Taking the High Dive

Common App: Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you

I was finally there. After months of anticipation, the stucco buildings, green lawns, and Spanish moss of the Magic Square came into sight. Excited students and nervous parents (there were so many!) were already in the parking lot, unloading the necessities of dorm life. I stepped out of the car and was instantly blasted with a heat wave. This was Valdosta, GA, where the gnats rule supreme and the humidity and temperature tip triple digits. For six weeks I was with seven hundred other high school juniors and seniors at the annual Georgia Governor’s Honors Program (GHP). I spent my summer majoring in chemistry and minoring in social studies, but the time after class held the true magic for me. Like any memorable experience, it had its rough spots. The meals ascended from cafeteria hell itself: wilted lettuce, leftover lasagna, and of course the infamous “tater tot surprise” graced our tables. And then there was the problem of sleep. My roommate shared my love for TIME magazine and Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate, transforming lights out into hours of whispering from under the covers of our rock-hard beds. At seminars I learned how to waltz, swing, salsa, and tango, practicing the steps with an invisible partner at night, much to my roommate’s amusement. Cooling off in the lobby between classes, my foosball-addicted mind imagined that the blue and yellow plastic men called my name. And being an involved GHPer who wanted to meet as many people as possible, I invited complete strangers to my game, initiating conversations rather than waiting to be approached. Don’t misunderstand me-I wasn’t the socially awkward child who handles people about as gracefully as a toddler handles an ice-cream cone, but whereas previously I took my time getting to know people, GHP was on a faster wave. So for me to be one with my environment, I transformed from the quietly confident girl who didn’t rush to make her appearance known to the outgoing girl who could hang out with people she’d met the day before as easily as with old friends. But the outdoor Saturday night dances held my biggest GHP experience as I shed my inhibitions for good. It started with scrambling to put together costumes for the theme, one time resorting to construction paper for “coconut” bras as a hula girl, another time borrowing bright eye make-up for a fab 80s rocker outfit, or once even planning ahead so I was the coolest Leonardo the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. By the time I stepped into the mass of bodies, I was ready to let loose, forgetting how unnatural I used to feel at school dances. There in the humid nights that always soaked through my clothes, I took the center of dance circles and showed off my moves to the music of Usher, Shakira, and, of course, Britney Spears. GHP was my dive off the high-board into a foreign pool, and I’ve emerged from the splash ready for the challenges of the next four years. So watch out Tar Heels, I’m coming to explore your waters.

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