Long before Gabby Douglas flew through her floor exercise and Michael Phelps dominated the pool, admissions directors have been impressed by athletes. From stories about the perfect basket, goal, spike or serve, athletes have wonderful stories that display their endurance, strength, leadership and team skills.
Fascinated by the applicant who used his marathon run as a metaphor for his life, the golfer who detailed her pursuit of the sweet spot, the rower who discussed the harmony of her crew team and the cricket player that detailed his team’s comeback against his arch-rivals, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for athletic achievements.
While over the years I have seen my share of professional, college, high school and Olympic athletes, none impressed me more than a candidate who became an accidental athlete. Diagnosed with morbid obesity and type II diabetes at the age of 16, Sarah had to address her illness immediately or face death. She altered her diet from junk food junkie to vegan. She bought a pair of sneakers and tossed out her television. She limited her computer time to homework, college applications and journaling her transformation. Then she stepped outside. Heckled by kids on her block, she took 15 steps. Out of breath, she returned to the safety of her home. The next day, she took 20 steps. By the end of the month, she walked a mile and by the end of the year, she ran 5 miles. At age 25, Sarah has no signs of diabetes. She runs daily and has completed three triathlons. She is now training for her first iron man.
Sarah’s story resonated with me so much because she demonstrated that you don’t have to be an Olympian to demonstrate tenacity and drive. You can be an average person that does something extraordinary. Go for the gold when you shoot for the basket, kick in a goal, spike a set-up, or serve a ball, and you will have a fantastic essay with enormous appeal for your applications. Moreover, you’ll have a great story to relay to your grandchildren many years from now.
By Natalie Grinblatt Epstein, an accomplished Accepted.com consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.