Scholarships

Common Essay Topic: Describe a Time When You Experienced Failure. How Did That Failure Impact You?

Common Essay Topic: Describe a Time When You Experienced Failure. How Did That Failure Impact You?
Common Essay Topic: Describe a Time When You Experienced Failure. How Did That Failure Impact You?

Failure is part of life. What’s important (and what the committee is looking for) is the way in which you handled the failure. (Spoiler alert! This is going to be the real heart of your essay).

The scholarship committee wants to know how the failure impacted you and what you learned from the experience. This is your opportunity to show how you deal with failure and respond to challenges.

Dealing with failures in a constructive manner and growing from them are key ingredients to succeeding in college. 

How to Write a Great Answer

After you understand the essay question, it’s time to start planning what you are actually going to write.

We suggest starting by brainstorming. Write down failures that you’ve experienced in life. Not sure where to start? Think about ‘failures’ that happened in school, during extracurricular activities, or even with family and friends. 

Once you have a list of ‘failures’ think about which one with an outcome you are most proud of. Why are you proud of it? If that failure was in school, did you end up working harder and ace the class? If it was in an extracurricular activity, did you show good sportsmanship? If it was with family or friends, did you end communication well and come out stronger on the other side? 

The first step in the process is to look for ‘failures’ with silver linings. Think of it not about getting knocked down but how you evaluated the situation and got up stronger than ever. 

What Failure Should You Write About? 

If you can help it, try not to write about failing a test or losing a sports game. These are some of the most common experiences that students write about. Remember, thousands of other students will write about the same topics. Your essay should be about an experience that you and only you had.

If you absolutely can’t come up with something else, at least make the experience sound unique and meaningful. Failing a test can be meaningful if it changes your perspective or your approach to studying. But, if it didn’t have such an impact on you, you’ll want to choose another experience to write about. 

Meaningful does not mean a grand failure. You don’t need to burn your house down or get expelled from school. Failures come in many shapes and sizes. You just need to show the failure impacted you and taught you an important lesson. 

To sum things up, the exact failure that you experienced is less critical in your essay. What’s more important is to show how you rose up from the failure and grew from the experience. 

Some Final Tips Before Our Sample Essay

  • Don’t write an essay that’s overly sad. The focus should be more about taking responsibility, learning, and less about self-pity. The scholarship committee wants to see how you took weaknesses and turned them into strengths. How did this experience impact you moving forward? How did you grow? 
  • Like all scholarship essays, you’ll want to engage your readers from the very beginning. Your introduction should grab their attention with a good hook and make them want to continue reading. Good hooks can include personal stories, rhetorical questions, misconceptions, or stating an overly strong opinion.  
  • To prevent sounding like other students, use a lot of details throughout your essay. This helps differentiate you from other students and single you out from the crowd. It also helps readers envision being in your shoes. 

Sample Essay Example

I’ll never forget watching Nastia Liukin win gold in the 2008 Olympics when I was four years old, thinking that’s going to be me one day. I had been doing gymnastics for a year, and despite my small size, I had big dreams and every intention of achieving them.

I excelled quickly at the sport and invested a lot of hours at the gym. High school came along and I continued to train vigorously. Practice, school, practice, school, like I was on a hamster wheel with no ability to stop. It wasn’t until I had to miss my first school dance that I realized what a toll the sport had taken on my body and my mental health. 

I was forced to make a decision I never thought I’d make. I chose to leave my sport at my prime, despite that it had been my world for as long as I had known. 

I realized that I was no longer that little girl with the big dream. I was becoming a young adult, with new dreams and aspirations. I allowed myself a period of mourning and then got to work. I got involved with the school journal, something that I had been itching to do for the first two years of high school but didn’t have the time for it. 

Joining the school journal has allowed me to discover my love for writing. This year, I am even the president of the club! I cannot wait to take my new skills and passion for college, where I plan to study journalism. 

I have learned that sometimes life goes very differently than originally planned. But, that doesn’t mean it’s time to throw in the towel. I may not be as strong as I used to be physically, but mentally, I’m stronger and more excited than ever before. 

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