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USC - Sample Admissions Essay (Reflect on a Challenge)

People like to quote Thomas Edison as an inspiration, especially regarding persistence. As he has famously said, "If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward." Edison is a remarkable individual, probably the greatest inventor of all time, and he succeeded because he never gave up in his task. However, Edison inspires me in another way that is more personal. I have learnt that when he was fifteen he lost a good deal of his hearing in an accident. I have gone through a similar experience, having been diagnosed with Sudden Hearing Loss. The illness forced me to withdraw from the Spring Semester in school. After six months of therapy I managed to recover 40% hearing in my left ear, but I still suffered from serious bouts of tinnitus. The illness has left me with many difficulties and inconvenience in my daily life. I need to carefully avoid loud places, and due to hearing difficulties I find it hard to carry on normal conversation.

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At first, the illness was a devastating blow to my confidence. To think that I must lead the rest of my life with a serious handicap was disheartening to say the least. I have always been a moderate achiever in school, but more than my grades it was my persistence that I prized most. My family has always expected high from me, and the last thing in the world I wanted was to disappoint them. I knew my persistence would pay off one day. But then the illness struck and suddenly I began to doubt myself. Sitting at home under medication, I began to feel both worthless and helpless. I even began to wonder whether I would ever get my studies back on track, or fulfill the dreams that I had chalked out since I was small.

Not able to suffer the tedium at home any longer, I decided to do some voluntary work. Yan Chai is one of the largest charity organizations in Hong Kong. I joined this organization in the summer of that year helping elderly people with disabilities. After working two months in this organization I suddenly began to see my own disability in a different light. Among the elderly people I worked with I saw many examples of hardship that made my own look quite insignificant. Yet the lust for life in these elderly people was remarkable and eye-opening. The example of Mr. Lee stands out for me. He was 82 years old and wheelchair bound. He had so many ailments that it would be difficult to relate them all. The medication I brought him each morning was like a box of colored candy. Yet his first thought every morning was that he must somehow get to his chess table. He always lost to Mr. Ding, but he was focused on only one thing, which was to beat his opponent one day.

Apart from the lessons in persistence I learnt from the people in the elderly home, I was also surprised by my own persistence. I was determined not to allow my days out of school to go to waste. I had not only learnt something valuable doing voluntary work, but I had also gained something positive to put down in my CV. When I returned to school in the Fall I was even more determined to succeed in my studies. I thought, if I let my handicap hold me back it would be like refusing to face the first major challenge in my life. I know that there will be many more challenges to come, and I must overcome each one of them if I have to succeed in life. Edison was handicapped in the same way than I am, and yet he gave so much to the world. If I persist like Edison then each failure will only be like another step forward. At the same time I hope to be a role model for others who have suffered similar misfortunes, maybe my fellow students at college. In this way I am confident that I will be a good candidate to your college.