Hailey Fink – Common App Essay Question #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?
When you are young and exploring the world, you think everyone is on your side. You feel encouraged to pursue any dream you might have, whether it is to become president, a doctor, an astronaut, or a rock star. I’ve always wanted to be an inventor, an engineer, and throughout my childhood, I was encouraged to pursue this passion. As I grew older, I discovered that engineering is not a career that many women pursue. I also become aware that women entering this field face prejudices and stigmas. However, I refused to let these challenges deter me from following my dream.
The pursuit of my chosen career was progressing well until I encountered the first person who doubted my abilities and motivation. In my junior year of high school, I founded a Society of Women Engineers Club in hopes of recruiting and engaging others like me. The club’s first project was to build an electric vehicle and race it in a regional competition. Once the club and car-building project was in motion, a problem arose that I was not expecting. Although one would typically expect encouragement from an advisor, my club was met with skepticism from our advisor. It seemed that he did not believe we could successfully achieve our goal.
This is the first time my dream was challenged. His actions and discouraging comments suggested that he doubted our dedication, skills, and abilities, and we could find no reason for his skepticism other than the fact that we were girls. Didn’t he see how hard had I had worked to recruit members? Couldn’t he see how everyone was working hard and enjoying doing real hands-on work? I feared that the project would be taken away from our club. For the first time, I started to feel powerless and doubted my own abilities. Maybe I should give up. Maybe an engineer was not what I was meant to be, I worried. Despite these new feelings of self-doubt, as president of the club, I took it upon myself to run interference between our advisor and our members, keeping everyone motivated and our build on schedule. The SWE Club worked hard and successfully completed the project.
While finishing the car and racing it was empowering, we still needed to resolve the conflict with our advisor. I decided that we needed to confront him with our grievances before we attempted any new projects. We met with our advisor and discussed how his negative comments were discouraging and tried to assure him that female engineers wanted to be treated no differently than male engineers. We communicated how we thought the club could be more successful with a strong partnership built on mutual respect and teamwork.
While somewhat defensive at first, our advisor was ultimately receptive to our concerns and agreed that the current environment was not conducive to the club’s success. He reluctantly realized that his actions, while not intentional, were impacting the club. In the end, we agreed on a constructive path forward. We were able to show him that female engineers can rise above stereotypes and just be engineers.
Leaving our meeting I felt reinvigorated about the club and myself. I told myself that I would never again let anyone’s preconceptions get in the way of me achieving my personal goals.