Please write an essay (250 words minimum) on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed below. This personal essay helps us to become acquainted with you as a person and student, apart from courses, grades, test scores, and other objective data. It will also demonstrate your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself.
My maturity occurred in a somber winter in 1998 when I discovered that we are not
aware of how things will affect our lives until they have actually happened. At age five, the
truths of life were made clear. While my peers were busy playing with Toy Story dolls and
action figures, the reality of life was slowly crawling up my back. As autumn turned to winter,
my grandmother's health dwindled down which made the trips to the hospital feel routine. This
came to an abrupt end when my grandmother passed away at age 55. At first, I did not accept
that she passed away, but as soon as I saw the coffin being carried it was like a dagger of
heartbreak had pierced my body. As if things could not get worse, war broke out in 1999.
Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbian government went on a spree of ethnic cleansing
directed towards the Albanians. As a result of living in Serbia, the Serbian military made it
mandatory for my father to fight for the Serbian army against the Albanians. While he served the
military, we rarely saw him and that protection figure became lost in our household. Days and
days went by and the fear of death eventually created an exodus of Albanians from Serbia. On a
particular night, it was pitch black and my mom suddenly saw people on the street who were
fleeing and she quickly tossed blankets and food to the people who were in need. As I helped my
mom distribute our items to people, the face of an elderly woman lit up in the dark. That split
second, I captured the image of her face from the deep wrinkles of wisdom and the expression of
fear; from mostly that I remember, she stayed as speechless and still as a statue. Out of the good
deeds, I felt I planted a seed of hope in another person's life and felt that I created that spark of
preservation. While many kept leaving the country, some needed shelter therefore my mom
created our home as a haven for people who needed a temporary place to stay. We provided them
with clothes and food out of the greatness of our hearts. Out of the people we let stay at our
home, one particularly sticks out: a young boy, about five years old, whose mother decided to
leave from our house to pursue a permanent shelter. As soon as that kid stepped out of the front
door, he started crying and screaming. Out of his tiny child lungs, he yelled out "I don't want to
die!" That still bothers me to this day; I do not know whether the people who we helped are even
As the exodus of people stopped, the influx of military equipment began. The tanks
literally rolled down the street; their massive weight could be felt throughout the house. I
remember watching the soldiers coming into the town with my brother and mother; every time I
saw the eyes of a soldier, I would duck down and pretend they did not see me because I was
afraid they might find and murder us. One of the tanks deployed in the city had its turret facing
south and by a couple of degrees of adjustment, it would be directly pointed at our house. Once
the Serbians set the tank, the fear of death increased dramatically. To add to the fear and tension,
sirens that would warn people of a potential air strike always went off. Every time I would hear
those sirens, I wondered if it was the last day of my young life or if I would live on another day.
After weeks and weeks without my father being present at home, he had the ability to
come home for a brief visit on a cold rainy night. With the increase of the air strikes from NATO
and the U.S, he feared that the next target might be his post. That night, my mother and father
made a life-changing decision. They decided that the best option was to simply get out of the
chaos; the only way to leave was through the mountains and seek refuge in the neighboring
country of Macedonia. That moment, we went on a frantic frenzy to pack necessary belongings.
Because the borders were not an option, smugglers led people from Serbia into Macedonia.
Around 1 a.m., we packed all our bags and said our goodbyes to family members who were with
us. It took around 8 hours to cross the border. The rain the previous day had made the terrain
muddy and arduous to tread on. That night, I decided to wear brand new red shoes on the trip and
as I tried to keep walking, my foot got caught in the mud; I screamed at the top of my lungs to be
saved, and out of no-where, my mother came and pulled me straight out of the mud. One shoe
came off and still remained in the mud. I still wonder what ever happened to that little red shoe.
That same night, I also learned a lot about my parents. They were willing to sacrifice their bodies
in order to hold all the bags which were at least fifty pounds each, and still were willing to
sacrifice themselves to give me and my brother a better life. These moments will remain with me
for the rest of my life.
Once we reached Macedonia, we stayed at our relative's house. After two weeks of
staying there, my parents decided that the best option would be if we went to a refugee camp.
While we were at the camp, there were signups for people who wanted to leave the country; my
father signed up thinking it was too good to be true. After three months of attendance in the
camp, documents came for us to choose where we wanted to go; reality hit my father and he
knew that the sign ups were actually true. The countries we could potentially live in included of
Great Britain, Australia, Austria, or America. My father chose the land of dreams. On August
11th, 1999, our first stop in America was New York and on the way there, we were greeted by
the Statue of Liberty. From New York, we flew over to Los Angeles where a refugee sponsor
had found an apartment for us. In addition, my father signed up for welfare and other federal aid.
My father's American Dream began with twenty dollars in his pocket.
I'm not sure how it is with other kids but on the first day of school, but I began to cry for my
family since it was the only time I was separated from them. My brother and I both started
school that year, but none of us spoke a word of English. Within three months, we were able to
learn the language. One of our family friends had heard about our story and how we came to
America and offered my dad a job. Three years later, we saved up enough money to visit Europe
and what we saw absolute destruction. Buildings, even sacred temples, were full of bullets.
Houses were lucky if they didn't have a bullet hole. There was simply no remorse for human life.
The city where we stayed in Macedonia was almost completely leveled. When we visited the
city, one of my uncles was telling us of all the events that happened while we were gone. He said
that an artillery shell fell in the basement where eleven people were hiding and killed everyone
inside so he quickly rushed to go help and said that he literally had to get the guts of the people
and put them back in the bodies. It's a bit graphic, but there is no other way to explain it.
Above all, I've seen atrocities at age five that adults would be horrified of seeing. Life for
me began reversed; it started from first seeing aspects of death to now seeing the brighter side of
life. Some people still hold grudges and live in the past; but for me, the past has passed and I do
one thing, forgive but not forget. Now that I have been exposed to death, there is no absolute
limit for my achievement due to inspiration and preservation from my past experiences. Being
blessed with good fortune to survive the war pushes me to excel so all the people who weren't as
fortunate will not die in vain. We came to America for a better life, and especially for me, a
better education; whatever opportunity comes my way, I will be certain to make the most of my
situation. "Kush ka zemër ka edhe krahë" - Albanian proverb; He who has a heart also has
You have almost triple the recommended amount of words... Besides that, I really like your essay, it is a great personal experience to share, but you are most definitely in need of some major editing to make this concise. You have great storytelling skills as I can tell by the descriptive vocabulary you used and detail. However, that being said, you could use a lot less of it. For example, you don't need to go through a play by play description of every event that happened on that particular day. I also think that your opening is not very strong and does not really contribute to the rest of your essay. Also, things like "It's a bit graphic, but there is no other way to explain it. " are not necessary at all. I think you have the makings of a great personal essay, but your real obstacle is cutting down on the words. College admissions people aren't gonna want to read a 1400+ word essay which is what it is right now. Chances are, they won't read it all, and you will have a disadvantage from the beginning. The major points are, make it concise, eliminate unnecessary sentences, but still maintain your detail and personable qualities in the essay.
So with that I wish you the best of luck, and I truly enjoyed reading your essay, although it was a bit long... but you know what to do, so go do it! :)
I hope this helps.