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Sample essays for Common App #3: “Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?”

I find this to be quite easy to answer for those students who actually have faced such a situation.
While you are answering this question, remember the following points: don’t include any form of bragging, don’t try to add explanations for any shortcomings in your candidature and, don’t repeat what other parts of your applications have already mentioned.

(max 650 words, min 250)

How I realised god is fictional (638 words)

Having been raised in a comfortable middle class life, I always believed life to be mostly good, with only mild challenges distributed throughout our lifetimes. I always knew there would be harsh events that would be difficult to overcome but going through them at a young age was never a thought.

Two years ago, around the same time the Covid situation began, we had been so careful about maintaining covid appropriate behaviour, that we forgot that any other disease existed too. My uncle was among those unlucky ones to have to go to the hospital. He has always been fit and fine, although he did have diabetes, but it was in control. Then suddenly one day, he fell down in unbearable pain in chest while on a morning walk on a cold winter day. The next few hours were complete haste, but to sum it up, it was a serious heart attack and he had to be admitted.
This came as a big blow to the family, who were in complete shock.

As if this wasn’t enough, god had more plans. While in hospital, he suffered a cardiac arrest and went to deep coma, with no idea of when he would wake up. This put the family in a big dilemma of what to do, since the hospital expenses were already eating up the family’s life savings. My aunt, being a deeply religious Hindu, consulted with several gurus & priests, donated to temples, and did pretty much everything anyone told. Her religious faith transformed into superstition with time, as no good news was coming from the hospital. This went on for almost 2 months, with the entire family falling into god’s lap, reading holy texts, organising religious worship ceremonies, donating food to the poor etc, and spending significant money, in addition to the hospital bills.

Finally, the sad news came from the hospital. After living a life of honesty and avoiding all sins, with family members praying day in and day out, god’s plans were not in their favour. Within seconds, everything that we were doing seemed like a waste. Religious faith seemed like farce.

In the next few days, I contemplated too much over who god is, what religions is, how it started? All of these thoughts were coming to me because the world did not seem fair. Deep down, perhaps I knew the answer all along, but for reasons that I still can’t seem to explain, we all believe that god is real. The concept of religion perhaps only existed to bring discipline in the human civilisation. ‘What can escape the eyes of law, can’t escape the eyes of god’, ‘people who do sins go to hell’, ‘good behaviour is rewarded with heaven in after-life’ – all these teachings seemed to serve only one purpose, to ensure society doesn’t go into chaos. It had nothing to do with an individual’s deeds, it was only for maintaining order in the society.

In the subsequent days, I became highly atheistic, with zero belief in karma. I went on with my day to day life with no concern for any values generally associated with religion, whether it be doing good for others, destiny or even purpose of life. While initially not tough, things did eventually started to feel overwhelming. The entire idea that there’s no destiny/god/natural justice etc was driving me mad, because I was questioning each and every action I did.

Until one fine day, when I realised, god is actually a psychological construct made to simplify our lives, and the society. The religious texts, might be fictional, but the lessons aren’t. What religion teaches isn’t supposed to happen all the time, but that’s what we are to believe to have natural calm in our minds, and keep the human race on the right path.


PS: the above essay was sent by one of our readers. Since this text is already on the internet now, use it only to get an idea of what people usually write, don’t replicate similar narrative.

If you would like to send over your answers to the Common App prompts, please send them in comments. I’ll be happy to publish it on this website, with credits to you.

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