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"Alec's suicide" - significant event, Common App

kaobrien 1 / 4  
Dec 19, 2010   #1
Evaluate an experience which had a significant effect on you. For the common application.

On March 1st, 2010, I sat at my desk finishing homework as the tragedy that had occurred nearly 4,500 miles away was relayed across miles of bottomless blue to my mother. When she entered my room to relay the news to me, it was late -nearly 1:00 a.m. The black phone gleamed in her hand like a revolver. Her face was aged, as if decades had passed in one night. Immediately, my thoughts flickered to my dad and grandparents. They were the only ones who ever called us on the house phone. When was the last time I'd spoken with them? Were they okay? She sat down on the edge of my bed; the red sheets splayed behind her like pools of blood. "Alec killed himself."

DezzyBryant 1 / 5  
Dec 19, 2010   #2
After Alec killed himself, though, it dawned on me that this probably wasn't the case. Sadly, I concluded that there is likely nothing after death.

At first, I suffered the realization that there is no life after death, but seeing the impact of our work in Thailand, I have since come to believe otherwise. There may not be a heaven as I previously envisioned it

I personally think this heaven/afterlife stuff shouldn't be mentioned in the essay, especially the first line. ^^
OP kaobrien 1 / 4  
Dec 19, 2010   #3
To be more eloquent, my loss of faith caused by Alec's suicide is what caused my depression. The loss of faith in an afterlife is the reason the 'rebirth' was possible in Thailand. Why do you think it should be cut?
karabrutus 1 / 4  
Dec 19, 2010   #4
If you aren't applying to a religious school, try to keep faith out of the essay.
MirayPhilips 5 / 37  
Dec 19, 2010   #5
For a moment, I sat dumbstruck. My cousin Alec was eighteen years old. He was a surfer and a comedian -a free spirit with long blonde hair and a smile so wide it could cover valleys. He could do the best accents I have ever heard. But now he was dead. After holding me for a while as we wept, my mother left my room on my assurance that I wanted to be alone. Still in shock, I decided to go to sleep. Maybe in the morning I would wake up to find that I had imagined it all. However, when I turned off the lights, I began screaming. The darkness weighed a thousand pounds and it pressed down on my chest, compressing all the air from my lungs. I did not sleep that night.

Before Alec's suicide, I had been pushing, continually working my way towards better things (try using a word other than things) for as long as I could remember. As the only child of a single mother, I felt I owed it to her to be perfect. She had high aspirations for me, and though she never imposed them on me directly, I could tell they existed. I wanted to live up them. My motivation, as a result, was aimless. Had you asked me why I wanted to succeed, I would not have known the answer. "Because it was the 'right thing'," I might have offered meekly. And so I lived my life, through a series of self-imposed rights and wrongs, shoulds and should-nots in order to reach an undefined goal. For nearly seventeen years I barreled through life determined to achieve more, albeit, with this borrowed purpose. However , with the news of Alec's suicide, all of that changed.

As an only child, the closest I came to having siblings was my cousins, and Alec and I were by far the closest. Though I had had friends who had lost family members, I had never dealt with death myself; it was difficult.

Initially, I was angry. I was angry at his parents, who I felt had failed him. I was mad at his grandfather for giving him the gun. 'Ignorant, stupid, hick,' I thought. I was mad at his girlfriend, who, of all of us, should have seen this coming. I was even angry with Alec, for being weak, for not fighting through his pain. I hated him for leaving us. Soon, though, anger gave way to guilt. Although I lived across the Atlantic, I blamed myself for what had happened. I felt as if I should have been more supportive of him, should have been able to prevent his death. I regretted that our last exchange was a joking message I sent him about how eccentric his family was, referring to his father's recent marriage to one of his models. But as with most grief, my guilt soon gave way to depression.

Alec's suicide forced me to confront many of my long held beliefs about life and death. Though I was not religious, I had believed comfortably in an afterlife. It had reassured me to know there was something more than our mortal existence, that life continued even once it did not. After Alec killed himself, though, it dawned on me that this probably was not the case. Sadly, I concluded that there is likely nothing after death.

This revelation was devastating. With nothing more to life than the biblical threescore and ten years that we are given on earth, what was the point, I wondered. Success had been my raison d'ętre, but if I was going to die in the end, what good was success? Alec's suicide ripped my motivation from me, and only jagged emptiness was left behind.

Before Alec's suicide, I had worked with an organization in my school called the Burmese Refugee Assistance Program (BRAP). It had been started by a group of students in 2009 who worked extensively with two villages of Burmese refugees in Thailand to improve their quality of life. Forced from Burma by an oppressive regime with practices of ethnic cleansing, the Karen and Lisu villagers were not recognized by the Thai government either. Because of this, they were not allowed to leave the province, discouraged from obtaining education, and denied government provided services. The first BRAP team in 2009 worked to raise the money to provide needed infrastructure and travelled to the villages over the summer to help build them.

The second BRAP team began in my junior year, and I had eagerly joined. The project became a passion of mine, and I dedicated myself to fundraising for future village projects. But like my other passions, BRAP, too, fell by the wayside after Alec's death. Though I remained on the team that was volunteering in Thailand in July, I relinquished most of my leadership responsibilities.

Then summer arrived. I still lacked the excitement I had previously felt for the trip to Thailand, but I had committed to the project. When we arrived in the village, I will not pretend I experienced some fairytale enlightenment or sudden rebirth of life. That is not how depression works. But as I saw the villagers' needs, the ember of motivation in my heart -whose warmth I had long since ceased to feel -slowly began to reignite. The villagers were so grateful for our help. Our liaison Manop told me of the difference our fundraising had made in the villagers' lives. I began once again to feel the motivation I had lost after Alec's death.

