College Admission Essay for Cornell University :
Elisa Lam - New York - New York
Elisa chose to write about a serious topic and demonstrate what she learned about herself and her family from the experience. Even though it was a trying situation, she explains how she grew closer to her mother from it. A second-generation Chinese American, Elisa is a first-generation college student and a graduate of Stuyvesant High School.
Growing Up - Cornell University
I was only 14 years old when I faced the realization that neither I nor the people around me were invincible. When I was young, I had always thought that my parents were like superheroes. They were always happy and had the answers for everything. Everyone knew that bad things didn’t happen to good people. Therefore my parents could not be hurt. This theory of mine was also applied to everyone else I knew. With this naïve thought, I felt safe for many years even though I watched the news on television every day and listened to reports on tragic accidents and crimes. The news seemed to be contrived just for entertainment purposes. How could so many murders be committed by ordinary-looking people? How could there be so many stories about death and scandals? I dismissed these stories because I never thought I could be affected by them, they seemed to be so far away from me. Then one day I saw my mother cry.
Two months prior to this event, my family had spent the summer in Connecticut. My mother’s first friend in America, Ann, had opened up a new business in a small suburban town and wanted us to come help out. Every day my father, mother, sister and I helped. Our family stayed over at Ann’s new house the entire summer. In time, Ann and her husband became an extended part of our family. We spent every day together during times of work and play. I recall the fishing trips we had, the lazy days spent by the lake among wildflowers and dragonflies. I learned how to skip rocks and hook a worm that summer. By the time we had to leave, I had collected many happy memories and experiences.
Two months later, the entire family was sitting at the dinner table when I heard my mother gasp and put the newspaper down. This caught my interest and I scanned the page over her shoulder, not knowing what I looking for. Then I found it, a very familiar name - Ann’s. There were no pictures…just an article in black and white. I had to read the story twice before I understood what it was saying. A woman had been shot twice in the head by her husband. After seeing what he had done, the husband shot himself. The bodies were discovered two days later. What was the motive for such an act? She had wanted to divorce him and marry someone else. I remember feeling dazed because I just couldn’t believe that this could happen to two people I had spent so much time with. They had been happy and Ann’s husband seemed nice and normal. I had spent every day of the past summer with this man, never doubting his sanity. I simply did not believe he was capable of such a deed. My mother was in shock. Five minutes later she was crying hysterically when she realized that her friend of over 15 years was really dead. I had never seen my mother cry before. She still rarely cries.
Though this experience was disturbing, it has given me a chance to get to know my mother better. My mother did not have relatives in America or many close friends, so she did not confide in many people. Being a traditional Chinese mother, she did not tell my sister and me much about what was going on or what she really felt. Because of this, my mother and I had never been particularly open about the everyday events in our lives. She was the mother and I was the daughter. She was to teach and I was to listen. This was our relationship. Ann was my mother’s best friend. She knew almost everything about my mother’s life. When she passed away, my mother had no one to talk to. I became my mother’s confidant and friend. Over the past couple of years, we have shared secrets, hopes and dreams. Ann’s death has also made me appreciate both my life and the lives of the people I care about more. The realization that things could change at any given time has definitely changed the way I see things.
Why This Essay Succeeded…
Many students who write about a traumatic experience concentrate on describing the event. The successful essay must go beyond this, which Elisa has done exceptionally well.
By showing us how the death of her mother’s friend affected her, Elisa allows us to learn more about who she is and how she deals with tragedy. Whenever you write about a specific experience - whether as dramatic as this one or not - think about how you can delve into the event beyond the standard who, what, when, where and why. A good essay needs to also answer the question of how such an experience affected or changed you or how you perceived the experience beyond the simple facts of the event.
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