over my computer staring at a blank word document trying to figure out what the heck I was going to say to these people that I don’t even know. I had to be vulnerable, but couldn’t show that I was “messed up”, I had to show my strength, but not come off as too cocky. I had to display what I was proud of, but also maintain humility. They told me to brag, but in a respectful way. They told me to show them who I really was, so I did. Considering I got denied from my top 9 choices, I don’t know if I did something wrong or if this is just how the college process is nowadays. Now don’t get me wrong, I will be going somewhere next year and with my positivity I will make the best of it, but what about all my work? My tears that I poured into each word of my essays were tossed out of the window due to a “low” (but actually really good GPA). My thoughts and ideas were dumped because I couldn’t score as high on my ACT as the statistics wants to maintain. I was angry. I cried more tears because I just received denial after denial after denial – just more reinforcements that I was a failure. But I’m not a failure. I am proud of the work that I did so I want to share it with you. Here is my common application essay. I sent it to 7 seven schools, got denied from all but 1 one of them but I am still proud of my work! So here it is. Completely vulnerable and raw (oh and under 650 words!) Please enjoy 🙂

Landing at LAX, clutching my US passport, I began to cry as I walked out of the terminal and saw my parents sprinting towards me; I didn’t know my mom could run so fast! My parents cried too, but for a different reason. They could see it in my face and eyes: I was sicker than they thought. My first stop was home, but quickly after came the doctor’s office. My time in France was supposed to be the greatest nine months of my life. I would finally find fluency in the language to which I had dedicated four years, make new friends, and of course eat the delicious French pastries. Instead, I got sick. I sat in the doctor’s office as the word “anorexia” rang in my ears, combined with the sounds of my mother’s sobs. Then the doctor said an even scarier word that left a sour taste in my mouth and a knotted feeling in my gut: treatment.

Entering high school, I had a plan. I would go to school, do my work, become president of Young Life, and go to my dream school. I would wake up, succeed, and learn. I never anticipated the way high school actually was. I did not expect that I would study abroad and I especially did not imagine myself in a treatment center or missing class for therapy appointments. After sophomore year, my life took a turn. I embarked on my year abroad in France where I would learn another language and appreciate a new culture. Inspired by my school’s Global Initiatives Program, I chose to pursue a path that involved four years of language study, service learning, and discussions on global conflicts. When I started my year with SYA, everything seemed lined up for success. Struggles with eating cut my “year” abroad short. Initially, all I could think about was my plan. It did not matter to me that I had almost died nor did I recognize that my mind and body were suffering greatly. I wanted to be back in school, taking classes, and preparing for college — just like everybody else. That was the problem though, I am not like everyone else and my high school experience wasn’t going to be like everyone else’s. At first, I viewed this as a setback. I sobbed in my first college counseling meeting, thinking that success was eluding me. But talking to other patients about their experiences and observing their varied responses, I realized my options: succumb or use my experiences to help others. I chose the latter, and my parents’ love and my faith sustained me. I worked for my recovery because it was important to me that I be my healthiest self — I had dreams I wanted to see through. In treatment, I came to understand the importance of a healthy body and healthy mind to fuel a healthy life, full of hope and anticipation. My eating disorder was the hardest thing I have gone through, it was an uphill battle with no breaks or room to breathe, but I would not change it. Through reflection, I proved to myself that I had not failed; I had not allowed the “bumps” in my journey to derail my plan. In treatment, I (re)gained a sense of worth and purpose. I learned things about myself that I would never have learned otherwise, such as the strength, independence, stamina, resilience, and perseverance that I possess. As a senior, I returned to my school, friends and teachers, and I chose to turn my struggle into something positive. I started a body image club at my school where boys and girls talk about society’s affect on how we view ourselves. As I look ahead to college and moving away from home, I know my grit, personal growth, open-mindedness, compassion, and fascination with languages and global engagement have prepared me for great experiences.

7 thoughts on “Common Application: Being Vulnerable to people I don’t even know


    Your letter is beautiful and honest. Life is a real journey and even the best plans need to be tweaked . Sometimes I think it is easier to speak to strangers because they don’t really know us and we don’t know them. We are just a letter on their desk or application to be read. If you work hard and can make accomplishments of your own, who cares how long it takes, or what others might think, or if your journey is different from others. You will for sure appreciate your journey because it was yours, and those that love you will share in it with you!
    Here’s to a very peaceful journey!

  2. Ivy T

    Shae this is so powerful! I would accept you into my college right away! Wishing you all the best love and I know you’ll be brilliant wherever you go ❤️ Miss you lots!

    1. Post author

      Ivy! You always brighten my day <3 love love love you and i know that you will be amazing and thrive wherever you go xoxo

    1. Post author

      i have not chosen yet! very last minute but i’ll write about when i choose 🙂


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