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Application Essay about how i messed up in high school (my record)

vandergraff127 1 / 7  
Apr 21, 2011   #1
Hi i am applying to Michigan State University and I need some input on the essay i have written. Here is the prompt...

If you feel that your high school record does not accurately represent your academic abilities, please explain why. Include and discuss particular extenuating circumstances that may have contributed to any scholastic challenges.

Here is my essay thus far... I warn you it is a first draft, but what i am wondering is do you think that it is to much of a sob story?

If I had the opportunity to go back in time and redo a past event of my life differently, I would choose the years I went to high school. My performance in school was less than ideal; in this time of my life, I was plagued with an insufferable problem. The dilemma I had to deal with as a teenager was that of an estranged mother battling with bipolar disorder compounded with alcoholism. The burden of her problems carried over into my life and took a dominant position which overshadowed my homework and studies. The result of this was a bad high school record. Since those years, I have realized that I cannot continue to blame my mom for my poor performance in school. I have stepped up and have taken responsibility for myself.

If allowed a second go round, I would apply my understanding of taking responsibility of myself to overcome my hardship and do well in school. I now know that participating in class discussions and doing the homework gives a better understanding of the subject matter and how studying solidifies the understanding. With a second chance, I would participate in class, do my homework on time and study hard to become a better student. Another regret that I have from high school is never joining a club. I missed out on the rewarding experience of being part of my school community and would like to change that. I did have one experience in my high school career where I went on a 4 day trip with my A.P environmental science class. The trip took the class to a forest preserve in Wisconsin, where we learned about forests, bogs and river systems. The trip was enlightening and gratifying. The fondest memory I have of the trip was a big scavenger hunt that sent the students on a hike through the forest looking for plants and fungus's to collect and bring back. The experience I had on this trip opened my eyes to the serenity of nature, and produced a friendship that I still have to this day. I regret that I never got to experience this more than once. At the time I did not realize how being a part of my school community would offer me those kinds of rich experiences.

During those four years of my life, I placed too much of my attention into dealing with the pain that my mom had caused me and not enough attention on school. The repercussions of this cost me a good deal of time trying to get my life on the right track again. I have been able to overcome the onus which I have been struggling with for so long. I now am able to focus all my attention on bettering myself and my situation. I understand that time of my life is gone and cannot be redone and there is no use in dwelling on the past. What I am currently doing is proving that my poor performance in high school is not defining of my intellect or my ambition. The drive I have to be the best I can is fueled by an intense passion to understand the workings of nature.
bsam1234567 1 / 2  
Apr 22, 2011   #2
1-I think it is not too much of sob story. This is the main point and you should to spell all things out.
2-In addition, up to my view, I do not think that you should talk about the education system in this essay.
3- I think the essay would be better IF you try to write more about the effect of your personal life problem.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Apr 23, 2011   #3
Trim the fluff from the beginning and get right to the point. Let the intro be like a punch to the stomach that really gets the reader's attention:

She When I was in junior high school my mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, split personality disorder and manic depression. All of these issues that she struggles with didn't arise till I was in 8th grade. At first, she worked hard to manage her illnesses and addiction, but the illnesses progressively ...

Because of these problems that my mom has, I have suffered from severe depression and anxiety since sophomore year in high school. ---Oh... um, yeah, actually it might seem like you are making her responsible for your issues. But if she is not allowed to say you caused her depression & addiction, you are not allowed to say she caused your depression & anxiety. Know what I mean? Instead of placing the responsibility on her, you can talk about a chaotic environment that resulted when you and your mom both confronted your demons together. That will no longer be a sob story at all... it will be something that makes a great impression.

School teachers and counselors failed to understand my predicament, and thus they were unable to help me. ----Again, here... it is a simple, subtle change that makes a big difference:

I was not able to make my teachers and counselors understand my...----------See the difference? If you always put responsibility on yourself, the reader will have a ton of respect for you.

EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Apr 27, 2011   #5
That seems a lot better to me.
I still think this sentence seems too judgmental:
Each year she had gotten worse to the point where it was unbearable to live with her.---I would take this sentence right out. It is not necessary, and you'll really make a more powerful presentation if you make it completely objective.

Because of these problems, During this same time period, I suffered from depression and anxiety. since all throughout high school. Let the reader be the one to decide that your depression was probably caused by her.

