Author's Note: As many of you know (and for those of you who don't know), I was accepted to Stanford University. I'm not 100% sure I'm going there yet, but I really would love to. I received some messages saying Congratulations, but others asking about my transcript, extracurriculars, etc. out of interest. I wish those of you the best of luck who are applying/will apply to college. This is my Common Application essay. I made some revisions for Internet safety reasons. I can't say for sure that this got me into Stanford, but it was a big part of my application. I cried writing this essay, and it is very personal. Many of my friends wrote very different essays and they have fared well--your essay doesn't need to be sad or serious. My biggest tip to you (well a tip I've received from countless admission officers) is to be personal.
Hope you enjoy; let me know what you think. And if you have any questions about other things in my application, let me know.
Prompt: Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
Crossing the Finish Line
When someone in your family is afflicted with cancer, your world comes to a screeching halt. I learned this at the age of five when my younger brother, M, was diagnosed with leukemia. The weeks following his diagnosis were whirlwinds of chaos and confusion. I was separated from my family because I had chickenpox, and by the time I was well enough to visit my brother at the hospital, I almost didn't recognize him. He was small and scared, buried beneath tubes. I remember questioning why he had lost his hair and "gotten fatter," not understanding that these physical changes were side effects of M's treatment. I visited M often, making arts and crafts in the hospital's playroom, watching The Nightmare Before Christmas countless times, or simply sitting by his bed as he rested. The hospital became a second home where I learned to identify the Oncology ward by the brightly colored elephants painted on the walls.
Everyone I knew was affected. My parents were exhausted and heartbroken. My grandparents moved to California to be close while countless relatives drifted in and out of M's hospital room. I watched my brother endure painful operations and procedures, spending most of his days in his hospital bed exhausted. Yet, he remained kind and gentle. Though sick, he did not let the leukemia take over his personality and change it for the worse. Because I was so young, it was difficult for me to comprehend M's courage, but looking back, I now understand the strength it took him to maintain his cheerfulness while he was constantly in pain. At the age of five, I was faced with the hard-hitting fact that I could lose not only my brother, but also my best friend.
By the time M finished his treatment, I was eight years old and the oldest of four children. Because M's future was so uncertain, I was expected to set an example for my two youngest siblings. I learned to put the needs of others before my own and yielded to M's wishes. When M entered elementary school, the side effects of his treatment became apparent. At the age of seven, M could not hold a pencil, identify the letters of the alphabet, or recognize basic shapes. As his older sister, I became his teacher. I held his hand as he learned to color within the lines and painstakingly traced over his cursive writing. I sat beside him on the piano bench, teaching him how to read sheet music and counting out loud as I acted as a metronome. Throughout all these years, I can honestly say that I never remember M questioning why he had to forego special occasions to finish his work. He had an inner serenity that was beyond his age. I saw him succeed when the odds were stacked against him. M was, and still is, the most courageous person I know in the face of adversity.
Through M's struggles with illness and its effects, I have gained valuable insights that have helped me become a better sister, friend, and person. I have always appreciated his strength of character and his tenacity. I aspire to have his inner peace and his stoicism as I accept my own limitations. While I taught my brother tangible skills, I learned from him the intangible lessons of endurance. Working with my brother has taught me not to worry about small setbacks, and to put my failings in perspective.
Fortunately, M has been in remission for thirteen years, and lives a healthy and happy life. He still struggles as the level of difficulty in his work increases, but I know that he will continue to persevere. When my brother is asked to compare himself to a fictional character, he often chooses the tortoise from Aesop's Fables, trying to finish the race. In my heart, M is crossing the finish line. He has taught me how to face uncertainty with steadfast bravery and triumph obstacles with fortitude. As he overcomes more hurdles, I will always be right there next to him, cheering him on. With the confidence and quiet strength M has shown me, I feel more than able to embrace the next uncertain chapter of my own life.
End Note: I would appreciate it if you are respectful. I will remove this if there are inappropriate comments. My brother is alive and fine :)