Asia Bradlee 8 min read 12th Grade, Essay Tips

6 Overcoming Challenges College Essay Examples

 

At some point in our lives, we’ve all dealt with a hardship or obstacle we’ve had to overcome. For many colleges, this situation is something they may ask you to write about in your essays.

 

The purpose of the “overcoming challenges” essay prompt is for schools understand how you might handle the challenges of college. They also want to see how you grow, evolve, and learn when you face adversity. For this topic, there are many clichés, such as getting a bad grade or losing a sports game, so be sure to steer clear of those and focus on a topic that’s unique to you.

 

These overcoming challenges essay examples were all written by real students. For each example, we provide a first draft, what the writer can improve, and the revised version.

 

Example of the Overcoming Challenges Essay Prompt 

 

Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

 

Overcoming Challenges Essay Example, First Draft

 

“Advanced females ages fourteen to fifteen please proceed to staging with your coaches at this time.”

 

Skittering around the room, eyes wide and pleading, I frantically explained my situation to any coach nearby. The seconds ticked away in my head as every polite refusal increased my desperation.

 

“This is the final staging call for advanced females ages fourteen to fifteen. Please proceed to staging with your coaches.”

 

Despair weighed me down. I sank to my knees, the steam of competitors, coaches, and officials diverging around me. My dojang had no coach and without one, I was unable to compete per tournament rules.

 

Although I wanted to remain strong and move forward, doubts began to cloud my mind. I could not help but wonder what the point of perfecting my skills for competition was if I had nothing to show for my efforts. The other members of my team, who had managed to find coaches minutes before competing, attempted to comfort me, but they did not understand the feeling. They did not understand, and I never wanted them to understand.

 

The members of my dojang have become family. I have watched and participated as they grew up, finding my own happiness in theirs. To see them in my situation, unable to compete and losing hope as a result, would devastate me. My dojang needed a coach – someone the competitors could rely on – and since for years we had made no progress towards finding one, I knew it was up to me.

 

I first approached the adults in the dojang – instructors as well as parents of members. I soon became reacquainted with polite refusals, and realized that I would have to take matters into my own hands.

 

At the time, the inner workings of tournaments was a mystery to me. Thus, to prepare myself to become a successful coach, I spent the next year as an official and took coaching classes on the side. I emerged with new knowledge and confidence in my capabilities, yet others did not share this faith.

 

Parents threw me disbelieving looks after learning that their children’s coach was only a child herself. My self- confidence was my armor – deflecting the surly glances. Every armor is penetrable, however, and as the relentless barrage of doubts pounded at my resilience, it began to wear down and I myself grew unsure of my abilities.

 

Despite the attack, I moved forward, refusing to give up. To quit now would be to set my students up for the inevitable day when they would be unable to find a coach and therefore unable to compete. Remembering that I could be the solution to a problem that had plagued my dojang for years enabled me to overcome my apprehension regardless of my lack of support.

 

Now that my dojang has had the chance to flourish at competitions, the attacks have weakened, but not ended. I may never win the approval of every parent and at times I am still tormented with doubts, but I find solace in the fact that members of my dojang no longer have to worry about anything other than competing to the best of their abilities.

 

As I arrive to tournaments with my students, I close my eyes and remember the past. I visualize the frantic search for a coach and the chaos amongst my dojang’s team members as we competed against each other to find coaches before our respective divisions were called to staging. I open my eyes to the exact opposite situation. My dojang’s team stands together, united and calm, as it will for as long as the dojang itself stands.”

 

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Thoughts on the Essay and How It Can Be Improved

 

The opening of this essay is engaging and really puts the reader in the author’s shoes, and the overall topic, which is focused on a specific, compelling challenge, clearly fits the prompt. To take this essay to the next level, the author could focus on things like eliminating clunky language, clarifying plot details, improving their diction, and polishing up the writing. 

 

The first thing the author could do is employ more “showing” and less “telling” in their body paragraphs. The current introduction and conclusion are effective because they focus on specific “moments” or “examples” to tell their story and make their points. However, the body paragraphs rely much more heavily on summary. It’s necessary to include some background information and other expository elements, however the body paragraphs could still use more specific details and examples. 

 

In particular, the author should keep in mind that the average reader doesn’t know much, if anything, about a dojang. This means that their claims about their dojang family and what competing means to them need to be backed up by examples. What sorts of things do they do with your teammates? How have they built such strong bonds? The most effective way is to show the audience, not just assert that these bonds exist.