This is looking good!
EricJ - / 48  
Apr 28, 2011   #6
The writers at college-application-essay-help.com chose your short answer for a rewrite. Here are the editor's comments and his version of your short answer:

Egregious is not really a good word to describe your family problems. Conduct is egregious. Mistakes are egregious. Egregious is used to describe problems, but it just doesn't strike me as a good choice to describe your family problems.

The essay is too long and too negative and casts you in a bad light. You're still trying to pass the buck to your mom for your not doing well. That makes me a lot less likely to want to admit you to MSU if I were making the decision.

Keep it simple and focus on how your experience at the school that you are applying to will be different:

My home life was less than ideal during high school because one of my parents abused alcohol and suffered from depression. I didn't do well in school because I was angry and depressed for much of high school and missed a lot of school. Since that time, I have undergone treatment and gotten my depression under control. Without depression, I am a far different and a far more optimistic and goal-oriented person. I'm ultimately responsible for my poor performance in high school, but I feel you should understand the circumstances so that you can understand why I did not do nearly as well academically in high school as I will at MSU.
OP vandergraff127 1 / 7  
Apr 28, 2011   #7
I really like the way you rewrote it, but it seems as if its a little sparse and open for interpretation. Is that the point, or should I use this as a basis and add a little more to it as to explain how my performance in high school lacked and how i have improved my performance in school substantially.
EricJ - / 48  
Apr 28, 2011   #8
Only include specifics that prove the point. Don't elaborate too much on the problems. Spend most of the time telling what you have done about it. For example, if your grades suddenly got better in your last year of high school or in some work you did at another college, I would write one or two specific sentences about it.
OP vandergraff127 1 / 7  
May 2, 2011   #9
i have actually been thinking about scraping this essay and going with a different approach. Do you think that talking about how i wouldn't want a second chance to do something differently would be a good idea? I was going with the approach that being able to redo a significant past event would change who i am now and that i wouldn't want to do that.
EricJ - / 48  
May 2, 2011   #10
I would not take the approach of saying that you do not want to change anything. Everyone has something that he or she could have done better. The high school essay isn't bad. I would revise it once or twice and send it in. You indicate that studying was not a priority for you in high school. What were your priorities? Why? How have you matured? Why are your priorities different now? The answers to these questions might help you compose a better answer to the one that MSU is asking.
EricJ - / 48  
May 3, 2011   #11
I don't think the word that you want is insufferable. You did manage to survive it, so it's not a good word choice. A dilemma means a choice between two equally unpleasant alternatives, so I really don't get how your situation with your mother was a dilemma. The burden of her problems carried over into my life a took a dominant position. This is written in the passive voice and makes you seem like you are not taking responsibility for your own poor performance. It does not cast you in a good light. The next sentence (The result was a bad high school record) is passive and again you are blaming your mother's problems for your record. The burden of her problems made you get bad grades? Then you write two sentences that indicate you are stepping up and taking responsibility, but the previous two sentences leave me with serious doubts because they are passive and indicate that the fault is your mom's.

Look up onus and see if you still like the formulation overcoming the onus.

You are far better off to express you ideas with familiar words.

If the point of the essay is to convince Purdue that you are a different person, why not write an essay that has evidence of that fact? Focus on the positive things you have done. Don't mention your mother or any of the problems you had, except to say something like "My home life was not ideal. At the time I suffered from depression and missed a lot of school." That will prevent you from getting into the blame game.

Since I started at (school you are at now), I have been a different person and have devoted myself to academics. My grades went from a X GPA to a Y GPA and I found that I enjoyed (activity that you did at the college you are transferring out of).

What I have experienced at (college you are leaving) made me realize how much I missed by not devoting myself to studying and clubs at (name of high school).

If you admit me at Purdue, I will be the student I was at (previous school) and not the student I was in high school.

I know that going back is impossible, but if I could, I would get a lot more out of high school because I would put a lot more into it.

You see how this formulation does not blame anyone else, and how it leaves the reader with a positive impression of you? That's what you want to achieve.
OP vandergraff127 1 / 7  
May 3, 2011   #12
Thank you for all your help everyone, I have used all your pointers and got some help from my English teacher as well and i am proud of the final product. Again thank you!

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