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how to write the overcoming challenges essay

How to Write the “Overcoming Challenges” Essay + Examples

What’s covered:.

  • What is the Overcoming Challenges Essay?
  • Real Overcoming Challenges Essay Prompts
  • How to Choose a Topic
  • Writing Tips

Overcoming Challenges Essay Examples

  • Where to Get Your Essay Edited

While any college essay can be intimidating, the Overcoming Challenges prompt often worries students the most. Those students who’ve been lucky enough not to experience trauma tend to assume they have nothing worth saying. On the other hand, students who’ve overcome larger obstacles may be hesitant to talk about them.

Regardless of your particular circumstances, there are steps you can take to make the essay writing process simpler. Here are our top tips for writing the overcoming challenges essay successfully.

What is the “Overcoming Challenges” Essay?

The overcoming challenges prompt shows up frequently in both main application essays (like the Common App) and supplemental essays. Because supplemental essays allow students to provide schools with additional information, applicants should be sure that the subject matter they choose to write about differs from what’s in their main essay.

Students often assume the overcoming challenges essay requires them to detail past traumas. While you can certainly write about an experience that’s had a profound effect on your life, it’s important to remember that colleges aren’t evaluating students based on the seriousness of the obstacle they overcame.

On the contrary, the goal of this essay is to show admissions officers that you have the intelligence and fortitude to handle any challenges that come your way. After all, college serves as an introduction to adult life, and schools want to know that the students they admit are up to the task. 

Real “Overcoming Challenges” Essay Prompts

To help you understand what the “Overcoming Challenges” essay looks like, here are a couple sample prompts.

Currently, the Common Application asks students to answer the following prompt in 650 words or less:

“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?”

For the past several years, MIT has prompted students to write 200 to 250 words on the following:

“Tell us about the most significant challenge you’ve faced or something important that didn’t go according to plan. How did you manage the situation?”

In both cases, the prompts explicitly ask for your response to the challenge. The event itself isn’t as important as how it pushed you to grow.

How to Choose a Topic for an Essay on Overcoming Challenges

When it comes to finding the best topic for your overcoming challenges essays, there’s no right answer. The word “challenge” is ambiguous and could be used to reference a wide range of situations from prevailing over a bully to getting over your lifelong stage fright to appear in a school musical. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when selecting an essay subject.

1. Avoid trivial or common topics

While there aren’t many hard-and-fast rules for choosing an essay topic, students should avoid overdone topics.

These include:

  • Working hard in a challenging class
  • Overcoming a sports injury
  • Moving schools or immigrating to the US
  • Tragedy (divorce, death, abuse)

Admissions officers have read numerous essays on the subject, so it’s harder for you to stand out (see our full list of cliché college essay topics to avoid ). If events like these were truly formative to you, you can still choose to write about them, but you’ll need to be as personal as possible. 

It’s also ideal if you have a less traditional storyline for a cliché topic; for example, if your sports injury led you to discover a new passion, that would be a more unique story than detailing how you overcame your injury and got back in the game.

Similarly, students may not want to write about an obstacle that admissions committees could perceive as low stakes, such as getting a B on a test, or getting into a small fight with a friend. The goal of this essay is to illustrate how you respond to adversity, so the topic you pick should’ve been at least impactful on your personal growth.

2. Pick challenges that demonstrate qualities you want to highlight

Students often mistakenly assume they need to have experienced exceptional circumstances like poverty, an abusive parent, or cancer to write a good essay. The truth is that the best topics will allow you to highlight specific personal qualities and share more about who you are. The essay should be less about the challenge itself, and more about how you responded to it.

Ask yourself what personality traits you want to emphasize, and see what’s missing in your application. Maybe you want to highlight your adaptability, for example, but that isn’t clearly expressed in your application. In this case, you might write about a challenge that put your adaptability to the test, or shaped you to become more adaptable.

Here are some examples of good topics we’ve seen over the years:

  • Not having a coach for a sports team and becoming one yourself
  • Helping a parent through a serious health issue
  • Trying to get the school track dedicated to a coach
  • Having to switch your Model UN position last-minute

Tips for Writing an Essay About Overcoming Challenges

Once you’ve selected a topic for your essays, it’s time to sit down and write. For best results, make sure your essay focuses on your efforts to tackle an obstacle rather than the problem itself. Additionally, you could avoid essay writing pitfalls by doing the following:

1. Choose an original essay structure

If you want your overcoming challenges essay to attract attention, aim to break away from more traditional structures. Most of these essays start by describing an unsuccessful attempt at a goal and then explain the steps the writer took to master the challenge. 

You can stand out by choosing a challenge you’re still working on overcoming, or focus on a mental or emotional challenge that spans multiple activities or events. For example, you might discuss your fear of public speaking and how that impacted your ability to coach your brother’s Little League team and run for Student Council. 

You can also choose a challenge that can be narrated in the moment, such as being put on the spot to teach a yoga class. These challenges can make particularly engaging essays, as you get to experience the writer’s thoughts and emotions as they unfold.

Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to have succeeded in your goal for this essay. Maybe you ran for an election and lost, or maybe you proposed a measure to the school board that wasn’t passed. It’s still possible to write a strong essay about topics like these as long as you focus on your personal growth. In fact, these may make for even stronger essays since they are more unconventional topics.

2. Focus on the internal

When writing about past experiences, you may be tempted to spend too much time describing specific people and events. With an Overcoming Challenges essay though, the goal is to focus on your thoughts and feelings.

For example, rather than detail all the steps you took to become a better public speaker, use the majority of your essay to describe your mental state as you embarked on the journey to achieving your goals. Were you excited, scared, anxious, or hopeful? Don’t be afraid to let the reader in on your innermost emotions and thoughts during this process.

3. Share what you learned 

An Overcoming Challenges essay should leave the reader with a clear understanding of what you learned on your journey, be it physical, mental, or emotional. There’s no need to explicitly say “this experience taught me X,” but your essay should at least implicitly share any lessons you learned. This can be done through your actions and in-the-moment reflections. Remember that the goal is to show admissions committees why your experiences make you a great candidate for admission. 

Was I no longer the beloved daughter of nature, whisperer of trees? Knee-high rubber boots, camouflage, bug spray—I wore the g arb and perfume of a proud wild woman, yet there I was, hunched over the pathetic pile of stubborn sticks, utterly stumped, on the verge of tears. As a child, I had considered myself a kind of rustic princess, a cradler of spiders and centipedes, who was serenaded by mourning doves and chickadees, who could glide through tick-infested meadows and emerge Lyme-free. I knew the cracks of the earth like the scars on my own rough palms. Yet here I was, ten years later, incapable of performing the most fundamental outdoor task: I could not, for the life of me, start a fire. 

Furiously I rubbed the twigs together—rubbed and rubbed until shreds of skin flaked from my fingers. No smoke. The twigs were too young, too sticky-green; I tossed them away with a shower of curses, and began tearing through the underbrush in search of a more flammable collection. My efforts were fruitless. Livid, I bit a rejected twig, determined to prove that the forest had spurned me, offering only young, wet bones that would never burn. But the wood cracked like carrots between my teeth—old, brittle, and bitter. Roaring and nursing my aching palms, I retreated to the tent, where I sulked and awaited the jeers of my family. 

Rattling their empty worm cans and reeking of fat fish, my brother and cousins swaggered into the campsite. Immediately, they noticed the minor stick massacre by the fire pit and called to me, their deep voices already sharp with contempt. 

“Where’s the fire, Princess Clara?” they taunted. “Having some trouble?” They prodded me with the ends of the chewed branches and, with a few effortless scrapes of wood on rock, sparked a red and roaring flame. My face burned long after I left the fire pit. The camp stank of salmon and shame. 

