Common Application essay #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? (Max. 650 words)

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Ever since I cut my hair, stole my father’s armor, and rode away in a rainstorm in the middle of the night, things in the army hadn’t exactly been easy. The men in my battalion were violent and rude, and I thought about giving up many times. But in the end, the numerous obstacles I faced, which were definitely not the major plot points in the hit 1998 animated feature film Mulan, never kept me from achieving my goals.

During our grueling preparation, which definitely did not take place in the form of a training montage backed by the rousing anthem “I’ll Make a Man out of You,” which PopSugar ranked as the 19th Catchiest Disney Song, beating out “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” from Frozen, me and my fellow soldiers were met with many challenges. For example, we had to climb a very tall pole to retrieve an arrow. While doing it, we had to wear heavy weights on our arms. At first, all of us failed at the task. But I worked hard to build my strength and endurance, and unlike the other soldiers, I also used my wits. At the end of training, I was able to climb all the way to the top of the pole. I didn’t let my earlier failures stop me.

This fortitude of character sure came in handy when we came face to face with the enemy: the Huns. These menacing villains, who definitely were not the main antagonists in the Disney film Mulan directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook, were ruthless soldiers who only had one goal: to defeat the Chinese army. Luckily, I, too, only had one goal: to defeat them.

Thanks to my quick thinking, I was able to aim a gunpowder rocket at a mountain outcropping, causing an avalanche that buried the Huns and caused some very dangerous and treacherous terrain. This heroic act, which definitely did not take place over a soundtrack composed by Jerry Goldsmith that was nominated for the 1999 Academy Award for Best Original Score, won me many accolades and great respect from my fellow soldiers, who had now become my friends. Little did I know, however, trouble was brewing on the horizon.

It turns out that in the heat of the battle, I had become gravely injured. I passed out, and when I woke up, it became clear that my secret identity as a woman had been discovered. This unlikely revelation was absolutely not the main dramatic turning point in the critically acclaimed feature film Mulan starring Lea Salonga and Eddie Murphy, and unfortunately caused my new friends to lose their trust in me.

At that point, I was all alone; I had been kicked out of the army, and everyone had abandoned me. I almost lost hope, and planned to return home.

Fortunately, this was not the case. I realized that some of the Huns had survived the avalanche and planned to continue their attack on the Emperor. Horrified, I remembered my duty to help my country and bring honor to my family, and instead of letting my difficult situation get me down, I decided to persevere.

Certainly, this moment of great strength and determination was not featured in the film Mulan which grossed $22.8 million at the box office in its opening weekend, but nonetheless this moment taught me that even a steep failure can lead to great success. I rushed to the Imperial City just in time to save the day! My experiences, and definitely not the fictional experiences of the title character from the popular 1998 animated movie Mulan, prove that no matter the setbacks you face in life, it’s important to never give up.