For the two weeks we were there, I gave my best to our projects. For hours, I carried rocks to the top of the mountain for the landslide barrier we were building. I dug foundations until my handscallused and bled. I stood bent over, mixing bucket after bucket of cement in sweltering heat. And on the last night when I fell onto my straw mat, for the first time since Alec's suicide, I felt content. The next day all of the villagers came to say goodbye to us and to thank us for what we had done. One family, for whom we had built a latrine, was so thankful that they used the meager amount of cloth they had to make bags for us. As we said our farewells, Manop translated the villagers' words for us: "Thank you so much for all you have done. You have changed our lives."

When you receive this essay, it will have been eleven months since Alec's suicide. At first, I suffered the realization that there is no life after death, but seeing the impact of our work in Thailand, I have since come to believe otherwise. There may not be a heaven as I previously envisioned it, but we survive through our actions and the effects we have on other people's lives. In Thailand I was fortunate enough to touch somebody's life in the way that Alec had touched mine. I may never return to those villages, but I hope to live on in the mortar of a wall or the stone of a foundation. Similarly, I have realized that Alec lives on -in the Facebook group started in his memory, in the hundreds of kind posts he still receives each month, even in my daily remembrance of him. Before Alec's suicide, I strived to excel -in academics, athletics, and life in general -but these last months have helped me recalibrate my definition of success. While I still hope to succeed in the manner I did before, my greatest aspiration now is simply to touch the lives of others in such a brilliant way as Alec's life touched mine.[/quote]
Extremely touching. R.I.P Alec.

Relating to the essay, don't use abreviations because it isn't formal. I also don't see why you shouldn't send in an essay about faith, it what makes you who you are after all. However, I would advise you to change the sentence:

"At first, I suffered the realization that there is no life after death, but seeing the impact of our work in Thailand, I have since come to believe otherwise." to something more flexibile implying that you believe that there is nothing after death instead of stating it as if it is an actual fact. You know, to make this essay more of an opinion and so it doesn't annoy the reader incase he was a believer. However, just to make sure, ask a teacher if it is alright to post this essay in your common application.

You know how you alternate between how your life was before Alec's suicide and how it changed after his death. I would suggest you start off your essay with your definition of success and your contributions to your society. Then maybe end that paragraph with a sentence like: However, all of this changed in a matter of seconds.

and then start your new paragraph with your current first one.
I would only suggest you do that as it seems all over the place when you alternate between your past and your present.

This is an amazing essay, you're a very good story teller.
mariumi57 3 / 8  
Dec 19, 2010   #6
"I wanted to live up to them."

This is an amazing essay, you made me want to keep on reading. Just one problem though, I think it might be a bit too long even for the common app personal essay. They say about 500 words and I think it's okay if you go up to even 700 but I think your essay is way too long. I'm not sure as too what exactly you should take out, my only piece of advice is to maybe take out the paragraph where you talk about who you were mad at and why. It doesn't offer as much to the essay as other paragraphs do.

But really it's an amazing essay and good luck!
corgilover 2 / 8  
Dec 20, 2010   #7
I loved reading your essay, but I felt like it was abit too long. I have to agree with mariumi57 to cut that paragraph of why you were angry at each person.

I also feel that you could make a better link between alec's death and your BRAP experience, present it in a more dramatic way

It'd be great if you could read my essay too (:
thimmaiah 4 / 5  
Dec 20, 2010   #8
First of all i'm really sorry for your loss.
this is a really nice essay. You've captured your emotions really well.
The only problem was that it was too long
hope this helped.
Cortniesb 4 / 15  
Dec 26, 2010   #9
Hey, we all agree... It's personal and passionate. But indeed (&& I have this problem also) it is too long. The main problem of it all is (which I have also) it begins to drag on, and you lose the reader.

The above posters have taken care of grammar and other such. But I want you to think about these things:

1. Is this essay answering the significant experience prompt or a person of profound influence? (admissions ppl hate when ppl answer a different prompt under another one)

2. for this to be a significant experience answer, one should focus on a single experience (u jump to A LOT of different events- it begins to get confusing and tangled)

3. You focus a lot on Alec but what about you. (it takes the reader a long time to get to the YOU of the story)

4. Maybe the signifcant experience IS Alec's suicide. Now simple answer these questions: How did it directly affect you? How does this affect on you affect your next chapter in life? - i.e- college!

Hoped I really helped.
asdfasdf 2 / 4  
Dec 26, 2010   #10
This essay is probably the best one I've seen so far.
It captured my attention the whole time, but I agree with everyone else
in that it's way too long. Try to cut it down to at least 750 words.

And I don't think you should use second person in the last paragraph.
"When you receive this essay, it will have been eleven months since Alec's suicide." It's a bold statement but it's also informal.

Good luck!
I hope you can read my essay too!
yenna 9 / 23  
Dec 26, 2010   #11
Wow really strong essay.
I loved your beginning like ALOT.
One thing I didn't really have a major problem with a length but I think don't think it would hurt to shorten it. Another thing is to connect the death of your cousin and BRAP in less abrubt way. Maybe a transition or something that has to do with his death in the first sentence of that paragraph.

Well good luck and R.I.P Alec
dvegaortiz 3 / 4  
Dec 26, 2010   #12
This is a very strong essay, but i also agree that you should keep religion/faith out of it
rose258 1 / 4  
Dec 27, 2010   #13
i loved your eassy the intro was great but like others i thought it a little too long and you needed to focus it more on yourself than on alec. i hope this helped

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