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Describe a challenge you overcame?

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I'm feeling a bit stuck on this question. I'm switching to a career in teaching and am applying for competitive master's programs in education, and one of the essay questions is "What is the most challenging problem that you have faced, and did you address it?"

What do you think admissions committees are looking for? 

I experienced some pretty severe bullying when I was younger, and I thought that maybe writing about that and the way I handled it could be compelling and relevant to teaching, but it's such a long time ago that I'm not sure it's actually relevant. 

Other than that, my most challenging problem has happened in the last 6 months or so. My mom got into not one, but two car crashes caused by her drunk driving (I did not know she was an alcoholic until this happened) and admitted that she's anorexic. She then was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she is currently undergoing chemotherapy. When this first started, I was working full time in a city 12 hours away AND also attending my first quarter of grad school full time (it was a sociology program). However, I've since dropped out of that graduate program  (obviously), as it wasn't right for me and I was having some mental health problems myself, so that isn't exactly a great precedent. Oh, my apartment also got burglarized during this time, which was just the cherry on top ;)   

It was all of the above stuff happening that really caused me to re-evaluate my life and the path it was on, and what I really wanted to do (teaching), so I guess that dropping out and making those dreams happen might make an okay essay?

Edited by lr0901
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For these types of questions, whether you get them as an essay or as an interview question, it is likely that the admissions committee has identified some traits they would like their candidates to have and they believe that the answer to this question can help them determine if their applicants have these traits. 

So, some example traits that this question might address are things like perseverance, conflict resolution, resourcefulness, and so on. They might also be interested in your problem solving approach, and maybe how you might handle interpersonal conflicts. You know more about the field you're applying to than I would, so you can probably think of other traits that would be good for a student in your field to have! In addition, you can probably google this question and see what interview tips you can find.

The other reason they ask this question might be to ensure they are holistically evaluating every applicant. They might want to put your accomplishments/experience/opportunities in context with the challenges you have faced in life. 

Either way, I think a true story that demonstrates positive attributes about yourself is the best way to answer this question. Don't worry too much about squeezing in every attribute you want to mention etc. because it will make the story sound contrived and uninteresting. But it could be helpful to keep these things in mind so that you don't ramble and your story has a point.

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