Sometimes starting your college admissions essay can feel like a monumental task, and staring at a blank screen may only make things worse. To help inspire you, College Confidential is launching a series in which we share personal essays from students who were admitted to college during a prior admissions cycle. You can read the first in this series below. The student who wrote this as his Common App essay was accepted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and we are sharing it with his permission.
Picture this: A small, 13-year-old boy soaked in sweat, throwing his body onto a handrail in the blistering heat. Whereas the initial thought of this seems jarring, the reality was that everyone nearby continued to go about their business, not really noticing the kid.
That boy was me — on one of the most memorable days I had ever experienced.
As a beginner to the skateboarding world, I was trying repeatedly to master a trick that would allow me to take my board down a handrail and onto a ramp. Each time I attempted the trick, I landed on the hot concrete with a thud. However, the sound of my body hitting the pavement didn't rattle those around me — they'd probably tried the same trick themselves and had definitely seen newcomers like me working diligently to master it.
When I decided to take a break, I watched from the sidelines as the more experienced skaters made their way effortlessly across the ramps, performing kickflips and ollies with the ease of someone who was simply walking. But another dichotomy also struck me. Sitting on the sidelines, my brand-new skateboard and shiny new helmet were practically gleaming in the light of the sun.
When I had decided to try skateboarding earlier that month, I'd dipped into my allowance savings and picked up the equipment I needed. However, the most experienced skaters at the park were skating on the shabbiest boards that looked like they might splinter at any moment.
As I was making this observation, one of the gods of the skate park glided toward me. Everyone knew Steve — he was sponsored by a skate company and knew every possible trick. "Nice work," he said. I looked around to confirm he was talking to me. I couldn't believe he had noticed my attempts at working the handrail.
"I'm trying," I said, slightly embarrassed that he had seen me falling to the ground repeatedly. "Do you have any tips?"
He shook his head. For a minute I was feeling dejected, as if he didn't want to help me. "You're doing it the only way there is, man," he told me. "Just keep trying."
He patted me on the back and grabbed his worn-down board, hopping on it to drop back into the skate bowl. I looked back at my brand-new board. Ever since I was a child, I had always thought that skateboarders were some of the coolest people out there, and Steve's encouragement only solidified that belief.
It became clear to me that this was one sport where it didn't matter if you could afford coaches or fancy equipment — there was no way to get a leg up in skating without putting in the work. Skateboarding is the great equalizer — if you practice, you'll succeed — that's all there is to it. Even if I came from more of a place of privilege than some of the other skaters, the reality was that I was privileged just to be part of this community.
My experiences in the skating world have now spanned more than four years, and I have spent upwards of 12 hours at a time at that skate park. I've learned all the tricks I set out to master, but more importantly, I have developed a diverse and extensive group of friends. We may be from different backgrounds and neighborhoods, but what unites us is that we are all working toward the same goals, and we've forged deep connections along the way.
I have taken the lessons from the sense of community in the skating world into my other pursuits as well. Where there may be a group of very different people in any gathering, there will always be a thread that unites us, and I will consistently be looking for that connection.
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