Common App Essay- Central Story

Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

It happened out of sheer stubbornness. Seemingly overnight, I went from being a cross country runner to the girl on crutches. I thought it was just a cramp. All runners have them from time to time, no big deal, right? I stopped running, stretched (big mistake), and ran through it (bigger mistake). The day after, I took my time warming up. My coach, noticing my discomfort, approached me, but I shrugged it off. Still, the discomfort persisted. I paced myself and repeated “keep going, the pain is in your head” as a mantra to myself. The next day I couldn’t even make it past the first mile. I had ignored my coach’s suggestion to take it easy; I was fine, why give up? I didn’t want to seem weak, and I didn’t want to be the first one to stop running. I was pigheadedly intent on finishing my 3 miles.

A few X-Rays and MRI scans later proved that the pain was not in my head after all. A torn tendon and several fissures in my femur were the cause for my discomfort—cue the crutches. My Hispanic and ever hyperbolizing mother enforced the doctor’s orders to the letter: no physical effort, no activity. To complain about meals in bed, full nights of sleep, and less time spent in school-related activities seems odd for a teenager. When those things also mean being confined to the parameters of an 11 x 13 ft. room on a bed for the greater part of every day, however, those complaints start to make sense. My routine was totally thrown off, and I felt as though my life was thrown in disarray. From 3 to 5 PM every day I could no longer attend club meetings or practice with my teammates. Instead, I either went home or to the doctor’s office for physical therapy. I asked the club sponsors to fill me in via e-mail about what happened at the meetings, but it wasn’t the same as actively participating. Most of them told me not to worry, to take it easy and then get back to being involved when I was well. I missed the feeling of being useful and quickly became frustrated with my newfound idleness.

Helping out with my family’s garden restoration project was no longer going to be possible, because there would be too much heavy lifting and moving around involved. Our usual monthly beach cleanups were out of the question, too. Most of the events that I am involved in involve physical activity, which was precisely what I could no longer do. I did not want to “take it easy;” I wanted to do something. I was bent on being engaged and participating in something, so I started to do some research and found an organization,, made up of 2.4 million young people. The organization has a series of campaigns that run at all times simultaneously, many of which are creative and possible to plan and carry out in the confines of an 11 x 13 foot room (with a little help).

I signed up online, talked to a club sponsor, and launched a chapter in my high school via our Key Club. The other members of Key Club quickly became excited about the campaign and the service drive ideas that I shared with them. My personal favorite was a school-wide awareness campaign I co-headed to inform people about the dangers of distracted driving, complete with police officers as guest speakers and info-graphics designed by me. In the past year, we have collected over 200 cell phones to be refurbished for victims of domestic abuse, designed 5 boxes full of birthday cards for homeless teens, and been a part of the largest ever national peanut butter drive to fight hunger. My stubbornness put me in crutches, but that same persistence to not “take it easy” helped spur me to make a difference in peoples’ lives. I know that this same persistence will motivate me to find my next cause and have a much greater impact in the future, in college and beyond.

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