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Blood of Hope (Columbia GS Admission Essay)

marietovlerone 1 / 3  
May 25, 2024   #1
"Why wouldn't she believe in me? I'm her daughter."

I asked myself as I tried to stop the cold blood running down my nose. Blood had always terrified me, but the tone of my mother's voice and the thought of worse things she could do were all I could think of. She was furious. I tried to explain, but instead of listening, she hurled a remote control at my face, followed by a long tirade of hurtful remarks- wishing me death.

"This is hopeless!" I thought to myself.

For a long time, I struggled to move past the shock and trauma. I was surrounded by friends and relatives who eventually took me in, but I felt alone. Afraid. Ashamed. I pretended to be okay, but deep within, I was hurting. I didn't want to tell anyone my story, lest reliving it all again. I knew that no amount of explanation of how my stepfather had assaulted me would ever convince her. She wouldn't have any of it.

"What should I do now?" I wiped the blood on my nostril as I thought of the consequence of quitting. It has been four years since I ran away, I was only 15. I was deeply tormented by the thought of getting dropped out of school. I would be like my relatives, none of whom finished high school, or my mother, who was forced to work to support her parents and seven younger siblings. No matter how I viewed my family situation, there seemed to be no escape.

"I couldn't afford school and I had nowhere to go."

Enough was the suffering from my mother's painful words that would constantly ring in my ears: "moron," "you will never succeed," and "you will get nowhere in life." It was like an endless loop and cycle of misery and desperation- "Should I continue to be a victim or be a victor of my fate?"

"No, I will make it happen!" I said to myself.

With my knowledge of trading, I sold homemade foods, second-hand clothing, and the books I once loved and kept when I was a child, for income. With my earnings, I bought school supplies to finish high school, even graduating with honors to prove that I could succeed. But I don't just aspire to succeed, I yearn to be an inspiration, a role model, someone who creates and provides opportunities for victims whose years have been stolen by their terrible experiences.

I resolve not to be defined by my past experiences but by what I did to conquer them. "Forgetting what was behind and reaching forth what is ahead." Looking back, written in my journal. I remember the young brave women who have shared their stories, those who, in my quiet moments, became my friends through their books, podcasts, and interviews. I, too, want to make a difference, especially in my country, the Philippines, where 1 in 5 children falls victim to sexual abuse every year.

Surprisingly, the Association of South-East Asian Foundation (ASEAN)- an international organization noticed my project and story. They offered me a chance to represent the Philippines at the Seed for the Future Program and speak among United Nations world leaders at roundtables in different countries across Asia. I became the voice of young men and women living in hopelessness and despair.

My relationship with my family, especially my mother, may not be perfect, but we strive to improve it. Choosing to love and forgive instead of burdening ourselves with daunting hate. I know there is so much I still need and hope to learn. As the adage goes, "the future rewards those who press on." I'm pressing on, always looking forward, and incredibly grateful for every opportunity to have a better future.

Since my parents separated, my family struggled with endless debt collector calls. My mom worked day and night to make ends meet, while my stepdad gambled his earnings away. I always knew I could not focus on my studies with the constant worry about how my brothers would eat, so I decided to take a year off before going to college and help her.

When the pandemic hit, our family lost our sole source of income. The supposedly one year off was extended to a couple of years. Working prematurely, commuting publicly, and waking up at different hours and shifts. It's not typical for Filipino students not to enroll in university immediately after high school, and because of it, I felt lonely for being behind my peers. But instead of being sad about my situation, I challenged myself to work even harder and focus on the silver lining.

I used ample time to explore my interests, bought a personal laptop, and made arrangements to install Wi-fi so I could continue learning. Gratefully, just as COVID-19 cases declined, bank calls ended. I eventually moved out, no longer burdening myself with family responsibilities. Life is unpredictable and challenging, but we just have to hold on tight and be brave. I'm excited to maximize my time in college, fully focusing on the lessons that lie ahead.

However, I also wish I could explain the mental anguish I endured during the pandemic. I realized all the things I didn't address when I was younger caught up to me and manifested in a harmful way. All the fears I had for myself came to pass. I'm thankful my friends and mom recognized the symptoms as early as possible rather than suppressing emotions that could significantly affect my career and college aspirations.

Luckily, the ASEAN Foundation came to my rescue. They saw what I was going through and treated me like a family. Discreetly, they arranged the help and support I needed during the pandemic and introduced me to professionals who could help me go through my healing process. I went into multiple therapy sessions, which gave me the tools I needed to be okay. There's no shame in admitting we need help, and there's no shame in admitting we're not perfect.