In the tent, I pondered my failure. Was I so dainty? Was I that incapable? I thought of my hands, how calloused and capable they had been, how tender and smooth they had become. It had been years since I’d kneaded mud between my fingers; instead of scaling a white pine, I’d practiced scales on my piano, my hands softening into those of a musician—fleshy and sensitive. And I’d gotten glasses, having grown horrifically nearsighted; long nights of dim lighting and thick books had done this. I couldn’t remember the last time I had lain down on a hill, barefaced, and seen the stars without having to squint. Crawling along the edge of the tent, a spider confirmed my transformation—he disgusted me, and I felt an overwhelming urge to squash him. 

Yet, I realized I hadn’t really changed—I had only shifted perspective. I still eagerly explored new worlds, but through poems and prose rather than pastures and puddles. I’d grown to prefer the boom of a bass over that of a bullfrog, learned to coax a different kind of fire from wood, having developed a burn for writing rhymes and scrawling hypotheses. 

That night, I stayed up late with my journal and wrote about the spider I had decided not to kill. I had tolerated him just barely, only shrieking when he jumped—it helped to watch him decorate the corners of the tent with his delicate webs, knowing that he couldn’t start fires, either. When the night grew cold and the embers died, my words still smoked—my hands burned from all that scrawling—and even when I fell asleep, the ideas kept sparking—I was on fire, always on fire.

This essay is an excellent example because the writer turns an everyday challenge—starting a fire—into an exploration of her identity. The writer was once “a kind of rustic princess, a cradler of spiders and centipedes,” but has since traded her love of the outdoors for a love of music, writing, and reading. 

The story begins in media res , or in the middle of the action, allowing readers to feel as if we’re there with the writer. One of the essay’s biggest strengths is its use of imagery. We can easily visualize the writer’s childhood and the present day. For instance, she states that she “rubbed and rubbed [the twigs] until shreds of skin flaked from my fingers.”

The writing has an extremely literary quality, particularly with its wordplay. The writer reappropriates words and meanings, and even appeals to the senses: “My face burned long after I left the fire pit. The camp stank of salmon and shame.” She later uses a parallelism to cleverly juxtapose her changed interests: “instead of scaling a white pine, I’d practiced scales on my piano.”

One of the essay’s main areas of improvement is its overemphasis on the “story” and lack of emphasis on the reflection. The second to last paragraph about changing perspective is crucial to the essay, as it ties the anecdote to larger lessons in the writer’s life. She states that she hasn’t changed, but has only shifted perspective. Yet, we don’t get a good sense of where this realization comes from and how it impacts her life going forward. 

The end of the essay offers a satisfying return to the fire imagery, and highlights the writer’s passion—the one thing that has remained constant in her life.

“Getting beat is one thing – it’s part of competing – but I want no part in losing.” Coach Rob Stark’s motto never fails to remind me of his encouragement on early-morning bus rides to track meets around the state. I’ve always appreciated the phrase, but an experience last June helped me understand its more profound, universal meaning.

Stark, as we affectionately call him, has coached track at my high school for 25 years. His care, dedication, and emphasis on developing good character has left an enduring impact on me and hundreds of other students. Not only did he help me discover my talent and love for running, but he also taught me the importance of commitment and discipline and to approach every endeavor with the passion and intensity that I bring to running. When I learned a neighboring high school had dedicated their track to a longtime coach, I felt that Stark deserved similar honors.

Our school district’s board of education indicated they would only dedicate our track to Stark if I could demonstrate that he was extraordinary. I took charge and mobilized my teammates to distribute petitions, reach out to alumni, and compile statistics on the many team and individual champions Stark had coached over the years. We received astounding support, collecting almost 3,000 signatures and pages of endorsements from across the community. With help from my teammates, I presented this evidence to the board.

They didn’t bite. 

Most members argued that dedicating the track was a low priority. Knowing that we had to act quickly to convince them of its importance, I called a team meeting where we drafted a rebuttal for the next board meeting. To my surprise, they chose me to deliver it. I was far from the best public speaker in the group, and I felt nervous about going before the unsympathetic board again. However, at that second meeting, I discovered that I enjoy articulating and arguing for something that I’m passionate about.

Public speaking resembles a cross country race. Walking to the starting line, you have to trust your training and quell your last minute doubts. When the gun fires, you can’t think too hard about anything; your performance has to be instinctual, natural, even relaxed. At the next board meeting, the podium was my starting line. As I walked up to it, familiar butterflies fluttered in my stomach. Instead of the track stretching out in front of me, I faced the vast audience of teachers, board members, and my teammates. I felt my adrenaline build, and reassured myself: I’ve put in the work, my argument is powerful and sound. As the board president told me to introduce myself, I heard, “runners set” in the back of my mind. She finished speaking, and Bang! The brief silence was the gunshot for me to begin. 

The next few minutes blurred together, but when the dust settled, I knew from the board members’ expressions and the audience’s thunderous approval that I had run quite a race. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough; the board voted down our proposal. I was disappointed, but proud of myself, my team, and our collaboration off the track. We stood up for a cause we believed in, and I overcame my worries about being a leader. Although I discovered that changing the status quo through an elected body can be a painstakingly difficult process and requires perseverance, I learned that I enjoy the challenges this effort offers. Last month, one of the school board members joked that I had become a “regular” – I now often show up to meetings to advocate for a variety of causes, including better environmental practices in cafeterias and safer equipment for athletes.

Just as Stark taught me, I worked passionately to achieve my goal. I may have been beaten when I appealed to the board, but I certainly didn’t lose, and that would have made Stark proud.

While the writer didn’t succeed in getting the track dedicated to Coach Stark, their essay is certainly successful in showing their willingness to push themselves and take initiative.

The essay opens with a quote from Coach Stark that later comes full circle at the end of the essay. We learn about Stark’s impact and the motivation for trying to get the track dedicated to him.

One of the biggest areas of improvement in the intro, however, is how the essay tells us Stark’s impact rather than showing us: His care, dedication, and emphasis on developing good character has left an enduring impact on me and hundreds of other students. Not only did he help me discover my talent and love for running, but he also taught me the importance of commitment and discipline and to approach every endeavor with the passion and intensity that I bring to running.

The writer could’ve helped us feel a stronger emotional connection to Stark if they had included examples of Stark’s qualities, rather than explicitly stating them. For example, they could’ve written something like: Stark was the kind of person who would give you gas money if you told him your parents couldn’t afford to pick you up from practice. And he actually did that—several times. At track meets, alumni regularly would come talk to him and tell him how he’d changed their lives. Before Stark, I was ambivalent about running and was on the JV team, but his encouragement motivated me to run longer and harder and eventually make varsity. Because of him, I approach every endeavor with the passion and intensity that I bring to running.

The essay goes on to explain how the writer overcame their apprehension of public speaking, and likens the process of submitting an appeal to the school board to running a race. This metaphor makes the writing more engaging and allows us to feel the student’s emotions.

While the student didn’t ultimately succeed in getting the track dedicated, we learn about their resilience and initiative: I now often show up to meetings to advocate for a variety of causes, including better environmental practices in cafeterias and safer equipment for athletes.

Overall, this essay is well-done. It demonstrates growth despite failing to meet a goal, which is a unique essay structure. The running metaphor and full-circle intro/ending also elevate the writing in this essay.

Where to Get Your Overcoming Challenges Essay Edited

The Overcoming Challenges essay is one of the trickier supplemental prompts, so it’s important to get feedback on your drafts. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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how to write the overcoming challenges essay

How to Write the Overcoming Challenges Essay + Example

April 17, 2023

overcoming challenges essay college

At some point, most college-bound students are tasked with writing an overcoming challenges essay. The prompt crops up in various forms, as a supplemental short essay about overcoming a challenge, and in as the main essay itself.

