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The Strength of Symbols (Common App Essay)

colladoc 1 / -  
Oct 24, 2013   #1
Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

It is a widespread idea that if there is an event that causes enough stress, the brain will go ahead and "delete" that memory. In the case that it doesn't delete the memory, through that person's life, they will develop something due to what is known as "childhood trauma". This can affect their physical growth, mental development, or even social interactions as they progress through adolescence and adulthood. Eventually, they seek help to confront the trauma, respectively through physical therapy, tutoring, and/or counseling. In my case, the help, as ironic as it may seem since she is related to the cause, is my mother.

My family is originally from the Dominican Republic, and my mother came over to America to follow dreams of a new life. She has worked tirelessly and endlessly in order to provide a good home for my sisters and I, and has been a symbol of strength for me.

Way back when I was a tiny 5 year old and my parents were still married, my sisters and I (of which I am the only male out of a set of triplets) were forced into a situation no child should have to experience. It seemed like a normal morning, and mom was getting ready for work while making breakfast. Electric stoves were not very common, and because of this we had a gas kitchen stove, which gave off flames to provide heat to the cook top. My sisters and I were getting ready for school, and as the eldest, I had to help them with getting ready. I was slowly becoming "a little man" as my dad loved to say. I'm unsure of how it happened, but as I was helping my sisters with their backpacks, my mom was getting the hairspray ready to style her hair as she got the pan on the stove to make scrambled eggs. All of a sudden there was a bright flash of light and a scream pierced the living room. My father rushed us into their room and told us not to look. But as curious as young minds are, we couldn't resist. Looking through the crack of the door (as my father didn't shut it because he ran to help my mother and dial 911), what I saw what terrifying.

My mother was consumed by a fire.

We then burst into tears and huddled in our small group of three, unsure of what was happening; and it was then that I found out what fear truly meant. No one should have to experience such an intense fear that grips you by your whole body. Fortunately, my mother recovered, albeit slowly, although her whole right arm is scarred due to the skin grafts that had to be taken in order to reconstruct the layers that were melted away.

As every child usually does- I love my mother so much that my heart lights up every night when I call her from my dorm room in my boarding school hours away from my home. Ever since then, as my mother persevered through unimaginable pain, dueled with death, and rebuilt self confidence (unfathomed by her constant reminder as she looks at herself daily when getting ready for work); she has been my biggest role model. She has told me numerous times that she wants me to grow up to get a good education and be successful. Everything that I've strived to do has been for her, especially since I'm first generation. To this day, neither of my sisters remember what occurred that day. But I'm glad that I do - because for me it serves as a reminder. And so, my story is two-fold:

It is one of the power of a symbol.

It is one of the strength of a mother.

Lydmeister 6 / 17  
Oct 26, 2013   #2
Wow! What a powerful topic. Definitely integral to your identity.

In terms of essay construction, I would look over it again checking for unclear and unnecessary details that detract from the message/story.
For example: Electric stoves were not very common,
This detail is a bit distracting and is entirely unnecessary. All your reader needs to know is that there was a gas stove.
Also check for confusing things. Either clarify or cut altogether.
For example: ..and as the eldest . Didn't you say you were a triplet? If you felt entitled because you were born just a few seconds earlier then include that (perhaps for comedic relief) or cut it altogether.

The symbolism message needs to be carried through the entire essay. You mention it once at the beginning and once at the end, but if you want your essay to revolve around this idea then it needs way more emphasis.

Finally, make sure you bring this essay back to you. It's wonderful that your mother has been such a powerful role model, but keep in mind that this question is about getting to know you. Relate everything that your mother went through to yourself: how did it impact you? what did you learn? etc. You do this to some extent but definitely amp it up, particularly in the conclusion.

Wonderful essay though. You definitely conveyed the feels. Just read and edit it until you can't take it anymore and you'll know you have a winner!

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