Wherin I Share a College Essay

Good morning, beautiful people! For those of you living in the Northern Virginia area, I hope you are enjoying the lovely snow as much as I am. For those of you who don’t have the joy of experiencing the white fluffiness, I hope this picture makes you realize what you’re missing 🙂


I have always loved snow. As I get older, that love hasn’t wavered. I don’t enjoy playing out in the snow as much – too cold and wet – but I do enjoy watching it as much as I used too. Snow makes life seem more innocent and bright. And snow gives us busy people a chance to stop, breathe, and reflect. In this case, the snow has afforded my family with a few extra days to rest. The flu has run its course through each of us four kids, and we are still suffering from the aftershocks. Can my cough and stuffy nose and fatigue just go away? Pleeeasse??

As most of you know, the college application process is behind me. Good riddance. But I must admit, I didn’t mind writing college essays all that much. For one thing, I love to write. I love writing assignments (most of them). And I love writing for a specific audience. Put those things together, and you get college admissions essays! While some were definitely more enjoyable than others, there are two in particular that I was especially pleased with the outcome. For times like this, when I don’t have anything to write about, I’m going to post them here for your reading pleasure.

To start with, my William & Mary essay. The prompt? “Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful? We know that nobody fits neatly into 500 words or less, but you can provide us with some suggestion of the type of person you are. Anything goes! Inspire us, impress us, or just make us laugh.”

Here goes!

W. E. Hickson was a Liar

I wait. The ocean rolls under me, threatening to thwart my balance. Anticipation bubbles up but slowly fizzles as nervousness wafts into my stomach. I watch the waves in front of me. I hear, “Here comes a good one,” as I flip around to face the shore. I start paddling through the water. Salt spray. All I can see. Roar of waves. All I can hear. But then, piercing through the roar, “Arriba!” I cautiously push myself up on the board. I see nothing but ocean. I hear nothing but my own thoughts. I start to feel myself falling forward. Instinctively, I overcompensate and fall backward, the ocean closing over me.

Today is my first surfing lesson. I had been begging my dad to allow me to try for years. Finally, the summer before my senior year, he agreed. The instructor, Art Mcmurtrey, just happened to be walking down the beach the day before. And he just happened to have an opening the next day, during the time of year when he is booked for weeks straight.

I had convinced my brother to try surfing with me. After all, who wants to fail alone? That was my first mistake. Not the brother part. The trying part.

As I fall into the ocean again and again, I begin to become discouraged.  I optimistically think,  “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” And if my failing wasn’t bad enough, I watch my brother score a 30mph ride for about 20 feet. Art can’t stop talking about it.

I get back on the surfboard. “Arriba!”

I push.

I stand.

I slip.

Again, I climb past the breakers. I get back on the surfboard. I wait. “Here comes a good one.” I flip around.

Thoughts swirl around in my mind. You’ve always wanted to try surfing. You can’t let your brother better you. Phebe, you can do this. That last thought in the forefront of my mind, I start paddling through the water, each stroke attempting to drive deeper than the one before. Salt spray. All I can see. You can do this. All I can hear. “Arriba!” As if on cue, I draw my arms to my chest and push myself up to stand. I stare straight forward. I bend my knees and sit back on my left leg. Holding my arms out wide, adrenaline courses through my body. Everything disappears as I focus on the thrill. Joy. All I can feel.

I ride.

I soar.

I surf.

Walking back to the beach cottage with Art, I excitedly tell him, “Thank you! I’ve always wanted to try surfing!” He looks me in the eye. “Phebe, you didn’t just try surfing, you surfed. Never tell yourself you’re going to try something; tell yourself you’re going to do it.” I suddenly realized the truth. W. E. Hickson had lied to me. That simple poem I memorized in elementary school convinced me that trying was success, when, in fact, a mindset of trying is a set up for failure. For when I told myself I could do it, then I truly surfed.


5 thoughts on “Wherin I Share a College Essay

    • Yes, do it! You won’t regret it 🙂 It was a fun prompt, but sometimes those can be challenging, because there is so much room left to interpretation. In this case, though, SCORE 🙂

      • I am pleased to have helped you Phebe. Good to know that you listened to what I had to say about life itself. With this type of attitude you will go as far as you wish in life. Arriba ! Art McMurtey

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