Some students may feel inclined to write about a dramatic experience (say, spotting a grizzly bear outside the kitchen window), mistaking the drama of the moment for a significant challenge. Others may get to work, only to realize they don’t have much to say about the time they got a C in P.E. (that dreaded frisbee unit). Students who’ve overcome unspeakable difficulties, like a death in the family, may find that reducing the tragedy to 650 words feels insufficient, or worse—as if they’re attempting to profit from suffering. One or two students may stare down the blank computer screen as their entire existence shrinks to the size of a 12-point font. Should they write about the challenge of writing about the challenge of writing an overcoming challenges essay??

Don’t worry. Focusing first on how to tackle the essay will help any student decide what they should write about. In fact, how the essay is written will also prove more influential than the challenge itself in determining the strength of the essay.

Decoding the Prompt

Let’s take a look at the overcoming challenges essay question included among the seven 2023-24 Common App Essay Prompts :

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?

Notice how the prompt places an immediate emphasis on the “lessons we take,” rather than on the obstacles themselves, or any potential success. This is because the challenge itself often says less about the student than the way the student chose to tackle it, or the way they now reflect on it. In other words, obstacles often come at us randomly; it’s our personal response to the circumstances which reveals something of who we are.

While studying a prompt for clues, it’s helpful to think from the perspective of the admissions officer (the essay reader). What can they glean from an overcoming challenges essay?  A lot, actually. A thoughtfully written essay may tell them about the student’s personality, as well as things like problem-solving techniques, rigor, persistence, creativity, and courage. These insights can work to prove to the admissions officers that the student has what it takes to overcome challenges in college, too. These future challenges may range from the inevitable academic obstacles that occur with heavy courseloads, to social and moral challenges that arise as college students form their adult identities.

Picking Your Topic: A Brainstorming Activity

With the question of identity in mind, let’s now approach the overcoming challenges essay backwards, by brainstorming the final message the student wants it to contain.

For this three-part exercise, the student will first set a five-minute timer. With the clock ticking, they’ll jot down character traits, values, and any descriptive words or terms that say something about who they are. If stumped, change perspective. The student may imagine what their best friends, parents, coaches and siblings would say. (For example, tenacious , logical , scientific , peacemaker .) Even mild criticism can be helpful, as long as it’s not cruel. While a student’s brother may call him a “perfectionist,” perhaps this word will trigger other relevant words, like persistent and detail-oriented.

Next, the student will set the timer for another five minutes, pull out a second sheet of paper, and jot down any challenges, obstacles, setbacks, failures, and achievements that come to mind. Don’t hold back here or overanalyze. (For example: underdog at state swim meet , getting lost on the family hike , petitioning for a school compost system …)

Lastly, the student will place the two pages side by side, and draw lines between the items on the list wherever connections occur. One student may draw lines between persistent , curious , gamer , passionate about electronics , and saved the day during the power outage. Another set of lines might connect caring, observant, creative thinker , and helped sister leave abusive cult . Whatever ideas are sparked here, the goal is to identify which challenges will demonstrate something essential about the student to an admissions officer.

Topics to Avoid

The internet is rife with advice on what not to write when writing an overcoming challenges essay. Yet this advice can be confusing, or downright hypocritical. For instance, some may advise against writing about death. Yet a student who lost their father at an early age may be capable of writing a poignant essay about their search for an alternative father figure, and how they found one in their soccer coach.

I suggest avoiding guides on what not to write until after the student has done a thorough round of brainstorming. Otherwise, they risk censoring themselves too early, and may reject a promising idea. Once they’ve narrowed down their list to three ideas or less, they may want to check our guide on College Application Essay Topics to Avoid .

The reason why certain types of overcoming challenges essays miss the mark is that they emphasize the wrong aspect of the experience, which turns the topic into a cliché. While it’s generally a good idea to avoid trivial topics (again, that C in P.E.), any topic has the potential to be compelling, if it’s animated through personal opinions, insight, and description. Details bring an experience to life. Structure and reflection make an essay convincing. In other words, how the story is told will determine whether or not the topic is worth writing about.

So, rather than avoid specific topics, consider avoiding these scenarios: if you can’t show the essay to your best friend or grandmother, it’s probably not ready to show a college admissions officer. If you must write a clichéd topic, don’t choose a typical structure.

Techniques to Hone

Techniques that animate an overcoming challenges essay are the same ones used in storytelling. Think setting, visuals, sounds, dialogue, physical sensations, and feelings. “Showing” instead of “telling.” Crafting the essay with these inner and external details will bring the challenge to life, and catch the reader’s attention.

Another technique which works well when trying to avoid the trappings of cliché involve subverting the reader’s expectations. In storytelling terms, this is a plot twist. The student who got a C in P.E. may actually have a stellar essay on their hands, if they can break away from the “bad grade” trope (working harder to improve their grade). Perhaps this student’s story is actually about how, while sitting on the bleachers and not participating in the game, they found themselves watching the frisbee spin through the air, and realized they had a deep interest in the movement of astronomical bodies.

Some of the strongest overcoming challenges essays demonstrate what students have learned about themselves, rather than what they’ve learned about the obstacle they confronted. These essays may show how the student has come to see themselves differently, or how they’ve decided to change, thanks to the challenge they faced. These essays work because the reflection is natural and even profound, based on the student’s self-awareness.

Writing the Overcoming Challenges Essay, or Drafts, Drafts, Drafts

Everyone writes differently, some by outlining (never a bad idea), some by free-styling (good for capturing sensations and memories), some by lighting a candle—but don’t procrastinate too much. The only “must” is to revise. After a first draft, the student should begin to look for several things:

1) Clarity and Detail. Is the challenge recounted with precision? Is it personal?

2) Structure. Consider mapping the structure, to visualize it better. Does the structure suit the story? Can it be changed for clarity, or to keep the reader more engaged?

3) Cliché. Identify words, sentences, and ideas that are dull or repetitive. Mark them up, and in the next draft, find ways to rewrite, subvert, condense, and delete.

4) Lesson Learned. Has the student reflected adequately on the lesson they learned from overcoming a challenge? To add more reflection, students might ask themselves what they have felt and thought about the experience since. Would they do something differently, if faced with the same challenge? Has their understanding of the experience evolved over time?

By the final draft, the experience and the reflection should feel equally weighted. To get there, it may take five or six drafts.

Overcoming Challenges Essay Sample

The Happiness Hotline

First there were reports. Then we were told to stop socializing, go inside, wait. Covid struck. Everyone knows what ensued. It probably looked different from where we were all (separately) standing, even though we faced the same thing. Those first weeks, I stood at my bedroom window. It was dark by early evening in Oregon. The weirdest part—after the fact that we were collectively sharing the loneliest experience of our lives—was the silence.

… it was really quiet.

So quiet, I could hear my mom sigh downstairs. (So quiet, I couldn’t remember if I’d hummed aloud, or if I’d just heard myself in my head.) When I looked out the window, I could hear the stoplight at the end of our street. Green to yellow. Click.

Before going on, you should know three things. First, this is not a Covid essay. This is about melancholy, and the “sadness that has taken on lightness,” to quote Italo Calvino. Second, from my bedroom window, I can see down a row of oak trees, past the hospital, to my friend Carlo’s house. Third, Carlo is a jazz singer. Maybe that sounds pretentious, a freshman kid being a jazz singer, but that’s Carlo, and I wouldn’t be me without Carlo being Carlo. He’s someone who appreciates the unhinged rhythm of a Charlie Parker tune. He’s an extrovert who can bring introverts like me out of my shell. He convinced me to learn trombone, and together we riff in the after-school jazz club.

In the first month of the pandemic, we called each other nightly to talk rap albums, school stuff. At Carlo’s house, he could hear a white-crowned sparrow. He could also hear his parents talking numbers behind the bathroom door. The death toll was mounting. The cost of living was going up too. As the month wore on, I began to hear something else in our calls, in the way Carlo paused, or forgot what he was saying. Carlo was scared. He felt sad, isolated, and without his bright energy, I too, felt utterly alone.

