Ivy League Bound: Common App essay of a Yale admitted student

An inside look at a personal essay that is approved by one of the nation’s top universities.

Vaughn Goehrig, Student

As the light from the setting sun began to dwindle, I started to feel the surge of nervous energy radiating from my core down into my limbs. The nightfall cross country meet was iconic for those of us who had ran it last year. Unlike any other meet, this one was run on a golf course in The Wisconsin Dells, which meant a flat terrain with smooth turns, but more importantly, we ran this 5K beneath the luminescent September stars. Admittedly,it seems like a minor difference, but when you’re flying across an open field, guided only by cheap Christmas lights and the allure of that finish line, a breathless race is almost fun.

Even so, today was different. I was insistent; this had to be the race that I beat the 20-minute mark. Roughly an hour before the race, the massive pack of runners on my team ventured out for a brief mile warm-up, as we always do. However, an odd, uncomfortably familiar sensation greeted me as we began the jog.

It was weakness.

The feeling coated my arms and legs like a sticky quicksand that weighed my body down. I could feel my heart begin to skip frantically and my chest start to tighten. “Oh no,” I muttered underneath my breath. Upon finishing the warm-up, I hurried over to my duffel bag, more out of breath than normal. With trembling fingers, I grabbed my glucose monitor and lancet, which I used to pierce the skin on my index finger. I eagerly pressed the drop of ruby blood against the testing strip, staring in fearful anticipation at the tiny screen before me. “Sixty-three?” I exclaimed, beginning to panic as my teammates prepared to head to the starting line. For diabetics like me, 63 mg/dL is hypoglycemic—a low blood sugar—and it makes vigorous exercise not only incredibly difficult due to the general feeling of lethargy that accompanies it, but also dangerous.

The cardiovascular endurance required to run a 5K can cause blood sugars to drop, putting someone who is already low at risk of falling into a diabetic coma. Needless to say, I had to raise my blood sugar, and fast. Normally, at this point, I would indulge in a sugary granola bar or enjoy a Gatorade, things I would generally eat before a run, but much to my chagrin, I was out of both. In fact, the only “food” I had with considerable sugar content were the dense, chalk-like glucose tablets reserved for diabetic emergencies. In the past, just one of these tablets has caused throbbing stomach-aches mid-race, but I was running out of options. Other runners were now on their way to the start. For a moment, I considered sitting out, finding some better food, and enjoying the rest of the weekend in the Dells.

It was then that I recollected all the hours I had spent wheezing through workouts, steadily dropping my times each week closer and closer to the elusive 20 minutes. And so, struck by my restored perseverance, I began shoveling disgusting pink tablets into my mouth, 4 grams at a time, before darting over towards the start of the race. In an instant, the starting gunshot echoed across the course.

Near the end of the run, the sugar had settled heavily in my stomach, sitting like a stone, but all the while, I pressed onward. Summoning what energy I had left, I managed to sprint ahead in the last 400 meters. The time 19:58 flashed across the clock as I stepped over the line, only two seconds ahead of my goal. Though, in truth, this fact is insignificant. I learned that there will always be a thousand reasons not to finish. All that really matters is that you choke back whatever glucose tablets you’ve got and run like hell.