Something Shifted: A Transformational Essay


It all started with an essay that would cause me to choose English as my major in college. There was a regional “Education Essay Contest” when I was in ninth grade, but my lack of confidence was so palpable that I almost chose not to enter. Thankfully my admiration for my teacher trumped my doubts about my writing capability; knowing the essay was not a mandatory assignment or extra credit, as Ms. Carroll noted, I volunteered on a whim to try to make her proud.

As a disorganized student, I had forgotten my response paper when I entered my Advanced English class, and my teacher had a rule where you cannot retrieve homework from your lockers so I essentially received zero for that assignment. Traces of disappointment were apparent in her eyes. Then she briefly mentioned the essay contest, and I ended up volunteering with slight hesitation because I did not feel capable of winning. There was only one other person among my peers who decided to enter and about ten in the other class she said, shocked at the low turnout.

My peers and I were only told about the essay two days in advance, but Ms. Carroll’s insistence helped because I almost gave up when I struggled on the first day to find inspiration. I was baffled about where to even begin; I felt that I was out of ideas when I spent the following day, brainstorming for about three hours with little progress. However, my teacher gently said that she had already given my name to the English Department head, implying that I would have to follow through with my submission. The second day, I scrambled to write a polished essay.

For the contest, I chose to research people who changed the course of history with their remarkable inventions, placing an emphasis on the younger generation who changed the lives of many generations after them such as Louis Braille. He made it possible for the visually impaired to read on their own. While my friend and I were on the topic of school, I told her with excitement about my essay for the contest, but she was unsupportive about my submission. She kept insisting that I had wasted time and effort by entering if I received no extra credit for it. Her words sunk into me; I left school that Monday feeling dejected.

The following day, there were the usual announcements in my clamorous homeroom until my principal cheerfully congratulated me over the speakers, saying that I had won first place in the “Education Essay Contest”. Flabbergasted, I looked over at my peers in disbelief, but they did not glance at me or seem to hear what I thought I heard. I figured I must have been hearing things if my neighboring classmates or my homeroom teacher did not even comment on it. Again I had doubted myself.

Winning the contest was something that I was thinking about when I had trouble sleeping the day before the announcements. I wanted it badly, but I convinced myself that it would never actually happen and then fell back asleep. When I think of the backstory, it always makes me smile, because a chain of events made me enter. After reflecting on the contest, I was assured that I wanted to become an English major once I enrolled in college. I expected someone who had gone to a more prestigious middle school to win like a student from Central, a rival of my own school Atlantic. I surprised many people, but most of all, I surprised myself. My teacher said that most people who win are sophomores, not freshmen. From entering the contest, I discovered that I had the ardor along with the competence to be an English major, and here I am, a senior in college about to graduate with that very degree. This event transformed me by making me realize that I had the potential to grow in a writing field.

Additionally, it was a memorable moment for me because although I still did not receive extra credit, it gave me a boost in confidence with public speaking. On the day of learning that I had won the contest, I was told that I would be reading the essay to my city’s school committee later that night. I had help from the assistant principal who I confided in about my fear of not being heard. I was slightly anxious about not being able to project my naturally soft-spoken voice to a crowd and petrified that they would be disinterested as a result. However, once I was on the podium, I slowly eased into sharing my writing. Being able to speak about my ideas with a small crowd even for one night made me feel important because I never had this type of meaningful recognition before. After winning, my older sister and my mom wanted to read my essay and insisted on sharing it with a few of their friends. I also won the approval of my teacher who got engaged on the day I read my winning essay out loud. Lastly, I received a Barnes & Noble’s gift card which any bookworm like me would cherish.


To read the Education Essay that earned me 1st place, click here.

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