Overcoming Challenges Essay Sample (Continued)

After some dark days, I realized that to help ourselves we needed to help others. It was pretty obvious the more I thought about it. People are social creatures, supposedly, even introverts. Maybe our neighbors needed to remember the noisiness of life.

We built a happiness hotline. That sounds fancy, though essentially, we provided three-way calls on my parents’ landline. The harder part involved making flyers and putting them up around town, in places people were still going. Grocery stores, the post office. We made a TikTok account, and then—the phone rang. Our first caller.

For months, if you called in, you could talk to us about your days in lockdown. People went really deep about the meaning of life, and we had to learn on the spot how to respond. I’d become a journalist and a therapist before becoming a sophomore. After chatting, the caller would request a song, and if we knew how to play it, we would. If not, we improvised.

Now we’re seniors in high school. Carlo visits the hospital with band members. As for myself, I’ve been working on a community music book, compiling our callers’ favorite tunes. I don’t want to forget how important it felt to make these connections. Our callers taught me that loneliness is a bit like a virus, a bit like a song. Even when it stops it can come back to haunt you, as a new variant or an old refrain. Still, sadness can take on lightness when voices call through the dark: sparrows, friends, strangers. I learned I’m good at listening into the silence. Listening isn’t only a passive stance, but an open line of receiving.

Analysis of the Overcoming Challenges Essay Sample

This student uses their musical passion to infuse the essay with vivid detail. There’s a focus on sound throughout, from the bird to the stoplight. Then there are the callers, and the clever way the student conceived of breaking through the silence. The narrator’s voice sharpens the piece further, elevating a clichéd Covid essay to a personal story of self-discovery.

In fact, the essay briefly breaks with structure to tell the reader that this is not a Covid essay. Although techniques like this should be used sparingly, it works here by grabbing the reader’s attention. It also allows the student to organize their thoughts on the page, before moving the plot along.

Outwardly, the student is overcoming the challenge of loneliness in a time of quarantine. Yet there seems to be an inner, unspoken challenge as well, that of coming to terms with the student’s introverted personality. The essay’s reflection occurs in the final paragraph, making the essay experience-heavy. However, clues woven throughout point to the reflection that will come. Details like the Italo Calvino quote hint at the later understanding of how to alleviate loneliness. While some readers might prefer more development, the various themes are threaded throughout, which makes for a satisfying ending.

A Last Word on the Short Essay About Overcoming Challenges

The short essay about overcoming a challenge requires the same steps as a longer one. To write it, follow the same brainstorming activity, then focus more on condensing and summarizing the experience. Students who’ve already written a longer overcoming challenges essay can approach the short essay about overcoming a challenge by streamlining. Instead of deleting all the extra bits, keep two interesting details that will flavor the essay with something memorable and unique.

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Kaylen Baker

With a BA in Literary Studies from Middlebury College, an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University, and a Master’s in Translation from Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, Kaylen has been working with students on their writing for over five years. Previously, Kaylen taught a fiction course for high school students as part of Columbia Artists/Teachers, and served as an English Language Assistant for the French National Department of Education. Kaylen is an experienced writer/translator whose work has been featured in Los Angeles Review, Hybrid, San Francisco Bay Guardian, France Today, and Honolulu Weekly, among others.

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Blog: How to Write an Overcoming Challenges College Essay

Updated: Dec 29, 2022

how to write the overcoming challenges essay

As deadlines and deadlines creep up on us this year, you might be thinking to yourself: my biggest challenge is college application season. And you’re not wrong nor alone in that feeling; applying to universities is indeed a massive undertaking. When you’re confronted by a question like, “What is the biggest challenge that you’ve overcome?” it’s easy to start spiraling out—what if my biggest challenge isn’t significant enough? What if I haven’t overcome any challenges?

No fear, Cassandra’s here with 4 tips on how to write this challenging essay.

1. Don’t Look for “Big,” Look for Authentic

Some of the best “challenge” essays I’ve read are about the smaller moments in life, like not landing a dream role in a school musical or conquering stage fright. Your topic doesn’t have to be grandiose or somber or life-altering in order for this to be a good essay. In fact, if you try to force your essay into something that it’s not, your admissions officer will be able to see through that quickly; inauthenticity is the last thing you want in your essays.

Your officers know that everyone’s lives are different; what might be a huge challenge for one person might not be challenging for another, and that’s okay. What’s important here is that you choose a topic or story that you genuinely felt like was challenging to you. Forget about the scope—let’s just make it authentic to you and your voice.

Specificity is key. Even if you’re choosing a “cliche” topic, for example, challenges in the sports world, you can still make this essay sing by putting in details only you could’ve written. Everybody’s point of view is unique. Describe your situation/world in a way that has your fingerprints and lens on it.

how to write the overcoming challenges essay

2. Show the Struggle AND the Victory

Remember that you are telling a story with a beginning, middle and end. I like to think of it as a classic plot structure for a movie or a book. Take a look at this chart above

. See how much of the struggle or the rising action takes up? Ideally, your essay should aim for 70% struggle, 10% turning point, and 20% celebration/lessons learned. Paint us a picture of the blood, sweat and tears you went through. Let us feel the difficulty of this challenge. You might think that these details are too insignificant but if you spend time showing and not telling us the story, we’re right there in the trenches with you. We’ll empathize with you every step of the way.

A turning point in the essay is important. Often, I find that it might be an epiphany, a realization that something’s not quite working in your initial approach to overcoming a challenge. Once you write that in, this will logically and naturally propel us to the last 20%, which is showcasing the New You: what do you look like after overcoming this challenge? Have you emerged from this difficulty stronger? Braver? More equipped? Don’t tell us that, SHOW us. If you had shaky hands at the beginning before taking your first hang gliding lesson, end on an image of steady hands guiding the glider through the skies. And don’t forget to give us a taste of that sweet victory celebration too. In the same way we feel your struggle, we also want to feel your euphoria and glee at overcoming the struggle.

3. Avoid Summary

The biggest mistake I see students make is including a conclusion paragraph that neatly summarizes all the lessons learned from overcoming this challenge. Why is that a mistake? It’s a waste of real estate. If you did your job correctly, that is, SHOW and not TELL us a story of your struggle, we should implicitly understand the lessons that you’ve absorbed and how you’re a better, different person now.

It’s good that you wrote the summary/conclusion paragraph—now copy and paste it into a new document as a lamppost for your next draft. Make sure your essay reflects it; if you’re struggling to meet a word count, hold up every sentence to this lamppost and ask yourself, “does this help achieve what I want my readers to implicitly take away?”

4. Don’t Forget to Answer The Question

Some essay questions ask for more than just telling us a time where you overcame a challenge. It might ask you to make a connection to your academics and what you hope to study in the future; it might ask you to draw a line between what you overcame and how you plan to contribute to student life on their campus. Whatever it may be, make sure you answer ALL parts of the question!

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Overcoming Obstacles: Using the ‘Challenge You’ve Faced’ Essay Prompt to Your Advantage

During college admission, one common essay question in Oxbridge admissions tests and various other admission tests is, “Describe a significant challenge you have faced and how you overcame it.” Although this topic can initially appear difficult, it offers candidates a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate their resiliency, problem-solving skills, and personal development. But don’t worry!

In this blog article, we’ll discuss how to write a strong response to the essay topic, “challenge you’ve faced,” and we’ll provide insightful tips on making your struggle into an engaging story. After reading this blog, you’ll have the skills required to use this essay as a chance to highlight your special traits and make an impact on admissions committee members.

Before going ahead, as a university admissions consultant, we want you to know why universities would be interested in learning about your challenges. What is their motive?

