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father's mental illness (influential person)

epooqeo1 1 / -  
Aug 26, 2011   #1
I literally wrote this in like ten minutes so it's definitely a rough draft and I have several months to edit it..So don't be afraid to be harsh. Please let me know what I should change. I need to cut it shorter (45 words), and I also want to make the admissions person cry...so I need to make this more moving.

Prompt: Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence. (250-500 words)

My father's mental illness has been a skeleton in the closet which I have kept from even my closest friends, as it is something I would rather push aside and keep hidden, but it has undoubtedly been the greatest influence in my determination for attending an excellent college.

My mother and father met in college, where my father studied biochemistry and was still mentally "healthy". As my father's research garnered attention, he was asked to study in several different countries, and my mom came along with him. While studying in Canada, he was contacted by Harvard University and asked to come to Boston to do research, which is where I was born. Still in his early twenties, he moved on to lead a groundbreaking discovery at a biochemistry company, where his research was ultimately taken advantage of and stolen by an undeserving man who made hundreds of millions which my father did not receive a penny of.

My mother tells me this is the point where my father's mental health began to take a downward spiral. He would skimp on sleep while he did research, and made a drug himself that would allow him to stay awake for several days. After a few days, he ended up in the hospital, where he was then diagnosed with schizophrenia.

This has caused him to be unemployed since and have unpredictable psychotic behaviors, such as hearing voices, talking to himself, or acting in an irrational manner. When I talk to my father, it is like he is not completely "there." It feels as though I am speaking to the shadow of the old him, and I have witnessed his mental illness become progressively worse. Knowing that this man's unique and brilliant mind was once in such high demand, is now destroyed and somewhat inept, has torn me apart at times, but also given me the greatest desire to utilize my intelligence. I feel as though it is almost my responsibility to achieve the success my father never got. My mother entered business in an effort to provide for us as a family. I have witnessed my mother work her way up in the business world, to now owning her own business, and this has been a great influence on my interest to major in business.

Growing up with a literally psychotic father with unpredictable actions, a mother constantly working, and an older sister dealing with it all with alcoholism, was not the ideal family life. I used to deal with it with extreme worrying, sometimes wondering if I would inherit my dad's psychosis. As I entered high school, I made a promise to myself to always strive for excellence and to get involved. By doing this, I grew out of my shyness and worrying habits and realized that I couldn't change my family, but the greatest difference I could make would be utilizing my talents and intelligence to ultimately end up in a good college. I started my college searches years before my friends, knowing that it is the first step to a successful career, as well as my route to independence. I believe growing up with my father's mental illness with knowledge of his past has instilled in me a unique self motivation which continues to grow.
mangotango - / 2  
Aug 26, 2011   #2
So far, this is a well written essay! Is this for the Common App? My suggestion would be to expand on your last paragraph and be more specific. What are some examples of ways you perservered through your family issues? Remember, the college is looking to apply you, so round yourself out a bit more.
08woodsh 2 / 3  
Aug 27, 2011   #3
Nice essay, but if you want to shorten. I would cut the part about the mom, and focus more on dad. Talk about his daily struggles and how he overcomes it.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Aug 31, 2011   #4
... who made hundreds of millions which of my father did not receive a penny. of.

I automatically am biased against this essay because the introduction is all about a mental illness the sufferer of which might prefer be kept private. If I had a mental illness, I would not want people writing essays about it. That is not to say you cannot write about your experience; your experience is not the same as your father's mental illness.

So I wonder if you might want to refer to it in a different way. It's easy to express the same thing in a way that is more tasteful. When I say more tasteful, I mean that it is maybe distasteful to write an essay about someone else's mental illness. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is distasteful even if the person gave permission. But that is just the opinion that comes from my own eccentric perspective.

My advice is like this: Shift it to take the emphasis off the story, and instead emphasize the INFLUENCE. That means you should talk about the connection between this experience and your outlook on the future and on the college decisions you are making. Bring it right back to your college process, because that is what this is really all about.

xxqqsmeee - / 1  
Sep 23, 2011   #5
Hi epooqeo1,

I agree with EF_Kevin that you should change the focus of your essay and stress how your father's illness influenced you. I also agree that you should avoid intimate details that might embarrass your father or your family.

That said, my mother raised me by herself with a mental illness, and I can understand why you would want to write about how this experience has impacted you.

My first suggestion would be to consider writing about your mother instead of your father. From your brief mention of her in the essay, it seems she set an example that you would like to follow. That example is significant.

My second suggestion would be to brainstorm about specific occasions in which your views, character, or goals changed, solidified, became clearer, etc. Choose the experience that demonstrates most or all of the qualities you are trying to convey, write only about that one, and focus on you and not the influential person.

Lastly, you might want to avoid mentioning mental illness altogether and avoid the stigma that often results from such a revelation by saying, "a disability," or something similar.

I hope I have helped. Good luck on your essay.

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