University Life Changing Experience Essay

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Life Changing Experiences - With A Free Essay Review

What defines someone as a person? Is it their personality? Or just their life experiences? I believe that meaningful events, experiences, and accomplishments ultimately defines someone. Something significant and meaningful that has happened in my life was getting involved in organized sports. I’ve played every sport from soccer to football. If I never got involved in sports, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Playing sports has taught me a plethora of things including responsibility, integrity, value of hard work, confidence, and much more. Getting involved in sports was definitely a life changing experience.

Ever since I was five years old, I have been involved in competitive sports. I’ve played basketball, soccer, baseball, tennis, hockey, and football. Basketball was always my main sport. Even though playing basketball was a great experience, it was also life changing and eye opening. Unfortunately I wasn’t always the tallest, fastest, or best player around and it caused a lot of people to insult me. They would always say “midget,” “chubby,” or whatever else they decided to call me because of the lack of respect. All of these insults caused many tears and thoughts of quitting. I played basketball for nine years and, through all of the insults and disrespect, I never quit. When I was going into my eighth grade year, I had a growth spurt of about seven inches and, suddenly, I wasn’t being called “midget” or “chubby” anymore. My basketball skills became sharper and I suddenly started gaining more respect as I became one of the best three-point shooters in the county. Playing sports has taught me to persevere through anything no matter what the circumstances are because it will always have a great outcome.

In addition to teaching me perseverance, sports have also taught me to be confident in myself. During the summer going into freshman year, I decided to start playing football. This decision changed my life forever. As soon as I started playing, I loved the sport and it caused me to stop playing basketball. It was clear that I was naturally gifted at football. Having never tackled a person before, I went on to make a perfect tackle in my very first football drill which changed my fate and personality forever. While being skilled at tackling, I was still always put down by one of our coaches because I was always “soft.” This means that I didn’t have the aggression and hard work that it took to play football. I took it very personally and it destroyed me on the inside. That was a sign that I needed to get physically fit for this sport and that I had to change my weak attitude. Knowing that someone thought I was “soft,” I went on to gaining forty-five pounds in four months (going from 145-190 pounds) and becoming the starting middle linebacker on the varsity football team. People started to respect me in every way and people were fearing me. People who didn’t respect before were now respecting me. I gained a great amount of confidence from playing organized sports and it has sculpted me into the man I am today.

How will this affect my college experience or my contribution to the UF campus community? I will be more involved than most students in the University of Florida. I will have the confidence to march into clubs and be a leader. I will be able to create organizations that will contribute to the university. Confidence plays a huge role in college. The confidence I have makes me a great leader. Being president of three clubs in high school, I know how to be an effective leader and get kids to follow my lead. I have outstanding qualities that allow me to be a great leader such as being responsible, diligent, hard working, trustworthy, intelligent, and persistent. If I had never played organized sports, I would never have had the drive and confidence that I have today.



I played sports once. Playing sports taught me a lot of things too. Principally, it taught me to stop playing sports and appreciate the value of spectatorship.

Anyway, I think the person you are today doesn’t need to use the hackneyed phrase “If it were not for X, I wouldn’t be the person I am today” or “X sculpted me into the man I am today” All that kind of phrase reveals is that the person you are today is the same as every other person today. (Seriously. Every single person on the planet says that at one time or another, and usually in college application essays. In fact, every child says it as soon as the doctor slaps it on the back: If it weren’t for nine months in the womb, I would be the person I am today - a statement which at least has the virtue of being true.)

But let’s get serious. You end the first paragraph with “getting involved in sports was definitely a life changing experience.” A lot of readers and writers tend to privilege the last sentence of the first paragraph; they tend to think it is the place where an essay’s overarching topic is defined. That’s the place, in short essays, where folks tend to put their thesis statement, for example. You don’t have to put anything like a thesis statement in a personal statement of this kind, but you ought to be aware that your reader may pay particular attention to that sentence. It’s important, therefore, to avoid saying anything too silly.

Of course there’s nothing silly at all about saying “getting involved in sports was definitely a life changing experience for me,” and having a theme or a topic for your essay is a very good idea; it tends to make the essay as a whole a lot more coherent. But I think that statement acquires a little bit of unintended, retrospective silliness when you inform the reader, in the next paragraph, that you got involved in competitive sports when you were five years old. It’s as though you were asking your reader to imagine that once you were irresponsible, you lacked integrity, you wanted confidence, and you undervalued hard work, but all that changed when, at the age of five, you took up sports. (Perhaps that is what you meant, but I think in that case you are being unfair to your inner child.) You can avoid that problem by, for example, clarifying the gradual character of the transformation, or by just changing the original formulation of your topic; i.e., instead of calling it a “life-changing experience” you could call it something like “a series of experiences that helped to shape how I view life and approach its many obstacles” (or something at least as specific, but perhaps less crude than that).