Reasons Why College Admission Essays Would be Interested in Knowing the Challenge You’ve Faced

College admission essays frequently ask about the challenges you have endured due to the fact that they offer insightful information about your character, resiliency, and capacity to overcome problems. Admissions counsellors are curious about your personal development and coping mechanisms.

Going deep, here are the reasons why college application essays include topics to know your challenges:

Resilience: Admissions committee members want to know that you have the perseverance and resolve needed to thrive in college and beyond.

To show them, you can demonstrate your ability to endure and overcome trying circumstances by outlining your difficulties.

Manifesting Personal Growth: The admission committee is interested because overcoming obstacles frequently results in personal development. Sharing your experiences might show that you have the ability to reflect on yourself and show how you have changed as a person. It enables admissions assessors to comprehend how you have become stronger as a result of your challenges.

To Know How You Stand Out from the Crowd: Applications for college admissions are very competitive, and many candidates have good grades and test results. When you talk about your struggles, it gives you a special chance to separate from the crowd. It enables the university to know your uniqueness and show admissions authorities what makes you special and relevant by sharing a personal story.

Examining Problem-solving Abilities: Colleges are looking for applicants who can successfully navigate and resolve issues. They want to know your capacity for problem-solving, inventiveness, and critical thinking by outlining your difficulties. This aids admissions personnel in determining your capacity to enhance their academic community.

Assessing Self-awareness: University counsellors want to determine how self-aware and emotionally intelligent you are by reflecting on challenges. Colleges seek applicants who are aware of their own advantages and disadvantages as well as how they relate to others. Sharing your life experiences and the lessons you’ve gained can reveal your maturity and self-awareness.

Predict Future Success: Admissions officials frequently utilise prior performance as a sign of future success when making decisions about applicants. Making a strong case for your capacity to overcome hurdles in the collegiate setting can be accomplished by demonstrating how you have previously managed difficulties. This can inspire universities to believe in your ability to succeed in your academic endeavours.

So, consider your progress and the lessons you acquired while writing about problems in your college admissions essay rather than concentrating on the difficulties. Focus on the good results and attributes that have emerged as a consequence of the obstacles and frame them as chances for growth.

Also Read: Unveiling the hidden gems: how to approach unique college essay prompts

How Can You Overcome Obstacles: Using the ‘Challenge You’ve Faced’ Essay Prompt to Your Advantage?

In college application essays, overcoming challenges is a popular subject, so it’s critical to wisely approach the “Challenge You’ve Faced” essay prompt. Here are some tips on how to make the most of this prompt and highlight your development and resiliency as a person:

#Select the Appropriate Challenge

Select a challenge that has greatly influenced your life and is relevant to you. A personal, academic, or extracurricular challenge might be the cause. Make sure the task is significant enough to show off your character and capacity to overcome hardship.

#Provide Background and Context

To start your essay, give the required background and context. Describe the nature of the difficulty, why it was important to you personally, and how it affected you. This provides context for the reader and aids them in seeing the seriousness of the issue.

#Share Your First Impression

Describe how you responded to the problem at first. Did you experience feelings of apprehension, defeat, or a lack of direction? During that period, be open and honest about your feelings and opinions. This makes it easier for the reader to comprehend how the difficulty first affected you.

#Mention Your Actions and Strategies

After describing your original response, include the steps you followed to remedy the problem. Talk about the tactics, methods to fixing problems, or coping techniques you used. Draw attention to your inventiveness, imagination, and tenacity in coming up with answers or methods to get around the issue.

#Showcase Your Personal Growth

This section of the essay is vital; reflect on your personal development. Consider how the difficulty has changed you as a person. Talk about the knowledge you gained, the abilities you acquired, or the insights you attained as a result of conquering the challenge. Did it help you develop your resiliency, persistence, flexibility, or empathy? Show how this event helped you grow personally and how it changed you.

#Highlight the Positives

Be sure to highlight the advantages of taking up the challenge. Did you develop new skills, enhance connections, reach a goal, or learn more about yourself? Talk about the material or intangible advantages brought about by your tenacity and resolve. This indicates your capacity to seize opportunities out of adversity.

#Link to Your Long-term Objectives

Connect your experience conquering the obstacle to your next hopes and goals. Describe how the knowledge and abilities you have gained will help you in college and beyond. Talk about how this encounter has influenced your morals, profession, or desire to improve the world. Prove to the admissions officials that you can use the resiliency you displayed to overcome any future difficulties you may have.

#Present Your Writing Skills

Showcase your writing abilities by paying attention to your writing style, punctuation, structure, and the essay’s substance. Use colourful language, captivating narrative tactics, and a simple framework to capture the reader. Make sure your essay is error-free and successfully communicates your point by proofreading and revising it.

Remember that the goal to succeed in Oxbridge admissions or any other admissions is to emphasise the benefits that resulted from the difficulty and frame it as an opportunity for personal growth. Admissions counsellors are curious about your ability to overcome obstacles, grow from experiences, and persevere. Writing a captivating essay may show you are resilient, mature, and prepared for college.

Also Read: The dos and don’ts of writing a standout college admissions essay

Examples of Such Essay Prompts

Here is an example of a college essay question that demands you discuss challenges and how you overcame them:

“Describe a significant hardship or obstacle you have faced in your life. How did you confront and overcome it? What did you learn from this experience, and how has it shaped you as an individual?”

  Essay Answer:

I can clearly remember the heartbreaking day my family learned of my father’s cancer diagnosis. We were surprised and terrified as the word resonated across the space. Our lives were abruptly flipped upside down, and the difficulties we encountered felt insurmountable. But this struggle turned into a turning point that put my fortitude to the test, gave me priceless life lessons, and helped me become the person I am today.

I had to stand strong for my family while we dealt with my father’s illness. I assumed obligations that were above my years, helping with housework, scheduling appointments, and offering emotional support. It was difficult to juggle my academic obligations with my newly acquired duties, but I refused to let my situation define who I was. I turned to my passion for studying for comfort, utilising it as a way to manage my emotions and keep things in perspective.

A mindset change was necessary to overcome this adversity. I chose to concentrate on our happy and grateful times rather than dwell on the bad. I came to understand how crucial it is to treasure each special moment and look for the positive aspects of even the most trying circumstances. With this new perspective, I was able to develop resilience because I approached each obstacle with tenacity and a firm conviction that we could conquer it.

My father’s sickness taught me the value of compassion and empathy. Seeing his fortitude and bravery in the face of suffering motivated me to be compassionate to those going through similar struggles. I started a support group at my school to offer a secure environment for kids going through various difficulties. My grasp of the human experience has grown due to this event, and I now desire to guide people through their own difficulties.

The journey we went on together as a family taught me the importance of harmony and unwavering love. In the course of supporting one another through the highs and lows of the treatment process, we developed an unbreakable friendship. My mother became my pillar of strength, exhibiting unflinching fortitude and giving me the conviction that love and support could overcome even the most difficult challenges.

This struggle has completely changed who I am. I’ve come out with a greater capacity for empathy, a fortitude that helps me move ahead, and a profound understanding of how fleeting life is. Additionally, having personally seen the positive effects of caring and committed professionals on the lives of patients and their families has strengthened my desire to pursue a career in healthcare.

This well-written essay answer shows how the student encountered a huge challenge, overcame it with tenacity and persistence, gained important lessons, and was moulded by the encounter. It demonstrates the growth and development that resulted from conquering the challenge by incorporating personal tales, thoughts, and a link to future objectives. When replying to a similar prompt, keep in mind that your essay should reflect your individual experiences and writing style.

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how to write the overcoming challenges essay


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How to Write a Personal Challenge Essay (with Examples)

carolina Hermes

A personal challenge essay offers a singular chance for introspection and personal development. It gives you a chance to consider your past, face difficulties, and demonstrate your tenacity. This essay structure enables you to communicate your ideas and experiences with others, regardless of whether you’ve overcome hardship, dealt with a tricky circumstance, or chased an audacious goal. You’ll walk you through the phases of writing an engaging personal challenge essay in this in-depth guide, complete with samples that demonstrate the procedure.