 

Similarly, the description of the work they put in to become a coach and the skills they gained will seem pretty abstract to the average reader. To bring their personal effort and transformation to life, the author should add in more details to describe what they’ve accomplished. Then, they can show the reader what elements of coaching keep them going despite the doubters. By adding in more details and examples to “show” the reader how they became a coach and what keeps them going, they’ll give the reader a vivid understanding of the world of the dojang and, by extension, what motivates them and what skills they have.

 

Finally, the concluding lines could use a bit of tweaking. The current last sentence doesn’t quite fit the essay’s “big picture” idea. It could be revised to broaden out to focus on the author and their problem-solving skill, not just what their dojang currently looks like. This critical space should be used to remind the admissions committee of what they’ve learned through this experience. One way to do this is for the author to think about what they want to demonstrate about themself to their potential future university. What is it that motivated them to solve this problem? How will this same time of problem-solving approach serve them in the future (at college and beyond)? 

 

To bring this essay to the next level, the author should focus on “showing not telling” throughout their essay by including more specific examples in the body paragraphs; then, they should turn their attention to their closing sentence or two.

 

The Revised Essay, Final Draft

 

“Advanced females ages 13 to 14 please proceed to staging with your coaches at this time.” Skittering around the room, eyes wide and pleading, I frantically explained my situation to nearby coaches. The seconds ticked away in my head; every polite refusal increased my desperation.

 

Despair weighed me down. I sank to my knees as a stream of competitors, coaches, and officials flowed around me. My dojang had no coach, and the tournament rules prohibited me from competing without one.

 

Although I wanted to remain strong, doubts began to cloud my mind. I could not help wondering: what was the point of perfecting my skills if I would never even compete? The other members of my team, who had found coaches minutes earlier, attempted to comfort me, but I barely heard their words. They couldn’t understand my despair at being left on the outside, and I never wanted them to understand.

 

Since my first lesson 12 years ago, the members of my dojang have become family. I have watched them grow up, finding my own happiness in theirs. Together, we have honed our kicks, blocks, and strikes. We have pushed one another to aim higher and become better martial artists. Although my dojang had searched for a reliable coach for years, we had not found one. When we attended competitions in the past, my teammates and I had always gotten lucky and found a sympathetic coach. Now, I knew this practice was unsustainable. It would devastate me to see the other members of my dojang in my situation, unable to compete and losing hope as a result. My dojang needed a coach, and I decided it was up to me to find one.

 

I first approached the adults in the dojang – both instructors and members’ parents. However, these attempts only reacquainted me with polite refusals. Everyone I asked told me they couldn’t devote multiple weekends per year to competitions. I soon realized that I would have become the coach myself.

 

At first, the inner workings of tournaments were a mystery to me. To prepare myself for success as a coach, I spent the next year as an official and took coaching classes on the side. I learned everything from motivational strategies to technical, behind-the-scenes components of Taekwondo competitions. Though I emerged with new knowledge and confidence in my capabilities, others did not share this faith.

 

Parents threw me disbelieving looks when they learned that their children’s coach was only a child herself. My self-confidence was my armor, deflecting their surly glances. Every armor is penetrable, however, and as the relentless barrage of doubts pounded my resilience, it began to wear down. I grew unsure of my own abilities.

 

Despite the attack, I refused to give up. When I saw the shining eyes of the youngest students preparing for their first competition, I knew I couldn’t let them down. To quit would be to set them up to be barred from competing like I was. The knowledge that I could solve my dojang’s longtime problem motivated me to overcome my apprehension.

 

Now that my dojang flourishes at competitions, the attacks on me have weakened, but not ended. I may never win the approval of every parent; at times, I am still tormented by doubts, but I find solace in the fact that members of my dojang now only worry about competing to the best of their abilities.

 

Now, as I arrive at a tournament with my students, I close my eyes and remember the past. I visualize the frantic search for a coach and the chaos amongst my teammates as we competed with one another to find coaches before the staging calls for our respective divisions. I open my eyes to the exact opposite scene. Lacking a coach hurt my ability to compete, but I am proud to know that no member of my dojang will have to face that problem again.

 

More Overcoming Challenges Essay Examples

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Learn More About the Common App

 

A User’s Guide to the Common App

How to Write the Common Application Essays

 

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Asia Bradlee
Content Marketer at CollegeVine
Short bio
Asia is a graduate of Tulane University where she studied English and Public Health. She's held multiple writing positions and has experience writing about everything from furniture to higher education to nutrition and exercise.