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NCSSM admissons essay: adversity

katielady108 1 / 2  
Dec 20, 2009   #1
I am a sophmore who is interesting in attending the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM for short) next school year. It is a residential high school for Juniors and Seniors. If you could, please read through this and give me any critiques you have. Thank you very much for helping me.

The essay prompt was: Have you had any adversity in your life that you want to explain?


Last year, I attended the Super Saturday event at NCSSM. I viewed the campus and listened to the admissions presentation. When the admissions director mentioned this essay on adversity, I immediately began to think about what I would include in mine, and did not come up with much. I was raised in an upper-middle class family in a small town filled with families that have been friends for generations. I have had the oppertunity to attend a very good private school since I was three years old. I had two loving parents who worked hard, an older sister who was my best friend, and my sweet, younger brother who I loved more than anything else. The only things I could think of to write about were that maybe my parents were not around as much as I would have liked while I was growing up, and my little brother was diagnosed with Autism before anyone had really heard of or understood it. Then, the year that changed my life began, and I soon had plenty to write about.

2009 started just like any other: balancing the lives of two hardworking parents, two active teenagers, and one exceptional pre-teen. Life was hectic, but never surprising. The dull rhythm of everyday life had not changed since I could remember. Until January 25, when my parents announced their divorce out of the blue, just six days before my birthday. My sister and I were completely shocked. We did not even know anything was really wrong. Apparently, my mom was tired of dealing with my dad's schedule of running a business basically by himself; and my father had recently remembered a traumatic event from his childhood which caused him to develop a severe case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, he was able to hide this from everyone. He finished moving out completely on my birthday. But, he was never far away. He stayed at a friend's lake house only ten minutes from our home, and was there to take my brother to school everyday.

Before this time, I had never fully been aware of the snake-pit that I had lived in my whole life. Everyone around me turned, bluntly, into gossips and hateful people. I had heard my mother make comments like this all the time growing up, but I had never experienced an event like this for myself. Until one day, a man, who I had known my entire life as kind and gentile, cornered my dad and told him, "I could kick your ass for leaving your family." People who had no idea what was really going on were talking and taking actions based on gossip and assumptions. The quiet, friendly, small town I had know unmasked itself to me. I had finally seen it as it truly was: vicious circles of people with nothing better to do than to worry about their reputations and the reputations of others.

In March, my sister's boyfriend, Chris, was caught up in a misunderstanding at the local hospital and was arrested. He was there to get lunch money from his dad, the head pharmacist at the hospital. While there, he was asked to move his belongings from his father's car to his own. He grabbed some clothes and his air soft gun, did as he was told, got some lunch, and returned to school. A security guard monitoring the cameras saw the air soft gun and, assuming it was a real gun, said there was a gunman in the hospital. The police were notified and Chris was identified within a half hour. When he arrived back at school, he had no clue the police were waiting there to arrest him. He was released a few hours later and the charges were dropped when they determined he had done nothing wrong. However, this misunderstanding led to materials being found in his car that were not allowed on school property. The school was given no choice but to expel him. Neither the state, nor local news ever followed up on the story to tell what really happened. Most people here still believe that there was a crazy gunman, high on drugs, that day, who had over twenty hostages in the hospital.

Almost a month later, on April 4, 2009, my sister and Chris told me that she was pregnant. This would have been great news if she was not only seventeen years old and still a junior in high school. In shock and disbelief, I got angry her. I basically told her that I did not approve and that she should get an abortion. I did not think she could handle having a child. I only wanted the best for her, and I did not think that included having a baby. In telling her this, I think I broke her heart. As a result of being so harsh on my sister, I lost my best friend that day.

School let out for summer, and soon, everyone knew she was expecting. I no longer enjoyed going out because I knew that everyone I talked to had ulterior motives: to find out gossip about my parents, my sister, and my new brother-in-law. I was not being paranoid. My closest friends even came to the same conclusion. I spent most of my time at home, taking care of my brother, and at the lake relaxing with he and my dad. During the time spent with my father that summer, I began to get to know him. He had worked all the time my entire life. But now, seeing how he had not held his family very high on his priority list, took time off to be with his kids. This was the longest amount of time I had spent with my dad since I could remember.