Understanding the Personal Challenge Essay

The Personal challenges in life as a student essay asks you to describe an instance or time in your life when you had to overcome challenges, setbacks, or barriers. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your resilience, your capacity to face adversity, and the lessons you’ve picked up along the road. This kind of article necessitates reflection, sincerity, and skillful narrative.

Selecting a Meaningful Challenge

It’s important to pick the correct challenge to write about. Think about Personal challenges in life as a student essay that profoundly influenced your development, principles, or attitude on life. It can have been an obstacle you overcame in your studies, relationships, sense of self, or any other area of your life. The task should have personal significance for you and provide information that your audience can relate to.

Structuring Your Personal Challenge Essay

To effectively portray your experiences, feelings, and growth, writing an engaging personal challenge essay involves careful thought and a well-organized format. The following steps will show you how to organize your essay such that it presents a logical and interesting story:


Beginning your essay with an attention-grabbing hook that draws the reader in and highlights the topic of the difficulty you’ll be exploring is a good idea. This might be a provocative inquiry, a moving saying, a detailed account, or a first-hand account associated with your issue.

Background & Context:

Make sure the reader has all the background knowledge they need to comprehend your dilemma. Describe the context, surroundings, and any other pertinent information that establishes the scene for your narrative. Additionally, you have the choice to ask for assistance from PhD thesis writing help if you run into difficulties when writing the background and context of your thesis or dissertation or if you are unsure owing to a lack of experience. They can offer helpful assistance to improve the caliber of your work.

The Challenge:

Describe the challenge in detail in a portion of your essay. When describing the challenges, difficulties, or setbacks you encountered, be descriptive and in-depth.

Your Reaction and Result:

Write about how you responded to the challenge in this part. What steps have you taken? Did you make crucial decisions, prepare a plan, or ask for assistance? Be sure to emphasize your ability to solve problems, tenacity, and any other traits that may have helped you overcome the obstacle.

Growth and Reflection:

Consider the encounter and share what you took away from it. What effects did the challenge have on your emotions, mind, and possibly even body? What new understandings did you get about who you are, your values, or your outlook on life? Describe how you overcame the obstacle to grow personally, discover yourself, or alter your perspective.

Takeaways & Lessons:

The exact lessons you took away from overcoming the obstacle should be highlighted. What priceless knowledge, abilities, or traits did you acquire as a result? Describe how these teachings have shaped your current behavior, choices, or attitude in life.


Writing a compelling conclusion that connects everything can help you to conclude your essay. Write a summary of your shared journey, highlighting your personal development and new perspectives.

Include a Call to Action (Optional):

Depending on the nature of your issue, you might want to include a call to action that prompts the reader to reflect on their own issues, take action, or adopt a particular attitude.

After you’ve finished writing the essay, take some time to review and make any necessary changes. Check that the grammar, spelling, and punctuation in your writing are correct, as well as the flow.

Maintain You’re Authentic Voice Throughout the Essay:

While it’s crucial to follow a structured methodology, don’t forget to preserve your authentic voice. Remain sincere, honest, and personal in your writing. Your unique perspective and emotions will lend greater authenticity to your writing and make it more compelling. By adhering to the instructions outlined in this comprehensive guide, you’ll effectively organize your personal challenge essay. This approach will skillfully lead your readers through your journey, captivating their attention and leaving a memorable impression. Furthermore, if you find it challenging to maintain a systematic approach, consider seeking assistance from master thesis writing help. Their expertise can aid you in completing your work with precision and coherence.

Don’ts and Dos

Be upfront and honest when discussing your experiences. Do emphasize your development and lessons acquired. To keep the reader’s attention, employ colorful language and descriptions. Don’t make up or embellish details. Instead of blaming others for the difficulty, concentrate on your solution. Choose a challenge that had a significant influence rather than one that was inconsequential.

Examples of Personal Challenge Essays

Following are the Personal challenge essay examples:

Overcoming Academic Challenges:

Navigating the challenges we face in life essay can be a transformative journey that leads to personal growth and self-discovery. A prime example of this is when I confronted a series of academic setbacks. I realized that my ingrained fear of failing was standing in the way of my development. I, however, resisted allowing this fear to direct my course. I started a quest for self-improvement with pure tenacity. I reached out for guidance and support, shedding light on the power of seeking assistance when needed.

Overcoming Fear:

For instance, I had always been terrified of public speaking, but I had to face my phobia to present in front of a large crowd. I overcame my anxiety about public speaking over time with practice and confidence, and I also acquired speaking abilities that I still use today.

Dealing with Personal Loss:

Losing a loved one was a difficult emotional experience that altered my outlook on relationships and life. I learned the value of cherishing moments and helping others in need through my grief and contemplation.

Examples of challenges you have overcome as a student essay

I have encountered a range of challenges as a student, which has pushed my perseverance, adaptability, and resilience to the test. Even though they occasionally proved to be challenging, these obstacles ultimately helped me become a better and more capable individual. Here are a few instances of obstacles I overcame in my academic career:

Time Management Challenges:

Juggling schoolwork, assignments, extracurricular activities, and personal obligations can be difficult. There were times when I struggled to adequately manage my time, which resulted in missed deadlines and frustration. To overcome this difficulty, I started adopting time management strategies like making a thorough calendar, establishing priorities, and breaking work down into smaller, more manageable pieces. I became more organized about my obligations over time, which led to increased productivity and decreased stress. Furthermore, many students pursuing careers in the medical field face similarly demanding schedules that make it challenging to meet deadlines. In such cases, they often turn to nursing research paper writing services to ensure the quality and timeliness of their assignments.

Academic Setbacks:

It was demoralizing to experience academic setbacks, such as earning lower grades than expected. I decided to take advantage of these setbacks as chances for improvement rather than giving in to self-doubt. I requested input from my lecturers, made note of my weaknesses, and put focused study techniques into practice. I was able to improve my academic performance and regain my confidence by persevering and being willing to learn from my failures.

Language Barrier:

Navigating English as a second language introduced a unique set of challenges, especially in terms of effective communication and the completion of writing assignments. In essays and presentations, I often encountered hurdles in articulating my thoughts coherently and concisely. To overcome this hurdle, I actively expanded my vocabulary, engaged in consistent reading and writing exercises, and actively sought input from peers and professors. Furthermore, this drive to enhance my linguistic abilities not only improved my communication skills but also bolstered my confidence in expressing myself in academic and professional settings. My determination to conquer these language-related challenges demonstrates my commitment to growth and adaptability, qualities that I believe would make me a strong candidate for the Harvard Scholarship Essay .

Dynamics of Group Projects:

Due to the various work habits, schedules, and perspectives held by the group members, collaborative projects have occasionally proven to be difficult. I adopted efficient communication techniques, such as active listening and open discussion, to handle these circumstances. By praising each team member’s abilities and accomplishments, I helped to create a more effective and pleasant working atmosphere.

Personal Well-Being and Health:

It can be difficult to maintain a good balance between your personal needs and your academic obligations. I have occasionally overlooked my needs, which has resulted in burnout and a decline in drive. I gave exercise, wholesome eating, and regular breaks top priority since I understood how important self-care was. This all-encompassing strategy not only increased my general well-being but also sharpened my attention and increased my output. These examples collectively constitute my challenges in life as a student essay. They serve as valuable lessons that offer insights on how to navigate and overcome various situations.

