Common App Essay: Students succeed in spite of state education policy, not because of it

Common App Prompt #2

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Many obstacles I encountered throughout my education were put there by those whose job it is to support my education, my school, and my community.  The overarching obstacle I have faced is overlooking all the ways my state government has tried to tell me I am failing, my classmates are failing, my teachers are failing, and my school is failing.

I tried finding my favorite English teacher to help me with this essay, but she left teaching for a job outside of education.  She was great.  I had hoped my younger brother would have her.

I’m still trying to figure out who can write recommendation letters for me.  My club advisor from last year moved to teach in another state.  I’m sure she would have written a great recommendation, but I don’t know how to get in touch with her.  My counselor will write one, but her caseload is 350 students even though the national recommendation is 250.

When adjusted for inflation, the state invested more money per student when I started Kindergarten than it currently funds per student in my last year of high school.  We’re still waiting on a bipartisan compromise budget from our state leaders for this school year.  Can we close the per pupil funding gap before I graduate? Or are tax giveaways to corporations and the wealthy an obstacle to making that happen?

“Effective in August 2019, Achievement Levels are reported as shown below.”

Most recently I received a printout of my state math test results (just in time to write my college admission essay!) The letter accompanying the results said that I am not “on track for career and college readiness.”  I guess I should stop writing this essay.

Instead it has offered yet another example of the attempts to say that I am not good enough, my teachers are not good enough, and my school is not good enough.  75% of my peers throughout the state (many now applying to college or preparing for the military or workforce) have now just been told we are not ready. 

Does our state truly believe that based on one Math 3 test score, 75% of us are not ready for college or the workforce? If so, it seems the following policies are in order:

Will per pupil expenditures will be restored to the same level as when I entered Kindergarten?

Will Master’s degree and overall pay improve so teachers stay in the profession long enough to become experienced and mentor incoming teachers?

Will students receive tangible textbooks to take home?

Will 7,400 teaching assistant positions be restored to develop math and literacy skills with people instead of software?

Will more classrooms be built to accommodate smaller class sizes so students and teachers can work together more closely?

Will teachers be valued as experts who create innovative lessons and personalize learning for their students? Or will we continue paying for scripted lessons, software and screens from “education entrepreneurs” motivated by personal profit?

Will there be an end to unfairly labeling students, teachers, and schools as “failing” or “not on track for career and college readiness” as they succeed in spite of state policy and labeling, not because of it?


I guess I’ll have to work to undo those obstacles for those who graduate after me.  I don’t want my younger siblings or my future children to have reason to write this same essay.  See you at the polls.


NC Class of 2020

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