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  • Writer's pictureIvy Essay Guild

The Age-Old Prompt

The second essay prompt says:

"The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?"

This is the age-old personal statement prompt, and it’s all too easy to answer it without scratching the surface of your depth. Most students answer this prompt with an essay that recounts a struggle they overcame with great exertion. Admissions officers, however, have read that essay several thousand times, so what about a different approach? Have you faced any setback or failure that had NO RESOLUTION? How did that change you?


Admissions officers want to read essays that reflect maturity, creativity, self-awareness and a fun-loving nature. You want to make them feel like they’re missing out for not being your classmate. Essays that impress in the traditional sense - “I am awesome because I work hard and get results!” - are unappealing, but essays that show how self-aware you are through failure hit the mark.


So show your true colors, not a heroic avatar!


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