College Essays

Common Application

After a year of waiting, the day of the sentencing had finally come. In the midst of grieving, finishing school, moving across the country, and starting over in a new community, it remained always in the back of my mind. For a year, I would hear snippets of updates from my uncle, who flew back and forth for each court hearing. Each time, I thought it was almost done. The process seemed to drag on forever. I just wanted it to be over. 
When the date was set, I had very little time to prepare. I knew I wanted to attend; I needed to attend. But, would I speak? Would I face the man who permanently altered my life? Would I stand up in front of a judge and tell the story of the awful night– the night my parents were killed by a drunk driver? 
To do the right thing, the court needed to feel the pain firsthand– and the only way to that was through me. After all, I opened the door at 2 a.m. and received the news, and I was the one who lost her parents.
Terrified to see the defendant, I wondered how he would feel seeing me. Sitting in the same room made it harder for me to separate myself from him. I had to weigh the need to protect other children versus depriving another human being his freedom in the core years of his life I slowly walked up to the stand, determinedly avoiding all eyes except those of the judge. The cameras turned towards me, and I knew that what I was about to say would make headline news. It was public-speaking on a whole new level. This was the real world. My story would be known by thousands of people; so, I had to choke back tears and tell it. I began. 
After my testimony, I stumbled to my seat and allowed myself to briefly relax. However, the trial was far from over. A few speeches later, it was the defendant’s side’s turn to speak. They attempted to negate all that I had said. They begged for mercy, asserted that everyone made mistakes. I found it agonizing to sit there and maintain composure. It wasn’t as though I wasn’t empathetic. It was their son, their fiance that they hoped to save. But I feared that the judge would believe them. 
Thirty-two years. Hours of testimonies later, the judge concluded the trial, and sentenced the man to 32 years in prison. I felt a rush of relief. I had done my part, and now the only thing to do was to continue on with life. 
Now two years later, I see the effects of this experience everyday. There is no return to normalcy after something like this, only living life with as much joy as possible, which I try to do. I strive to make my parents proud and honor their memories by taking advantage of all of the opportunities life presents to me. I now attend a new high school in New Jersey, with greater academic rigor than my previous school. But hard work and challenges are not as daunting as they used to be. I’ve already faced the worst that life can throw at me. Through these tragedies, I’ve discovered a resilience I never knew that I had. Through these tragedies, I’ve learned to look on the bright side, and to know that life will always get better again. This is the attitude with which I wake up each morning.

Tips for Writing:
If a tragedy has happened to you, try not to focus on the negative aspects. Gory details are not always necessary, because it will come across as though you are complaining. Similarly, emphasize the positive aspects of the tragedy, especially how you grew as a person as a result. At the beginning, don’t concern yourself with word count. Just write as much as you can, because you can always edit down later. Detail is important, especially details about you. Have your essay proofread, but not by too many different people. In the end, write what you want to write. People may have helpful feedback, but the essay is yours and it should reflect your thoughts. Start writing the essay early, and allow yourself plenty of time to edit. You don’t want to be pushed for time close to the deadline. If you start writing it in your junior year English class, take it seriously. Overall, I think the simplest way to write a college essay is to pick a meaningful experience to you, describe it, and write about how it affected you. 

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