College Essays

Common Application

Mentoring for the Challenger Baseball League on my spring Sunday afternoons simply brings me joy. In a way, I feel as if I was born a mentor. For most of my life, I have been my brother’s best friend, helper, and cheerleader. I am actually the youngest of five children, yet I have never been the stereotypical youngest child because I have a brother, Jon, nine years older than me who has Down Syndrome. Jon needs help doing many things that we do without even thinking, but growing up with Jon has greatly influenced who I am.
Compared to Jon, I have a vast array of opportunities and am profoundly grateful for each and every one of them. On a daily basis, Jon reminds me of how blessed I am since life could have been very different for me if genetics had not been on my side. As a result, I tend to live my life with passion. Growing up with Jon has also grounded me. Despite his disability, Jon is happy. His love of life and forgiving nature is infectious. I am definitely a person who looks at the glass as half full. When things do not work out, I remind myself that I am lucky to have all the abilities that have been given to me, and then I just move forward. For example, students in my school constantly complain about grades, and I have had my fair share of grades that did not turn out as planned. For me, these instances are not failures, but are learning opportunities because I know that my capabilities are far greater than Jon’s, who cannot even read.
To be honest, life with a disabled sibling is challenging and, at times, extremely frustrating. I personally believe that I have incredible patience because of Jon. Compared to my friends, life’s minor irritations, such as traffic in the senior parking lot or slow computers, do not aggravate me. As much as I love Jon, he does test me, and in those moments, I become his mentor. However, in the end, it is I who learn from him. Through my experiences with Jon, I have learned not only how to communicate with someone who has limited speech but also have come to understand the necessity of respect and validation in my communication with others. Even more importantly, I have learned how to connect with someone whose perception of the world is different than mine, whether it be my brother, my grandmother who had Alzheimer’s, or my peers.
Lastly, my relationship with Jon is influencing the path that I am seeking for my future. I feel the most personal satisfaction when I am with Jon and when I am mentoring the disabled youth in my town. As such, I want to make my impact in the world on an individual level. Similarly, I have decided to pursue a career in healthcare because my experiences with Jon have taught me the value of all human life and the impact that I can make through care and support. Over the next four years, as I further explore my interests, I hope to discover the right career for me. One thing that I know for sure is that it will be one of service due to my life with Jon.

Tips for Writing:
The first thing I would say to any student that is writing their college essays would be that it is OK to scratch your essay and start over. I wrote my Common App essay at least three times with each time having a different topic. It is definitely stressful to have to start over, but I can officially assure you that you will find the right topic for your essay. Once you find that topic, it will just click! Also, don’t rush the writing process. Rushing an essay means that it is not the best work that you can do. Take the time to sit down and reflect on your essay. Try to pick a topic that is personal to you and something that you are passionate about. The admissions officers really want to get to know you, and the more passionate you are about a topic, the easier it will be to write about it. Make sure the topic reflects things about you and your personal growth. My Common App essay was a difficult one for me to write because it is hard to write about yourself (since we don’t write about ourselves to often). I got lots of insight from my teachers, my guidance counselor, and my family about my essay. That insight helped me fine tune it and make it the best that it could be. So, I suggest that you get different people to read your college essays once they are about finished. In the end, my Common App essay got me into Penn State University and hopefully others since I am still waiting for decisions from most of my schools!

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