College Essay Advice Please!

Sun 19 Oct, 2014 03:08 pm
Here's the prompt: 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.

And here's my essay:
I woke up in a cold sweat, grasping at the sides of the bed. As I opened my eyes, a bright light flashed on, and forced me to close them again. After a few seconds, I dared to force my eyelids open once more, and slowly began to take in my surroundings. As everything came into focus, I realized that I was no longer in my bed at home. I was in some kind of white room, and could hear talking from behind a windowless door. I looked down to my right, and saw tubes going into my arm, filled with some sort of red liquid. Reaching up to touch my head, I felt a sharp pang of pain as I ran my fingers over a row of stitches. Using my powerful senses of deduction, I concluded that I was in some sort of hospital room. This came as a shock to me, and I frantically looked around to see if I could find anyone to tell me what had happened. At this moment, a nurse entered the room, and proceeded to wheel my bed out into the hallway. I looked up to her and asked her what had happened. She told me that my family had been in a car accident, and that they were recovering. After getting over the initial shock of hearing this, I asked her to take me to my mother. She was silent.

Later I heard that my mother had passed away.

There were many times during my childhood when I would run into the house and announce to my family that I had performed well on a test, or had won some sort of award. I would accept everyone’s congratulations, and make my way around to give everyone a hug. However, my grandmother would say something different from what everyone else would say to me, something that I feel has played a big part in shaping my personality. Whenever I approached her, she would say to me, with tears in her eyes – you’re fulfilling your mother’s dreams. This small statement has been my main motivation for my entire life.

My mother’s death taught me a very important lesson - that everything is temporary. I now understood exactly how important it was for me to enjoy every moment of life, as they would never come back. This realization greatly changed the way I looked at life, and I began to appreciate everything that I had. I felt that I would only get one chance to achieve success, and that was through hard work. This is what motivated me throughout my entire life. I needed to take advantage of the opportunity ahead of me, and that’s exactly what I did. With this motivation, I hope to make the most out of my life, and make my mother proud.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
Sun 19 Oct, 2014 05:20 pm
"As I opened my eyes, a bright light flashed on, and forced me to close them again. After a few seconds, I dared to force my eyelids open once more, and slowly began to take in my surroundings."

"I dared to force my eyelids open once more.." My issue here is with the use of "dared". Dare is used to describe an action that one isn't likely to do, or is an action that is very risky/scary/treacherous. Opening your eyes after sleeping and closing them due to bright light, is a very natural thing that everyone experiences. Dare comes off as too powerful and I just don't feel like it fits well. Dare also gave birth to "force my eyelids open", but really, its another natural action we all experience. You were giving you eyes a chance to adjust to the light. If it was forced, then you would have had to add that you were fighting through the pain that your eyes were experiencing from the shock of going from extreme lack of light to extreme brightness of light. Because everyone can relate to this part, you shouldn't put too much emphasis and power in it or you come off as maybe an exaggerator for the sake of telling a story to appease your audience.

"Using my powerful senses of deduction, I concluded that I was in some sort of hospital room"

My issue with this part is for a lot of the same reasons of the part above. "Using my powerful senses of deduction.." You come off a joker, an exaggerator, or just someone that wanted to find a way to incorporate the word deduction to show off that you know it, and thus have a good vocabulary. The last part is wise to do, but incorporate the word more casually. The way you say "powerful senses of deduction" for something as simple and obvious as the detection of being in some sort of hospital room, does not fit.
The moment you said "tubes in my arm", I knew confidently you had to be in a hospital, for which I suspected after "some sort of white room". You then give even more hints that there is not anyone that wouldn't know you were in a hospital room.

So to say this is "powerful sense of deduction" is really just a common sense of deduction. I would assess this as a lack of understanding or maybe a lack of judgement, where you will over-compliment or over-insult things. Shows a sense of inflation, or exaggeration.
I don't actually think this of you based on the rest of the writing, I think you were just wanting to really write something good, but put a couple too many bells on.

Conclusion: I think its well written. I think you achieved the goal of the prompt and don't come off as fake. There is a slight sense of you wanting to get pity by speaking about losing your mother in an accident, but I think there is enough that over-weighs that fact and makes it more about something that is central to your identity. Yet, this makes it more important to watch out for exaggerations.

That is just my opinion though. I have no idea who the person/people are to read this essay, and so they may have a totally different idea. So, do as you like with my opinion and don't be afraid to tell me what you think of it.
Mon 20 Oct, 2014 07:06 am
Thanks for the advice!
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Mon 20 Oct, 2014 07:25 am
"Using my powerful senses of deduction,"

Don't say that. It takes the reader completely out of the moment, and makes you sound flippant about an event that of course is anything but. Think of ways that you can say that better. Interweave it better with the tone and topic of your piece.

It is mostly a good piece (we see a lot around here that are very poorly worded or spelled or punctuated, or are padded). If you can edit it down a bit, that would also be helpful, but I understand you might be getting pushed to go for word count.
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