It’s also important to clarify the lesson or lessons you have learned from your experiences. You say “playing sports has taught me to persevere through anything no matter what the circumstances are because it will always have a great outcome.” But I’m not sure you got the right lesson here. Again, this is a bit of a hackneyed phrase. And, again, it’s especially important to avoid cliches on college application essays because every other student will resort to the same tired cliches, and so, instead of differentiating yourself with a tale of perseverence through obstacles and ultimate triumph, you will end up being indistinguishable from the thousands of other applicants to the same university with the same experience. In any case, the “great outcome” in your case is presumably due both to your perseverance and hard work and to the fortuitous growth spurt of seven inches in one year. It’s not true in general that perseverance alone guarantees a great outcome, and your story proves that point. There is nothing noble in believing that perseverance guarantees a good outcome, even though that is what everyone seems to think and say. What’s noble is persevering even in the midst of doubt. It is noble and admirable to keep going even though you’ve no reason in the world to believe you will be anything other than the guy who is five inches short of a viable basketball player, and that, after all, is what you did. Perhaps that’s what your story should really be about.

Best, EJ.

Submitted by: ronenwolf

Tagged...essay feedback, essay help, personal statement

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About ronenwolf

Want a different academic setting? A different cultural setting? Want to discover more of who you are? Studying abroad might be the answer for you.

Studying abroad is not only academically and culturally fulfilling, but also fosters personal growth. If you had asked me two years ago where I wanted to study abroad, I would have listed a variety of European countries, simply because the European Union was a common area for students to study abroad. It had not crossed my mind to study in my mother country, China, since my grandparents left during the Cultural Revolution. But after studying, working and living in Shanghai for the past semester, I realized that not only did I immensely enjoy my abroad experience, but that I am open and willing to living there. I can only hope, that when you go abroad, you too, will enjoy every moment of your stay and learn something.

Over these past four months, I have made Shanghai my own. The first month, like a baby, I crawled and took tentative baby steps through China. I stayed within the Western comfort zone, participating in Western activities such as frequenting expat clubs, bars, and other spots most American study abroad students immediately find comfortable and enjoyable. I did, however, take some larger baby steps when going to art galleries, reaching out to fencing clubs, posting on LinkedIn that I would love to meet a Mount Holyoke alum in Shanghai, and going to street fairs and flea markets.

During the second month, like a kid, I started to walk properly in Shanghai. I reached out to any contacts, whether it was a first, second, or third degree contact who was living or visiting Shanghai. I began to explore Shanghai's expansive restaurant life; eating with these contacts and other friends I made through random events I had attended, like kick-boxing classes. I branched out to other areas of the city outside of my dormitory's back street in Hongkou district. I also traveled to Beijing, Xian, and various places in Zhejiang province to experience other areas of China.

In the third month, China saw me gain traction and begin to speed-walk in this eastern-western cultural concoction of a city. I started to know bits and pieces of the Shanghai metro map like the back of my hand, especially the route to and from my internship as well as all of the above ground landmarks associated with that subway ride. My self-imposed curfew became later and later due to hours-long meals with friends followed by happy hours at various bars with breath-taking views of the city, or unique attributes that deemed them a must-see. I also traveled to Hongkong, Macau, Guangzhou, and Zhuhai during this time. Although the trip was fun, not speaking Mandarin and being restricted by my study-abroad program's rigid schedule exposed my yearning to be back in Shanghai.

The fourth and final month saw me fall head-over-heels in love with the city of Shanghai. I can now run in this city of lights. Almost every night, I was out exploring parts of Shanghai with friends; taking new routes to known destinations, eating at new restaurants, and meeting new people. A friend, Amberle, and I actually made a pact, that after graduation from our respective universities, we MUST come back to Shanghai to work and live. And, I even started to see someone living in Shanghai, which gave me insight into relationships in Shanghai, while exposing me to a different area of Shanghai I had not previous explored. I also traveled with a friend to Hainan, an island province in southern China and found myself understanding more about native Chinese people and culture.

I currently have equal parts Shanghainese/Chinese friends and expat friends. In exploring the city with both groups, I know what it's like to live in Shanghai, both as a native, and as an expat. I have the unique characteristics of a Chinese-American, but within the last two weeks, four Chinese people have actually asked me for directions to a destination or street, and cab drivers stopped immediately asking what country I was from when I entered the cab. In fact, one cab driver didn't even know that the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics had a campus for foreign students, so when I instructed him to go to my campus, he gave me an incredulous look, asked why, and asked if I had a boyfriend at my campus. Also during this month, a friend and colleague of mine, Katie, came to visit for the last week of my program. While showing her around some of my favorite parts of the city, she said she noticed that I walked and talked as if Shanghai was my city. And in a way, she is right. I can see myself living in Shanghai, at least for one-to-two years, but we shall see.

I know my parents won't like hearing this, but honestly, outside of seeing friends again, and hugging my parents and brothers, I could have stayed in Shanghai indefinitely. Many times, after visiting a place, people say they would like to go back. I don't have that luxury when speaking about Shanghai; I cannot just come back and visit, I must come back and live. The only question is when.

Studying abroad allowed me to grow academically as I became conversationally fluent in Mandarin; socially as I made new friends; culturally as I learned more about my Chinese culture and heritage; and personally, because it had never crossed my mind that I could come to love living and working in a developing country. As I stated before, if you had asked me two years ago where I would be studying abroad, I probably would have said somewhere in Europe, never thinking of returning to my motherland. But through the unique study abroad Mount Holyoke program with the Alliance for Global Education, I found myself in Shanghai for the semester and falling in love with the city, and more intrigued by the country. I have left Shanghai with the feeling of leaving a close friend; I can't wait to see it again!

Shanghai, this is not a "goodbye," but a "see you later." I will be back! So hopefully, see you in a year or two! Love, Allyson, or Zhaoyuchang

By Allyson Chew, Mount Holyoke College

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