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"Don't screw up your life like she did." College App Essay for Ivy leagues


Mia2000 1 / -  
Dec 4, 2018   #1

family background personal statement



Here's my personal statement essay about my family background. I've submitted it to some of the schools but I don't know if I should continue the revision process to improve it for the RD round. Any comments are deeply appreciated!!!

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story

"Don't screw up your life like she did." I've heard it many times.

I've been to her hometown. Four hours of bumping along over the rough road. A walk across a fetid dump and slab-paved narrow path. A squat bungalow, its unpainted walls exposing the original color of lime and mud. This is where she grew up.

I've heard about her difficult past. She loved newspaper serials by a writer initially unknown, and made his acquaintance by sending letters. But their marriage ended in the second year; since then she has raised her daughter on her own.

We moved from place to place as I grew up, as she was urged on by a thirst for a new, more inclusive culture. My mom knows neither Hamlet nor Chopin, but insisted on sending me to the theatre and opera, buying the best ticket so that I could sit in the first row, able to see the sweat on the performers' brows. She declined the invitation to give a speech about her parenting experience at my graduation ceremony, saying that her accent and poor education made her unqualified. However, she showed up to every one of my speech contests, giving the loudest applause, even though she didn't understand my English.

My mother is "unsuccessful" in the traditional Chinese mindset, especially according to standards set for women. As I formed my own values, I came to see her without filters imposed by others. I started to question why tradition has made marriage the measure of female ability. I realized the courage she needed to end an unhappy marriage and raise her daughter on her own. I also came to understand how prejudice and stereotypes structure our society, and that long-accepted beliefs need to be questioned.

Empathizing with my mother's struggles made me sensitive to subjects scorned by polite society. Through this sensitivity, I began to develop an interest in working in a field related to social change.

In 11th grade I signed up for a journalism contest called "youth observers," for which I investigated the issue of blind massage workers. Across the street from a polished, glamorous shopping center, the massage workers toil in dimly lit, poorly equipped studios within a crumbling limestone tenement. As I conducted interviews, I was surprised by what I learned about the long, labor-intensive hours and poor working conditions. After I published my report on social media and saw the positive response, I came to appreciate how investigative journalism can give silenced groups a voice. Recognizing that the massage workers' situation is just a small part of human suffering, I want to pursue investigative journalism to uncover situations like theirs and improve awareness of similar struggles.

I was also inspired by my mother's change from a housewife to a manager, running a furniture mall to support us. Through her fearlessness and independence she has infused in me an interest in having my own business. Her example led me to see the noble ideals held by great business leaders, such as GREE CEO Dong Mingzhu, who corrected misconceptions about Chinese products through her ambitious standards of quality; and Andrew Carnegie, who used his wealth to build public libraries. In this mold, I hope one day to run a successful media company, enabling me to drive social change through charitable donations, while improving access to investigative reporting.

Whenever one group stands on ideological high ground to judge others, I want to see the historic al and cultural factors behind that attitude.I therefore see the need to look into misunderstood issues without fear of others' judgements, consistently inquisitive and empathetic in my search for truth. In this way, I'll keep an independent vantage point, just as in how I see my mother.

"Don't screw up your life." How little 'they' understand. My mother has not screwed up her life. She has lived it authentically,

As will I.

Holt [Contributor] - / 7,303 1841  
Dec 5, 2018   #2
@Mia2000 when I finished reading your essay, I had learned a tremendous amount of information about the background of your mother. Unfortunately your mother is not the applicant so as a reviewer, I could care less about her background in such detail. The background that is being required of this essay pertains to YOUR background, not the background of your mother. The latter part, which finally came back to focus on your came in too late in the presentation. By then, the reviewer will most likely have lost interest in your essay describing your mother and would have decided to reject your application already, or place it in a pile for possible consideration later on. The common app prompt you chose is wrong. That is why this essay will not work to your benefit.

You should have instead, used the open topic essay prompt. The one that allows you to design your own discussion topic That way you could have spoken about your mother in the essay and the influence she had on you because of her background. That would have been the more appropriate place for this essay writing piece. Using this prompt, I did not learn anything about you, which was the whole point of this writing exercise. To ask you to talk about something that you feel would be important for me, as a reviewer to know about you, which could strengthen your application. Your mother's background does not tell me about that. I did learn that your mother is an admirable person who should be considered a role model by other single mothers today.
leylamagsud 4 / 7 1  
Dec 7, 2018   #3
I do agree with Holt that the essay is mostly about your mother, not you, but I don't agree that changing the title might fix the error. Yes, you should change the prompt, but also change the structure of the essay. I think you should spend about 1 paragraph talking about your mother's background, and then elaborate on how her experience shaped your perspectives.


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