Common App Essay Example #5

Prompt #2: The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

A “C+” might not constitute a technical failure, but for an honors student with a constant eye on my GPA, my grade on the English group project certainly felt like an “F.” I should start from the beginning. Last year, I was excited when my English teacher announced that she was assigning a group project for our Shakespeare unit. Each group would select a play to read, then put together a creative presentation to teach the rest of the class about the plot, themes, and other important devices. I became even more thrilled when I was paired with two friends who were as smart and motivated as myself. But while this combination seemed like the perfect formula for success, my partners and I learned that it takes more than brains to work well together.

My group’s first problem stemmed from one of the very things I thought would be a strong point: our motivation. It turned out that we were all so busy with our extracurricular activities and other demanding classes that it was difficult to find an available time to meet and get started on the project. Somehow field hockey practice, musical rehearsal, and AP European study group managed to inconveniently take up the majority of our free time. Consequently, our group did not even meet until the weekend before our presentation.

When we finally did get together, only two of us had read Othello in its entirety, making the other member’s ideas fairly irrelevant. We still managed to brainstorm how to retell the story of the Moor of Venice; but unfortunately, many of them were too outlandish and labor intensive to complete in what was now a short period time. (Perhaps we’ll get the chance to perform a Shakespearean rap with an attempt at beat boxing some other time.) Instead, we decided to simply each draw a poster outlining the plot structure of the five acts. Our overabundance of ideas ironically led us down the path of inaction and mediocrity.

On presentation day, it was clear that our group lacked cohesion. Having each designed our respective posters separately, nothing felt like part of the same project. We simply divvied up the play and summarized the major plot points. Our teacher certainly sensed this bland, siloed project, resulting in all three of us receiving a C+. While my other grades in the class were strong enough to bounce back from the low grade, I also managed to learn a few poignant lessons.

The first is the importance of prioritizing. Extracurricular activities are certainly worthwhile endeavors, but not at the expense of core academics. My classmates and I should have sacrificed an extra evening or two to give our project the time and attention it required. The second lesson I learned is to seize creative opportunities when they arise. Group projects and presentations are pretty rare and I know that my friends and I could have come up with an amazing, entertaining presentation if we had just budgeted enough time. The chance for collaboration is a gift and I intend to fully take advantage of it when the next opportunity presents itself. As the Bard himself wrote, all the world’s a stage, and I intend to make every exit and entrance from here on out as meaningful and lasting as possible.