Before you know it fall sports, marching band and play practice will be starting again. If you are a rising high school senior, summer is the perfect time to jumpstart the college essay. Not sure how to get started? Consider writing about a passion, personal growth, leaving your comfort zone or facing a new challenge. Whatever your topic share an authentic story only you can tell. Once your story is complete ask yourself, “Does this say something new about me that can’t be found anywhere else in the application?”
Need a little inspiration to get started? Here’s my story (in under 650 words)!
I have a fear of heights. Not a paralyzing dread that prevents me from being inside tall buildings, traveling in large commercial airplanes or even riding the ski lift. Instead, it’s the kind of anxiety that sometimes holds me back from trying new things too high up off the ground without a safety bar or a secure enclosure. It’s an irrational trepidation but a fear just the same.
Last week I traveled to Missouri to tour eight colleges from Kansas City to St. Louis with 24 other college counselors. Each school was unique in size, academic offerings and admission competitiveness. Our last stop was St. Louis University. It’s a medium-sized Jesuit university with a beautifully enclosed city campus. Aviation is one of its standout programs. (It’s the only U.S. Jesuit university with an aviation program.)
During our visit we were given the unique option to either fly the aviation simulator with one of SLU’s instructors or fly in a four-seater plane with a University flight instructor as our pilot. For me the choice was easy. I was very comfortable on the ground in the flight simulator. The simulator was a new experience for me and it gave me a new respect for pilots’ expertise. After I left the pilot seat, I waited for my colleagues who opted to take the ten-minute scenic ride of St. Louis.
The first group came back into the training facility with wide grins and glowing reports. I must admit I was a little jealous. Before the last group was ready to go for their ride, our hosts, SLU Admissions Counselors Dan and Heather, asked us if anyone had changed their mind and wanted to go for a ride. I guess my face must have shown some interest, because they both asked me if I was sure I didn’t want to go up. I hesitated, but then told them that I was afraid of small planes. They both assured me that it was safe and then they described their exhilarating first small plane ride experiences.
I thought about it for a couple of minutes. What was holding me back? I had been in airplanes countless times before. The plane was regulated by federal safety standards. The weather was great for flying: clear with barely any wind. Before I knew it I heard myself saying, “I’ll do it,” and I was climbing into a small plane with another college counselor.
Our pilot was a 2014 graduate of SLU, and he gave us a step-by-step narrative of what was going to happen. Once the door was shut, he described his every move. My heart began to race a little faster and my hands began to sweat. Within a few short minutes we were up and flying, and much to my surprise I was beginning to relax. It felt a little less steady than a commercial plane and every turn felt a more deliberate. At the same time, there was an unfamiliar quiet and a gliding sensation I never felt in a commercial airplane. The unobstructed views of the St. Louis Arch and the cityscape were amazing. The ten minutes soared by, and before I knew it our pilot was ready to land the plane. I knew this would be the most nerve-racking part for me. But, once again our young pilot told us what was going to happen before it happened. And he stuck the landing like the pro he is. When I stepped out of the plane I couldn’t help but text my family right away to tell them about my amazing 10-minute experience.
I still have a fear of heights. That hasn’t disappeared. But if I’m ever offered the opportunity to take a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, a volcano or glacier I won’t dismiss it immediately like I’ve done before. I just might take a chance and go for it.
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