I'm pretty sure there are many people out there working hard, trying to stay afloat, trying to hold on to their dreams and make them come true, all the while taking care of the people around them. There's the pressure to fit in, to be the best, and prove why you deserve a spot. Talking about our struggles is okay. I want to shed light on this to normalize this type of conversation since mental health is an unusual topic in the culture of Southeast Asia.

While abuse and traumatic cases are significantly high, only a few hundred psychiatrists are registered. Therapy is also a bit expensive for people in underserved and underrepresented communities, and I think we can all agree that's a big problem. With the lessons I learned from the UPENN Social Innovators Program (was the only Filipino who got admitted in their entire program history), we created a space and community that aims to increase cyber awareness in Southeast Asia to counter and prevent assault towards children, removing the barriers that prevent one person from doing what they aspire to do.

-Launched and promoted ASEAN Make IT Safe (@asean.makeitsafe)- a space for youth designing solutions to address rising cybercrime through multidisciplinary hackathons and boot camps, spearheads 300 youths joined to redesign education across Asia to provide healing resources and psychological assistance.

-Continually work on weekends, reaching out to at-risk students through Youth Livelihood Project (@youthlivelihoodproject)- a community that aims to yearly provide supplemental income to support the schooling and daily needs of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, teaching them the importance of education and financial literacy.

-Consistently creates a monthly batch of content for mental health resources; leads partnerships and alliances with Southeast Asian national governments regarding Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (OCSEA) and international associations such as MIT Solved and Asia's Women Alliance for Security and Peace to get funding for survivors.

Finding a way to get myself into college while keeping a roof over my head is a mental battle, and getting into Columbia General Studies would be a light at the end of my tunnel. I hope to major in Psychology and minor in Data Science, or perhaps vice versa. I aspire to become a clinical psychologist or become an AI engineer, build a business in the future, and continue working on my project. Giving them a platform of opportunities- someone who believes and will bet on them like ASEAN did for me. Rescuing the children in my home country just as saving the little me, especially where young girls are encouraged to dream and get an education.
Holt  Educational Consultant - / 14,974 4811  
May 28, 2024   #2
I would have to say that your essay has a highly dramatic start, which may or may not work in your favor in this case. While the discussion of abuse is important, it should not be the opening statement of your essay, nor should it take up a majority of your admissions essay. It would be best to use the abuse story as a lead into your desire to study at Columbia GS instead. Dramatics do not have any place in an admissions essay where the aim is to get to know you and how you survived such situations. Would it be possible for you to shorten that presentation? Make it somewhat of a simple reference instead that will help to lay the foundation of the more important information you should be presenting.
OP marietovlerone 1 / 3  
Jun 3, 2024   #3
Hi! Someone from Harvard helped me craft the essay. He suggested the beginning, it is more brief and precise than how I wrote it before.

It was also his strategy that helped him get in. You can see only 2 paragraphs about it, then I focused about my problem supporting my education on the next 2 paragraphs.

The next 4 paragraphs, I narrated how I was able to overcome it, just like you mention (where the aim is to get to know you and how you survived such situations).

Then there's 3 paragraphs narrating what I did during gap year and pandemic. The rest, I discussed a government project related to abuse using tech.

It would be best to use the abuse story as a lead into your desire to study at Columbia GS instead. I'll be applying Psychology and Data Science, or vice versa.
OP marietovlerone 1 / 3  
Jun 3, 2024   #4
I'm also bit dramatic (joining plays and performing during high school), so the AO would get to know me a bit there.
OP marietovlerone 1 / 3  
Jun 3, 2024   #5
but maybe I need to change the ending a little bit.
Oksipyzh2 1 / 1  
Jun 3, 2024   #6
I hope you get admission to Columbia GS. I like this essay, but I think it is a little long. I don't find grammar mistakes.
scnwanna 1 / 1  
Jun 13, 2024   #7
This essay is really beautiful, and in my opinion, the drama of the beginning can work in your favor as long as it doesn't overshadow your journey to overcome it. I think the journey needs to be more of an along-the-WA type of thing, so it doesn't become overwhelming for the reader, especially with admissions. Dedicate more space to elaborate on the academic and personal growth you experienced through initiatives like the UPENN Social Innovators Program. Discuss specific skills, knowledge, or perspectives you think you have gained that will benefit you at Columbia. Provide more insight into how overcoming these obstacles shaped your academic interests and future goals in psychology, data science, and social entrepreneurship. Also, I would emphasize your role as an advocate and the impact of your projects, rather than focusing solely on the support provided by organizations like ASEAN because at a point you kinda get lost while talking about other organizations.

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