How to Revise and Improve Your Essay

For instance, if you are given a topic such as “Essay on Environmental Problems and Their Solutions” and you’re not well-versed in it, it’s advisable to invest time in research. This will enable you to create quality content for your essay. After writing your personal challenge essay, it’s essential to engage in the editing and revision process. Ensure that your essay flows logically and that your ideas are well-organized. Edit for clarity, grammar, and punctuation. If you’re seeking a comprehensive perspective, consider seeking feedback from peers, professors, or mentors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Final thoughts.

Writing a personal challenge essay offers you the chance to share your unique journey and inspire others through your resilience and progress you can create an engaging tale that engrosses your readers by choosing a pertinent challenge, using a solid essay structure, and remaining honest. It’s crucial to remember that your essay about a personal issue demonstrates both your capacity for self-reflection and personal development in addition to your capacity for overcoming challenges. For those who face challenges in managing their academic tasks, there are online homework writing services available that can provide valuable assistance and support.

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Essays About Challenges: Top 11 Examples and Prompts

We come across many challenges we must endure throughout life. If you want to write essays about challenges, start by reading some of our top essay examples.

Everyone has had to deal with obstacles or challenges at some point. Some people can overcome hurdles with confidence and bravery, while many others have difficulty trying to face them. However, the challenges we have faced are, without a doubt, a central part of who we are today. Overcoming challenges can make you a better person. The lessons you learn from them are essential for future success, and as with all other experiences, these challenges help form you into the person you are today. They can also be exciting to some, as they test your skills and capabilities. 

If you are writing essays about challenges, look at our featured essay examples below. 

1. Personal Challenges by Delores Goodwin

2. life’s struggles make us stronger – and happier – if we let them by helen g. rousseau, 3. how to overcome your challenges with openness and courage by tony fahkry.

  • 4.  ​​Life: full of challenges by Vaibhav Jain

5. Challenges Facing Public Schools by Lewis Rios

1. challenges i have faced, 2. lessons learned from challenges, 3. how to change your attitude towards challenge, 4. helping others overcome challenges and adversity, 5. challenges faced in your home country, 6. challenges the world currently faces.

“A challenge will tell an individual more about themselves than anything else in life. Am I a quitter? How much adversity can I take? How badly do I want this? What is my breaking point? Where does my loyalty end? Challenge can ask us hundreds of questions and forces us to answer honestly. Challenges end the talk and make one walk the walk. Create challenges for yourself, it will cause you to see who you really are.”

Challenges are a necessity of life despite the hardship and stress they come with, and Goodwin discusses this in her essay. A great accomplishment cannot be made without a challenge. Without challenges, one becomes complacent, so we must keep facing challenges to keep us mentally and physically strong. Goodwin encourages readers to challenge themselves more to help them delve deeper into who they are. For more, check out these essays about life challenges .

“Every human being has been in this place at one time or another. Sometimes depression can make it more difficult to get away from the edge but any spark of light or encouragement should be used to seek help physically, emotionally or spiritually. When we face a crisis, it effects the all of who we are and thus must be met with our total beings.”

Rousseau reflects on overcoming adversity, recalling when she met with two former coworkers. They talked about their lives, families, and struggles during lunch. They could bond over their shared positive, confident mindset, allowing them to overcome challenges. Rousseau clarifies that if you put your mind to it, you can overcome anything and closes her essay with two of her poems about resilience. 

“Instead of running away from your emotions, lean into them and experience them fully. This transforms your fears and anxiety into empowering emotions. Let go of what you believe life owes you. It owes you nothing since you are the expression of life. Rise to your challenges armed with courage and an open mind. Remain confident that your experiences are serving your personal growth.”

Fahkry explains how to face challenges without stress and suffering. He reminds us that, first of all, we have free will, so we do not have to feel the way we do if we put our minds to it. We cannot change our reality once it is already there, so feeling sad or angry for prolonged periods is useless. If we change our mindsets for the better, we can overcome all adversity. Our fear and anxiety can be turned into confidence, empowerment, and courage. Check out these essays about competition .

4.  ​​ Life: full of challenges by Vaibhav Jain

“A person who has not encountered difficulties in life can never achieve success. Difficulties test the courage, patience, perseverance, and true character of a human being. Adversity and hardships make a person strong and ready to face the challenges of life with equanimity. There is no doubt that there can be no gain without pain. It is only when one toils and sweats it out that success is nourished and sustained.”

In his short essay, Jain writes about the wonders of life as well as its challenges. He likens life to a bed of roses, complete with painful thorns. In general, life is good, but adversity and challenges are prevalent. These two concepts seem different, but one cannot exist without the other. As with the previous essays, Jain explains that challenges make us stronger and help us feel successful and relieved: “there can be no gain without pain.” Without challenges, we take the better parts of life for granted; if we accept and overcome our struggles, we can live life to the fullest.

“In conclusion, public educational institutions experience many challenges ranging from budgetary constraints, student violence and low parental involvement. Much research needs to be done to establish why these problems exist in the first place and lasting solutions for these institutions.”

Rios’ essay explores challenges in an education system; he proposes research on the constraints of the U.S. public school system. Public schools face several economic and social challenges, such as insufficient funding and lack of parental involvement due to many students’ working-class backgrounds. Rios wishes for more research on these problems and possible solutions. 

Writing Prompts On Essays about Challenges

In this essay, write about a challenge you previously encountered and how you dealt with it. Provide context by describing the events leading up to it, how it happened, and, most importantly, how you overcame it. Then, describe how you felt after- were you relieved, stressed, or tired? You can also discuss how this experience has affected you today. 

Challenges can teach us a lot about life and the world. Reflect on a challenge you faced previously and what you learned from it, whether positive or negative. As with the previous prompt, feel free to include ways in which the lesson you learned affects you today. 

How can you best handle the challenges you may face? Describe the ideal attitude one would need to overcome complex challenges. For example, what qualities would you need to have- courage, prudence, or sensibility? Regardless of what type of attitude you choose to write about, your essay will be substantive if you can adequately support your argument. 

Essays about Challenges: Helping others overcome challenges and adversity

In your essay, you can write about a time you were able to help someone facing a challenge. Who did you help- a friend, family member, or someone else? Then, write about how you helped them, how it made you feel, and how it has impacted your life. 

Research one particular challenge your country is facing today, whether that be an economic, social, or political issue. Discuss how this challenge occurred and what began the difficulties. If applicable, include multiple viewpoints on the issue and include information from credible sources. You can also propose possible solutions to this issue. 

Humanity faces challenges on a massive scale, from a climate change crisis to possible third world war to a global pandemic. Choose one challenge the world faces today and write your essay about it. As with the previous prompt, write about the causes and responses to this challenge, and feel free to propose a solution. 

Check out our guide packed full of transition words for essays .

ProWritingAid is one of our top grammar checkers. Find out why in this ProWritingAid review .

how to write the overcoming challenges essay

Martin is an avid writer specializing in editing and proofreading. He also enjoys literary analysis and writing about food and travel.

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Essay Samples on Overcoming Challenges

Navigating life's roller coaster: the ups and downs.

Life is a journey filled with twists and turns, peaks and valleys, moments of triumph and challenges that test our resilience. The ebb and flow of experiences—the ups and downs—shape the tapestry of our lives. This essay delves into the profound significance of embracing both...

  • Overcoming Challenges

How to Overcome Challenges in Life: Becoming Stronger

Life is a journey filled with ups and downs, triumphs and setbacks. Throughout our lives, we inevitably encounter various challenges that test our resilience and determination. Overcoming these challenges requires a combination of mindset, strategies, and support. This essay explores effective ways how to overcome...

  • Overcoming Obstacles

Overcoming Obstacles and Challenging Situations on the Way to Passion

July 8, 2013, is a day that I will never forget. At approximately 1:15 p.m., a 911 dispatcher's frantic voice came over my radio: 'Medic 908, emergency response for a one-month-old not breathing.' My partner and I rushed to the ambulance and then to the...

