A Massachusetts high school senior has shared the poignant college admissions essay that helped her earn acceptance to Harvard University.
Abigail Mack, 18, wrote in her Common App essay that she hates the letter ‘S,’ explaining that since she lost her mother to cancer, the ‘S’ in ‘parents’ has haunted her.
But it also motivated her to keep busy, filling her schedule with AP classes and extracurricular activities — and now, thanks to her stellar record and a well-written essay, she’s headed to Harvard in the fall.
Taking off: Abigail Mack, 18, is headed to Harvard University in the fall, and this month has gone viral after reading the Common App essay that helped get her in
Poignant: Abigail said that she hates the letter ‘S’ since losing her mother to cancer
Abigail read her essay in a series of TikTok videos which have gone viral, with the first part racking up 18 million views.
‘I hate the letter “S,”‘ Abigail wrote. ‘Of the 164,777 words with “S,” I only grapple with one. To condemn an entire letter because of its use .0006 percent of the time sounds statistically absurd, but that one case changed 100 percent of my life.
‘I used to have two parents, but now I have one, and the “S” in “parents” isn’t going anywhere.
‘”S” follows me. I can’t get through a day without being reminded that while my friends went out to dinner with their parents, I ate with my parent.
‘As I write this essay, there is a blue line under the word “parent” telling me to check my grammar; even Grammarly assumes that I should have parents, but cancer doesn’t listen to edit suggestions.
‘I won’t claim that my situation is as unique as one in 164,777, but it is still an exception to the rule — an outlier. The world isn’t meant for this special case,’ she wrote.
Haunting: The Massachusetts high school senior said that the ‘S’ in ‘parents,’ in particular, follows her
‘I can’t get through a day without being reminded that while my friends went out to dinner with their parents, I ate with my parent,’ she explained
Harsh: She wrote that her grammar-checking app kept suggesting she correct the word ‘parent’ to ‘parents,’ but ‘cancer doesn’t listen to edit suggestions’
‘The world wouldn’t abandon “S” because of me, so I tried to abandon “S.” I could get away from “S” if I stayed busy; you can’t have dinner with your “parent” (Thanks again Grammarly) if you’re too busy to have family dinner. Any spare time that I had, I filled. I became known as “the busy kid” — the one that everyone always asks, “How do you have time?”‘
She packed her schedule with morning meetings, classes, after school meetings, volleyball practice, dance class, rehearsal in Boston, and homework.
She explained: ‘I couldn’t fill the loss that “S” left in my life, but I could at least make sure I didn’t have to think about it. There were so many things in my life I couldn’t control, so I controlled what I could — my schedule.
‘I never succumbed to the stress of potentially overcommitting. I thrived.’
It became challenging to juggle all of her commitments, but she soon found a ‘rhythm.’
‘But rhythm wasn’t what I wanted,’ she said. ‘Rhythm may not have an “S,” but “S” sure liked to come by when I was idle. So, I added another ball, and another, and another. Soon I noticed that the same “color” balls kept falling into my hands — theater, academics, politics.
‘The world wouldn’t abandon “S” because of me, so I tried to abandon “S,”‘ she wrote, explaining how she kept herself busy
‘I couldn’t fill the loss that “S” left in my life, but I could at least make sure I didn’t have to think about it,’ she wrote
‘I never succumbed to the stress of potentially overcommitting. I thrived,’ she said
Soon, she ‘stopped running away from “S” and began changing a double “S” — paSSion’
‘I’m not perfectly healed, but I’m perfect at navigating the best way to heal me,’ she concluded
‘I wanted to come into contact with these more and more, so I further narrowed the scope of my color wheel and increased the range of shades in my primary colors,’ she wrote.
‘I stopped running away from “S” and began changing a double “S” — paSSion. Passion has given me purpose. I was shackled to “S” as I tried to escape the confines of the traditional familial structure.
‘No matter how far I ran, “S” stayed behind me, because I kept looking back. I’ve finally learned to move forward instead of away, and it’s liberating. “S” kept got me moving, but it hasn’t kept me going.’
She admitted that life is ‘convoluted,’ though, and while it’s great that her motivation has propelled her forward, it’s also stopped her from looking back — and she wishes she could claim that she’s been more courageous than that.
‘I’m not perfectly healed, but I’m perfect at navigating the best way to heal me. I don’t seek out sadness, so “S” must stay on the sidelines, and until I am completely ready, motivation is more than enough for me.’
Abigail, who used the Common App to apply to eight schools, was also accepted to Northwestern, Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Dartmouth.
Woohoo! Abigail decided to attend Harvard, and filmed the moment that she saw that she had been accepted
Options: Abigail, who used the Common App to apply to eight schools, was also accepted to Northwestern, Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Dartmouth
Parent: Abigail, pictured with her dad, advises other high schoolers to ‘pour their passion’ into their applications
She has decided to attend Harvard, and filmed the moment that she saw that she had been accepted.
There was a lot of screaming — I didn’t have a voice for about a week afterwards — and I was on the verge of tears,’ she told BuzzFeed.
Though she hasn’t picked declared a major or decided on a career path yet, Abigial said she is planning to study humanities and social sciences with a possible focus in French and foreign policy, and is newly interested in politics.
‘When the Black Lives Matter demonstrations were occurring this past summer, I realized how passionately I felt about politics. I knew that I could no longer stand idly by and watch as the world made leaps forward without me,’ she said.
She joined in the 2020 election cycle as a fellow on Senator Ed Markey’s re-election campaign, and was also involved in phone banking for President Joe Biden.
Abigail suggests that other high school seniors applying to college ‘pour their passion’ into their applications.
‘Your college application is a culmination of everything you’ve done in high school. You’ve already put in the work, so the hardest part is done. Now, you just have to put pen to paper, share what you’ve accomplished, and, most importantly, illustrate how you plan to make a difference going forward in your own, unique way,’ she said.