THE LETTER S ESSAY
Abigail Mack wrote an impressive college admissions essay – The Letter S Essay – that not only helped her gain admission to Harvard University, but also became a viral sensation on the internet. Given the popularity of the essay and the way in which it struck a chord with so many, it’s worth taking a careful look at it to see what makes it so special. The ultimate goal of reviewing the essay is to gain insights and takeaways that you can then use when crafting your own college admissions essay.
The Letter S Essay explores Abigail’s aversion towards the letter S and its symbolic representation of the loss of one of her parents due to cancer. She discusses how the presence of S constantly reminds her of her different family structure, which makes her feel like an outlier. To cope with these emotions, she fills her life with numerous activities and a busy schedule to avoid confronting the absence created by S. She emphasizes her ability to thrive amidst the busyness and regain control over her life. However, she eventually realizes that simply staying busy is not fulfilling and decides to embrace her more focused passions. She acknowledges that while they haven't completely healed her emotionally, motivation keeps her moving forward and allows her to navigate the healing process.
The essay touches on themes of loss, resilience, and finding purpose in the face of adversity. It also demonstrates the author's ability to adapt to challenging circumstances, and highlights the transformative power of pursuing one's passion.
The Letter S Essay possesses many qualities that make it a particularly effective college admissions essay. Let’s take a look at them one by one.
The essay begins with a strong hook that grabs the reader's attention. The introduction highlights the statistical absurdity of hating a single letter, creating intrigue and setting the stage for the personal story that follows. In general, a strong opening is crucial for capturing the attention and interest of the admissions officer. The opening lines of an essay serve as the first impression and set the tone for the rest of the essay. It’s an opportunity for you to make a strong and memorable impact right from the start. By starting with an intriguing or even surprising statement, you capture the reader's attention and encourage them to continue reading with enthusiasm. It also makes you stand out and demonstrates your strong storytelling skills. Finally, it lays the groundwork for a memorable and impactful college admissions essay that will leave a positive impression on the reader.
Unique and Personal Perspective
The Letter S Essay stands out by taking an unconventional approach, focusing on Abigail’s aversion to the letter S as a symbol of her loss. This unique perspective is distinct and unexpected, and showcases Abigail’s ability to approach a common topic from a fresh angle. The approach is a powerful asset in a college admissions essay. Admissions officers read a tremendous number of essays, and many of them cover similar topics or themes. When you approach your essay from a fresh and unconventional angle, it sets you apart from the crowd, and conveys your ability to think critically and creatively, showcasing your individuality and distinctive voice, along with your willingness to approach topics in a unique manner. Moreover, it adds depth and authenticity to the essay.
In The Letter S Essay, Abigail openly shares her emotions and vulnerability surrounding the loss of a parent to cancer. This level of honesty and self-reflection demonstrates her maturity, resilience, and willingness to confront difficult experiences, and it helps to create a strong connection with the reader. By sharing personal emotions, experiences, and reflections in a genuine and sincere manner, and by opening up about feelings and vulnerabilities, you allow the admissions officer to gain insight into your character and capacity for self-awareness and introspection. This vulnerability can help the admissions officer see you as a multidimensional individual. However, it's essential to strike a balance. While it's important to share personal experiences and emotions, the essay should also reflect growth and a sense of forward momentum.
In this college admissions essay, emotional vulnerability is further reinforced through the author's use of language and imagery. For instance, the mention of the blue line under the word "parent" serves as a tangible representation of the emotional weight she carries, and the metaphor of juggling balls reflects her attempt to stay busy and avoid confronting her loss. These vivid descriptions help the reader connect with her experiences on an emotional level.
'Effective Imagery and Language.
The Letter S Essay incorporates vivid imagery and evocative, powerful language throughout, allowing the reader to connect with the author's experiences on a deeper level and making the essay engaging, vivid, and memorable. Abigail creates mental images and evokes emotions in the reader, and by incorporating such imagery and metaphors, she brings her story to life and engages the reader's senses and emotions. It also enables the reader to better understand and empathize with her journey. Using effective imagery and language creates a more immersive reading experience, making this college admissions essay more compelling and memorable. It also helps you to demonstrate your skill in storytelling and it showcases your command of the language and capacity to express complex emotions and ideas effectively. While the use of imagery and language can enhance the essay, it should not overshadow the main message or become overly flowery or embellished. The language should be authentic, purposeful, and aligned with your voice and the overall tone of the essay.
Clear Narrative Structure
Narrative structure refers to the organization and flow of the essay, which is important in effectively conveying your story. A strong narrative structure helps a college admissions essay unfold in a coherent manner. The Letter S Essay follows a clear narrative structure, starting with the initial struggle of avoiding the letter S and progressing towards the author's realization of the need to embrace her passion. This structure creates a cohesive and engaging storyline through a clear progression of ideas and experiences, leading the reader through the author's thought process and emotional development. By presenting a personal story with a clear beginning, middle, and end, the author invites the reader to connect with their experiences and empathize with their journey. The narrative structure adds depth and emotional resonance to the essay, making it more impactful. A well-structured narrative also demonstrates your ability to organize your thoughts and effectively communicate your story.
Reflection and Growth
In The Letter S Essay, the author reflects on her journey, acknowledging her initial coping mechanisms and the realization that true fulfillment comes from pursuing her passion. The essay showcases personal growth, self-awareness, and the ability to adapt and learn from challenging experiences. Reflection and growth in particular are essential elements of an effective admissions essay as they demonstrate capacity for personal development. Admissions officers are interested in understanding what you have learned from your experiences and how you have thus grown as an individual. By showcasing reflection and growth in your essay, and showing you have learned from your experiences and gained valuable life lessons, you convey your potential for continued personal growth and your readiness for the academic and personal rigors of college life.
Relevance to the College Experience
The Letter S Essay subtly connects the author's personal journey to her future college experience. It highlights her ability to manage a busy schedule, thrive academically, and engage in extracurricular activities while emphasizing her passion and determination. It aligns with the values, mission, and culture of college life. Admissions officers seek students who will contribute to and thrive within their academic and social communities. These qualities are highly valued as they indicate a strong potential for academic success, engagement in extracurricular activities, contributions to campus life, and making a difference in the world.
The combination of personal storytelling, emotional depth, and thematic coherence in The Letter S Essay enables it to stand out as a compelling narrative and an effective college admissions essay. It not only captures the reader's attention but also provides a window into the author's character, resilience, and growth, making a strong case for her suitability and potential contributions to the college community.
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Here is the essay in its entirety: