Personal Growth Sample Essay


Long-Term Gains


Don’t tell Nicole, but her sleeveless shirts changed my life.

You see, Nicole was seated next to me in a vulnerable time of the day – second period Spanish. Here, one could be ambushed by demands to count up to 26 for no reason at all. It was the seventh grade. My sense of self was a newly-discovered novelty, and drill-sergeant Sanchez was helping me to break fresh ground on a daily basis. Many realizations were made that year, but with Nicole’s presence, one in particular stood out: my arms were skinnier than hers.

I found my friend Steven, similarly persecuted by mother nature, and impressed upon him this disturbing discovery: puberty wasn’t our fair equalizer – it left stragglers in its wake. Fortunately, his dad had bought him Arnold Schwarzenegger’s New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding for Christmas. We were captivated by Arnold’s charismatic style and the photos of Herculean biceps. Gym equipment was still beyond us, but we found ways to emulate Arnold. We ‘strengthified’ daily routines – doing calf extensions with the desk in between math problems, Roman chair competitions at orchestra practice, and bicep curls with Mrs. Mund’s huge geography packets. To become Mr. Olympia, no exercise was beyond improvisation.

By high school, I had gained some depth to my voice and confidence to my step. My newfound ego, inflated by this catch-up, inspired me to speak on behalf of my hobby. And speak I did. But no one took me seriously then. At six feet, 135 pounds, who was this Bruce Lee wannabe trying to talk about fitness?

My pep talks fell on deaf ears, and my confidence likewise dipped. It’s not that I wasn’t training hard. It’s just that something big was still missing from the picture. Previously, I had read fitness literature, but all I usually found was touts for next hot miracle supplement. Because of that, I didn’t take any training literature seriously, besides Arnold’s book. Perhaps it was time to broaden my horizons. That’s when I thought of a crane problem I had encountered in physics. Working out the algebra in the classroom, and looking at the problem again – now from the rough turf – the deadlift I was performing began to take on lucid form. Wasn’t this similar to the crane problem I was doing yesterday? I drew free-body diagrams and did some sample calculations. One thing led to another, and I began to realize that all sorts of science could be merged with training. With it, I could improve my form, prevent injury, and reduce recovery time. I looked up physiology papers on Jstor with my biology teacher, investigated the chemical profiles of food additives on wikipedia, and became totally immersed in the magical word of proteins and their harmonious form-function relationship. My progress (in both strength training and science class) must have been encouraging to my classmates, because over sophomore year, the gym gained some major ground as the go-to spot for after school exercise.

Things have come a long way since then, but I still smile when I reminisce about the seventh grade. However much progress I continue to make – in either strength training or science – the simple truth will always stand: Nicole’s sleeveless shirts changed my life that day.


Kid Flexing Bicep



Life is a road paved with obstacles. As cliched as it may seem, talking about these obstacles – and sharing how you’ve progressed through them – can always make for an interesting story.

This particular essay portrays a long-term journey through sequential snapshots. Seventh grade is represented by Spanish class. The rest of middle school is represented by creative exercise routines. A similar trend follows for high school. The end result is an immersive, readable story that doesn’t feel like it’s rushing any details.

Although the topic – weightlifting – is not naturally compelling in its own right, this portrayal makes it personal and meaningful by meshing the hobby together with confidence-building, leadership, initiative-taking, and academics. It doesn’t encourage any of the classic stereotypes, like self-obsession and vanity, but rather helps the reader to think about the activity through the eyes of the author. If you have an activity that ties together major elements of your life, this is one way you could present them.