Overcoming Adversity: A Challenge That Makes You Grow as a Person

Adversity is life’s hardships or misfortunes. Almost everyone will face adversity several times in their lives. It will either bring the best out of you or the worst. It is up to us to decide that. There are different types of adversity, such as financial...

Challenges Of Overcoming Bulimia

In the vicinity of the world, 4.7 million females and 1.5 million males have their lives dangered by bulimia, a potentially deadly disorder, which has been distinguished in patients as young as six years old (Ouellette). Bulimia gives a flawed feeling of “self-esteem, competence, and...

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Best topics on Overcoming Challenges

1. Navigating Life’s Roller Coaster: The Ups and Downs

2. How to Overcome Challenges in Life: Becoming Stronger

3. Overcoming Obstacles and Challenging Situations on the Way to Passion

4. Overcoming Adversity: A Challenge That Makes You Grow as a Person

5. Challenges Of Overcoming Bulimia

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how to write the overcoming challenges essay

July 18, 2018

How to Write About Overcoming Challenges Without Sounding Like a Whiner

Download our free guide and start writing your best essay yet!

It’s a classic MBA essay question : Write about a time when you overcame a challenge. How did you handle it? What did you learn from the experience?

Let’s start by easing one worry you may have. Not everyone has faced a significant challenge at work by the time they apply for an MBA. If that is your situation, think of another significant challenge you have faced in another realm: a community or volunteer organization, the military, or perhaps even a difficult personal situation . It’s important that the challenge be something in the recent past – preferably within the last two or three years. If the challenge you write about is farther back than that, it will need to have that much greater impact or significance.

What makes a good “challenge” for the purpose of this essay? The possibilities are almost limitless, but here are a few strong examples:

•  “Joe’s” boss informed him he was going to fire “Freddy,” a new-hire Joe had been mentoring, for poor performance. Joe believed in Freddy’s technical skills, and felt Freddy’s shyness and lack of English fluency had hurt him. Joe took it upon himself to try to help save Freddy’s job. He convinced his boss to give Freddy another chance, and coached him after-hours, directed him to a language fluency program, and engaged in role playing to help Freddy gain confidence. Freddy began to thrive, kept his job, and became the go-to guy in his department for certain technical knowledge.

At no time did Joe complain about his boss or call him unreasonable or insensitive. At no time did Joe play the martyr, patting himself on the back about the extra steps he was taking to work with Freddy. He just stated the facts about what he did , which spoke for themselves.

•  Here’s another example. “Lori” joined a community service organization whose membership was plummeting. Lori believed in the organization’s goals, volunteered to spearhead a membership drive, which was successful, and then ran for president of the organization and won. Then, she worked to create more dynamic programming, a social media presence, and added appealing incentives for people joining or renewing membership.

Joe made a huge impact on one man, and by extension, an impact on his organization. Lori also was able to show direct and tangible impact on her group. Neither Joe nor Lori made themselves out to be heroes by describing their exhaustion because of long hours spent on their respective “projects.” They didn’t pat themselves on the back for the contributions they made. They simply stated the circumstances, why they believed in their mission, and related what they did to fix what was wrong around them. Presenting their stories in a “just the facts, Ma’m” manner make Lori and Joe sound like exciting management material: filled with vision, creativity, incentive, and energy. And it is succinct.

•  Let’s look at one final example. “Gary” had written a marketing plan to boost awareness and fundraising at the non-profit where he worked. His CEO at first approved his plan, then suddenly nixed it, replacing it with his own plan. Gary was sure the CEO’s plan was not viable. It lacked a marketing budget yet had lofty target goals for fundraising. The CEO gave Gary six months to achieve these goals.

Now that’s a challenge.

When Gary couldn’t get the CEO to reconsider, he appealed to others in the organization who had the CEO’s ear. Fortunately, they were willing to speak to the CEO, who then agreed to Gary’s original plan. Now, based on the first few examples we’ve seen, you will already have guessed that in this case, Gary did not complain about the CEO, call him short-sighted or stingy. He did offer some explanations for why the CEO might have seen the situation as he did, but nothing pejorative was written.

Gary’s workaround to his challenging situation showed boldness, initiative, and perseverance. At no time did he complain about the added workload of having to unravel this situation, or make himself sound like he had saved the day.

Let’s recap: A strong “challenge” example will allow you to show direct impact on either your organization or another individual. Ideally, it will be something that happened in the last two or three years, unless it was a monumental achievement. Finally, do not cast blame on others who may have helped create the problem/challenge in the first place, and do not sound like a martyr in describing the efforts (no matter how great) you made to get the job done. Simple, direct writing about the challenge will make it abundantly clear that you have the initiative, problem solving, communications, and organizational skills a good MBA program looks for.

From Example to Exemplary - Download your guide today!

By Judy Gruen, former Accepted admissions consultant. Judy holds a Master’s in Journalism from Northwestern University. She is the co-author of Accepted’s first full-length book,  MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools .  Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!

Related Resources:

•  The Quick Guide to Admissions Resumes •  Writing About Overcoming Obstacles in Your Application Essays •  3 Tips for Showing Strengths in Your Application Essays

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Home — Essay Samples — Life — Life Experiences — Overcoming Challenges

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Essays on Overcoming Challenges

Prompt examples for "overcoming challenges" essays, personal growth through adversity.

Share a personal experience in which you faced a significant challenge or adversity. Describe the impact it had on your personal growth, the lessons you learned, and how it changed your perspective on life.

The Role of Resilience

Discuss the concept of resilience in the face of challenges. How do individuals develop and demonstrate resilience, and what role does it play in overcoming difficult situations?

Overcoming Academic Obstacles

Explore the challenges students often encounter in their academic journeys. Describe a specific academic hurdle you faced, how you addressed it, and the strategies you used to succeed in your studies.

Challenges in the Workplace

Discuss challenges that individuals may encounter in their professional careers. Share a personal or professional experience in which you faced a workplace obstacle and describe how you navigated it to achieve success.

Health and Wellness Journey

Reflect on a health-related challenge, whether it's a physical ailment, mental health issue, or lifestyle change. Describe the steps you took to address this challenge, improve your well-being, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Overcoming Adversity in Sports

Discuss how athletes often face physical and mental challenges in their sports careers. Share a personal or sports-related story in which you or someone you know overcame adversity in athletics, highlighting the determination and perseverance required.

Challenges in Relationships

Explore the challenges that can arise in personal relationships, such as friendships, family dynamics, or romantic partnerships. Share a personal experience or case study, detailing how communication and resilience played a role in overcoming relationship challenges.

Obstacles in Pursuit of Goals

Describe a specific goal or dream you have pursued and the obstacles you encountered along the way. Explain the strategies you employed to overcome these obstacles and achieve your objectives.

Contributions to Community

Discuss how individuals can overcome challenges to make positive contributions to their communities. Share a personal or community-based initiative you were involved in that addressed a significant challenge or issue.

Lessons from Adversity

Reflect on the life lessons you have learned from overcoming challenges. How have these experiences shaped your values, beliefs, and approach to future obstacles?

Practical Solutions for Financial, Health, and Social Issues

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Important Choices that Changed My Life

Effective way of overcoming adversity, the time i took a risk and its effect on me, review of lizzie velasquez’ ted talk, my expectations and challenges in trying to become a brain surgeon, helen keller: victories over disabilities, a view of attaining prosperity by overcoming obstacles as described in an inspirational speech, how blackboard programs can be used, seabiscuit: how an underdog became a champion, the benefits of going into the unknown, immigrant experience and challenges, personal reflection: overcoming fear and growing as a person, the role of discipline in achieving success, johnny cade obstacles, how to overcome struggles in life: lessons from thomas hardy, lewis and clark challenges, how to overcome struggles in life: bravery in the hate u give, overcoming adversity: the key to personal growth and success, turning challenges into opportunities: a path to growt, hardships in my life, relevant topics.

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