Furthermore, the line between character-building obstacle and liability is not always clear. A Metro Academic Prep checklist of topics to avoid includes “sex,” “deep confessions” and “sob stories.” But if you take seriously the advice to “recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback or failure” (the second of the new Common Application suggested topics), you might write about a near miss with law enforcement, a bad breakup, or the months of 10th grade you spent in a pot-induced (or to give an example from my own life, “Designing Women”-induced) haze.
I was born with two speech impediments. I was a shy kid, with a crooked smile, who couldn’t pronounce any words correctly. Participating in theatre was the last thing anyone expected of me. Yet I wanted to sway crowds with my voice, make them cry, laugh and shout for joy. I was a terrified 10-year-old the first time I stepped on stage, and equally frightened moments before I finally performed at Lincoln Center. I walked slowly to my position full of fear, but when the spotlight hit my face, there was no trepidation, only a calmness and quiet determination. In that moment all the long hours of struggle fell into place. I had already accomplished what I had set out to do before my final performance. Just being there, having worked as hard as I had, made all the worry dissipate. It was just me and the light.