School began, and it was the first time I had ever been there without my sister. People were talking nonstop about my family, but I was used to it by now. Within a couple of months, things returned to a semi-"normal" state. By then, everyone had become aware of the details of my life, so there was never any reason to bring it up. This gave me relief. I was able to return to school work, friends, and sports relatively stress-free.

On December 11, 2009, the night before my scheduled Super Saturday of this year, my sister and brother-in-law welcomed their daughter, Callie-Mae Elizabeth, into the world. That night, I began to look at my surroundings and the adversity that I have faced. Even though my parents are no longer together, they are much happier now. Also, that even though I was not supportive of my sister at the very beginning of her pregnancy, I can look at her and her new family and know that everything is going to be all right. I had found that this year, I have developed tremendously. I am no longer a sheltered child who believes there is good in almost everything, and that you should always to the "proper" thing. I am a confident, young woman, who knows never to internalize anything hurtful that someone says or does; that no one can control everything, so you have to do the best you can with what you have; and that if you depend on those closest to you and work hard, things will always turn out alright. Someone once said, "If everything's not okay, then it's not over", and I completely agree with them.
OP katielady108 1 / 2  
Dec 20, 2009   #2
Okay, well I'm screwed. There's a 2,000 character limit, and mine is 6,756.
Any suggestions on how i can shorten it too?
Jeannie 10 / 214  
Dec 21, 2009   #3
Don't panic, katie. Cutting words is easy. Go through one more time, and figure out what is truly important and what is irrelevant. I will be back in a bit to help.

PS. Be sure to keep this copy intact in case you need a longer essay in the future ;)

Blue skies!

EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Dec 21, 2009   #4
There's a 2,000 character limit, and mine is 6,756.

Oh no! And you spent all that time writing. Okay, well chop that whole first para, because even though it is SO introspective and nice, it is no good to tell the reader that you had very little adversity and that your family had plenty of money. Some people, possibly including the person who reads this essay, have struggled so much financially that they will resent you for your financially comfortable upbringing!!!

Besides, the essay is about adversity, not absence of adversity.

Then again, it is great that you mention having attended that Super Saturday thing...

Ah, you write so well that I hate to chop anything...

Okay, condense that first para so that you say the important stuff in 3 sentences. Chop the rest. Then, add a thesis statement at the end of that paragraph.

Mention the divorce as part of your thesis statement, but there is no need to give too many details.

Para #2: Before this time, I had never fully been aware of the snake-pit that I had lived in my whole life. -----> This sentence is great!

Chop the part about suggestng an abortion. You might have to chop the whole thing about your sister in order to cut it down to size. That is her adversity, anyway...

Ah, good luck!! Sometime, read Stephen King's book On Writng: A Memoir of the Craft. He calls this process fo cutting "killing your darlings."
Jeannie 10 / 214  
Dec 21, 2009   #5
chop that whole first para,

That is exactly how I started my edit! I invested almost an hour on revision, and then I lost it somehow. It just vanished. Thanks for picking this up, Kevin!
OP katielady108 1 / 2  
Dec 24, 2009   #6
Thank you all so much!

Kevin - I completely understand about the whole, whole lack of financial stuggle. However, I had already edited that part out of my essay. My dad owned a well-off business, but had a severe gambling addiction for years. That's why my parents were not around too much when I was growing up. They were working to pay off his debts. Would that be something to mention instead?

Thank you for the complements! And i will try to read it.
You all are wounderful!
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Dec 24, 2009   #7
However, I had already edited that part out of my essay. My dad owned a well-off business, but had a severe gambling addiction for years.

Well, out of respect to your father it might be nice to not mention that, but this is indeed an example of something that would make you a more well-rounded character in the eyes of the reader. In the end it is up to you. You will be a success no matter what you choose. Since you understand what I meant, you should be the one to make the decision. It depends on what experience you want to create for the reader. that is what you should ask yourself every time you write.


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