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In 2017, I wrote my college essay. I was entering my senior of high school at the time, a period of my life filled with excitement and a bit of dread. Senior year is filled with a hurricane of emotions, and I was attempting to figure out what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, and who I wanted to be. I know many high schoolers and high school alumni are familiar with the pressure surrounding which college to commit to. Below, you’ll read my college essay: 650 carefully chosen words that encapsulated the most important moments of my life.

One girl. 50 meters. A fear that consumed her, but would soon be knocked down like a boxer at an MMA fight. It was 2009. She was 8. She stood at the edge of the pool deck, brow furrowed, waiting. A never ending stretch of water stood ahead of her, taunting her. The air was electrified with anticipation-all of her senses were heightened. She could smell the stench of chlorine, feel the sticky August heat against her neck, hear the water splash as it licked the metal deck. The butterflies in her stomach turned into a stampeding herd of buffalo as she looked yet again at the water ahead of her, the deepest point reaching 15 feet. To her, the deep end was filled with nightmares, and monsters lurked in every corner. Heart racing, she asked herself how she could attempt such a feat at her age. However, she gathered the courage, closed her eyes and plunged into the unknown.

The heat dissipated as she dove into the cool water. She heard nothing but silence. Not her sisters cheering, not her mom’s joyful words of encouragement. Just silence. Her mind was racing yet her body remembered the movements as if it were on autopilot-stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe, flip turn at the first wall, always kicking, ever moving forward and suddenly, without warning, she did it. She had made it through the deep end and back. She thought it was impossible, but she could not be more wrong. She looked up to see her sisters clapping, her mother’s big smile and her father’s thumbs up. She was filled with a familiar feeling-pure joy.

The February prior to that event, my youngest sister was born. She was diagnosed with Cancer that April. At the time, I was focused on completing my first Swim Across America, unaware that my family was facing greater uncertainties. My sister and I both conquered something bigger than ourselves that year, facing fear head on and turning it into a singular sensation: triumph. Eight extraordinary years later, she remains cancer free and I continue swimming in the same pool I was afraid of so many years ago.

The summer entering high school, I was faced with yet another deep end: could I juggle the demands of a heavy workload, numerous extracurricular activities and the addition of a varsity sport? Backing down was not an option, therefore, I needed to rely on my self-confidence and trust in my time management skills. I approached this challenge just as I once did on that pool deck-taking the plunge, this time with my eyes wide open. On a brisk August morning, all of my hard work came to fruition, earning me a spot on the team.

My determination in the pool is mirrored in other aspects of my life-on stage, in the classroom, and in leadership roles. Despite my rigorous schedule, I proved myself academically, immersed myself in the school and local community while staying true to my core values. Above all, I strive to be the best version of me that I can be. Swimming has helped shape me into a person I am proud of.

Any time that I struggle to keep my head above water, I keep kicking. I am reminded of my inspiration-my sister, my hero. As a result, I face each task ahead of me with positivity and enthusiasm. Without taking risks, I would never know my full potential. The lesson shown to my sister and me back in 2009 still holds true today. No matter what “deep ends” we may face in life, no matter how much we may feel like we are drowning, our strength and perseverance will help guide us towards safe waters.

Same girl. Different fear. Next challenge. A new chapter, filled with uncertainties and endless possibilities. I cannot wait to dive in!

Four years ago, I strongly believed this one essay controlled so much in my life: what schools I got into, where I would continue my education, and the people I would be surrounded by. Now, I know that attending anywhere but the University of Delaware would have been a mistake. The four years I have spent here have shaped me into a motivated young woman who knows what she wants to do in life and how she can get it. However, today I know that this essay guided me in the direction I was meant to be all along: a major and profession where I help others, a university that supports its students and provides them with enriching experiences, and peers that have become forever friends. However, the message of my college essay proves to be true: no matter which challenges arise in life, with guidance, perseverance, and support, you can tread through the deep end to shallower waters.

Colette Brancaccio is a current Junior at the University of Delaware. She is studying Elementary Education with a Concentration in Special Education. She enjoys reading, going for runs, & random dance parties. She is also the Founder and Owner of BHive Designs, a growing business that provides inventive & affordable gifts for any occasion while promoting service to the community.
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