Girl’s Harvard admission essay about losing a parent goes viral

High-school senior got into the prestigious university the same year it announced its lowest-ever acceptance rate

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Monday 10 May 2021 22:51
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<p>A view of Harvard Yard on the campus of Harvard University on July 08, 2020 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.</p>

A view of Harvard Yard on the campus of Harvard University on July 08, 2020 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A high school senior has gone viral for sharing the college admissions essay about losing a parent to cancer that got her accepted into Harvard University.

Abigail Mack is an 18-year-old high school senior whose essay went viral on video-sharing platform TikTok, according to Buzzfeed, which first reported the news.

The essay from the future member of the class of 2025 is a clever and heartfelt riff on going from a life of two parents to one with a single parent, and it returns to that subtle spelling difference, just the letter “s” to make its larger point.

“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.” Ms Mack says in the TikTok video.

The story continues with a discussion about how the young student filled her life with a number of extra-curricular activities to cope with the loss.

“Any spare time that I had, I filled. I would be known as the ‘busy kid,’ the one that everyone always asks, ‘How do you have time?’”

Eventually, however, this pursuit led Ms Mack to a deeper set of interests like politics and art, and she concludes by writing she “began chasing a double ‘s’: passion.”

Perhaps even more impressive than the fact Ms Mack’s video was seen by 19 million people on TikTok, is the fact that she got into Harvard during its most competitive application season of all time.

During the pandemic, applications spiked 30 per cent over previous years, and the school accepted 1,968 out of 57,435 first-year applicants, less than 4 per cent. Facing such a deluge of potential students, the school delayed its application decision for a week.

“These applicants have faced and overcome unprecedented challenges over the past year,” dean of admissions and financial aid William R Fitzsimmons wrote in a statement at the time. “Their applications and personal stories revealed a window into their resilience, their intellectual curiosity, and their many positive contributions to family, school, and community. They are truly inspiring.”

Ms Mack, according to other TikTok videos, is from Brockton, Massachusetts, and performed in professional theatre productions, volunteered with senator Ed Markey and president Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, and teaches young people dance at her family’s dance studio. She was valedictorian of her high school class.

She regularly posts college admissions advice videos on her TikTok, and has nearly 100,000 followers.

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