Need Inspiration for YOUR College Essays? Look No Further!


Grace Lee

The Cube – a resource for seniors in their college application process.

By Staff:  Skyline Student, Class of ‘23

Common Application Prompt #2: 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 year I’ve lived for the Friday night lights, the pre-performance cheer, feeling whole with my team. But, it wasn’t always that way. As a kid I adored watching my older cousin dance. The movements and costumes were mesmerizing and I fell in love with it. I watched her learn all these styles that I desperately wanted to take a shot at but I lacked any confidence to do so. I wanted to compete, I wanted beautiful costumes. It was a dream. And for most of my life, I never took the initiative to make my life the way it should be, to take risks and try the things I’d set my heart on. I was very shy but eventually, I understood I had to change things for myself, that I needed to reach out on my own, and I couldn’t stick to myself forever. It took me a long time. 


In second grade I started my first ‘big kid’ dance class: Irish dance. All the girls were my age but–in my young mind–taller, skinnier, prettier. felt like I could never fit in, I barely talked, tended to stay in my little corner. A little older, I joined jazz. Again, all the girls seemed so much better than me and I was old enough to really care. I was afraid people would hate me. After a few classes, I decided to quit. My mom tried to convince me to stick with it, but no matter what she said, I left anyway. At the recital that year, I wished I had gone through. It hurt to see everyone up on stage, costumes on, performing. All I could do was imagine myself up on that stage. I imagine some tears fell. 


Through the years I continued classes on and off. I began to drag my friends into them with me, feeling more confident with someone I knew well. They hated it. In seventh grade, in a class on my own, I was comfortable and okay. I’d look for the people like me, people who also didn’t have a group and reached out to them. They became the people I made friends with, the reason I could stay. It felt better to stick with someone else who felt the same. It meant I wasn’t the only one. I’d like to think I had the same impact on them as they made on me.


Freshman year was a brand new step in my life. What I remembered most entering the year was how I watched the cheer team for years. I wanted to accomplish one thing younger me dreamed of and join them. When tryouts came around, I thought for days and hours, wondering whether I should try out. Right at the last minute, I chose to stay home. Later they were on the sidelines, cheering and having fun. And I imagined what it would have been like if I had tried out, what I would be feeling dancing on the sidelines with people watching. The regret felt like it was making a hole in my stomach. All I wanted to do was go back in time, rewrite the choice I made. 


The change came once COVID hit. Tryouts for the same team became online, sending in a video submission, not being judged against other people. Remembering how I felt that last year when my regent was the highest, I decided to take the chance.


I took small steps at a time. I learned the dance through the nights, watched the videos a hundred times over in the dark. I didn’t want my parents to watch or to know, only practiced when they were out of the house. I didn’t want anyone to see me try in case I failed. I even waited until the day videos were due to ask my mom if she thought I should join. That’s when she said those famous words, “what’s the worst that could happen.” I agreed. 


Two years later I’m on the team. It’s amazing, having the experience, living that old dream, and most importantly being confident. I reached out more, became friends with everyone, not just those that looked nice. I never wanted anyone to feel like I had for years. We hype eachother up. We are a true team. I feel accepted, included and most of all happy. When I walk onto the field for halftime, when I try a new move at practice, when I reach out to people on my team, I’m no longer so afraid. I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my entire life. I’ve begun to, and will continue to thrive with the confidence I’ve learned to gain. It wasn’t easy but everyday I remember how much I have grown. It makes my heart feel like it is going to burst with pure happiness.