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"Snowflake" - Common App essay-describe the influence of a person

snowflake 1 / 2  
Oct 30, 2010   #1

I'm applying to Columbia U early decision and I don't know if my essay topic is too cliche (I'm writing about a person that has significantly influenced me). Also there might be some logical/transitional issues with my essay that I can't pick out myself. Please read my essay and give harsh comments on how I can improve it.

Thank you in advance,


ps also I'm stuck on a title. Do I have to have one? Any suggestions?

She sits peacefully in a red arm chair as I run my hand through her hair searching for mutants. She winces and I mutter "sorry" while rubbing the root of the grey hair that I plucked out where a crimson speck appears. With thick wool socks and cozy pajamas, she seems like a plain and ordinary woman. Her disarrayed hair and bad posture are nothing like that of Hilary Clinton or Michelle Obama. And she certainly isn't a modern day hero or saint. Instead, she is just a normal middle-aged woman, my mother.

Everything in mother's life used to be just right. Misfortune struck and father died leaving her to fend for herself. There wasn't even a chance of saving him; he died before mother discovered his cold, stone-like body lying on the bathroom floor. I was only four and at the funeral mother suddenly grabbed me by the waist and told me that I don't have a dad anymore. I didn't understand so I stuck out my tongue and shrugged her arms off. She understood that I needed her so she didn't weep day and night and stop going to work. Instead, she told herself to be stronger and look forward and immersed herself in a routine of working and caring for me.

When I was in grade 4 we came to Canada expecting a new life. She took ESL at an adult high school during the day and worked part-time after school. One evening she came home drenched because the bus was delayed so she had to walk for one hour in the rain. I looked at her damp hair and soggy clothes and my heart throbbed with pain. I told her to get a hot bath but she wanted to sit on the sofa first. I could tell she was really tired. She whispered lightly "play something" and I abided because I knew she loves hearing me play the piano. When the soft music poured out under my gliding fingers, out of the corner of my eye I saw that mother was lying with her head slightly tipped back and eyes closed. I couldn't bring myself to suggest the possibility of going back to our home country. I felt a surge of warmth in the corner of my eye and turned away.

In 2008, we moved to our new home on Christmas Eve. I sat on the boxes and thought to myself this is where our lives are going to go uphill. Just when I thought that we could take a break from fighting fate, adversity struck again. My step-father's company was affected by the economic recession so he only worked half of the week. Soon our mortgages sucked all the money out of our bank accounts and we lived in constant fear of bankruptcy. Mother was going to get a part-time job but I stopped her. If she worked another part-time job on top of her full-time job, she'd tire her injured back too much. I told her that it's time for me to acknowledge my responsibilities.

I got a job and started working part-time. There were times when I wanted to give up. Whenever I tried to cut onions, hot tears would slide down my face. All I wanted to do is to walk out of that stuffy and hot kitchen and go home. But when I think about what mother has gone through and compare it with what I need to do, my cheeks would start to burn with shame. I decided that since I'm older now I should contribute to the family. I am not as strong as mother but I will try not to turn away from problems in life. My first paycheck was put in the mortgage and I started to imagine that perhaps I paid for a wall in my own bedroom. Though my mother is a normal woman but her perseverance through the harsh times inspires me to never back away from adversity.

All these thoughts are distracting me and I realize mother's head slowly tipped back to rest on my hands. The sun that used to shine on her knees now retreated to the corner of the room. In the warmth of the sun, I hear a little snore and look down at her face with surprise. I lifted my hand to nudge her shoulders but paused mid-air because I saw the slight upward curve at the corner of her lips and I smiled. We can't foresee the future but we can establish our mind-set so that when misfortune strikes, we'll be ready to face the impact.

I don't know if it's too long (770 words). Also, does the last sentence seem unnecessary? Should I use mom instead of mother?

Thank you again! :)
melkorthefoul 13 / 31  
Oct 31, 2010   #2
"She sits peacefully in a red arm chair as I run my hand through her hair searching for mutants."
Mutants? I assume you mean lice?

"Everything in my mother's life used to be just right.Suddenly, misfortune struck and my father died leaving her to fend for herself."

You seem to be missing all the "my" in front of mother, father, etc. I suggest you go over the essay and look closely for grammatical mistakes
OP snowflake 1 / 2  
Oct 31, 2010   #3
THANKS, I'll correct that right now.
flemtendo 1 / 4  
Oct 31, 2010   #4
It's not too long. Too long is over 1100 words, I'd say. So worry more about your voice, grammar, and effect.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Nov 8, 2010   #5
She sits peacefully in a red arm chair as I run my hand through her hair searching for mutants. -----wow, okay, I'm listening...

Hey, you never helped me to understand why you were searching for mutants!

Here is a place where the verb tense changes:
I hear a little snore and look down at her face with surprise. I lifted my hand to ----- choose present or past tense, and keep it consistent. :-)

This is a very well written story.... :-) But why were you looking for mutants?
nn8nk 3 / 6  
Nov 9, 2010   #6
The essay isn't too cliche at all, it is written very well and I believe you should definitely go with this

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