Teen Shares Her Harvard Admissions Essay That Will Resonate With Anyone Who Lost a Parent


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A post shared by Abigail Mack (@abigail_vmack)

When Abigail Mack sat down to write her college admissions essay, she began with a bold assertion: she hates the letter “S.” The essay, which she shared in a series of videos on TikTok, caught the attention of millions of people and earned her admission into Harvard University’s class of 2025 (which has an admission rate of just 3.43%). The reason it resonated with so many was—and remains—that her writing speaks to anyone who has lost a parent.

After declaring that she hates the letter “S,” Mack explains why. “Of the 164,777 words with ‘S,' I only grapple with one,” she writes. “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,” she says. “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.”

The essence of this writing captures the devastation that someone feels when losing their parent and how they push forward through grief. For Mack, that took the form of “distracting herself” from the letter “S.” She threw herself into sports, clubs, and other activities. “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.”

By throwing herself into so many endeavors, Mack eventually realized that of all the ones she tried, she enjoyed theater, academics, and politics the most. There was then a shift; instead of using activities as distractions, she found she was chasing a double “S”—paSSion. “‘S' got me moving, but it hasn't kept me going,” Mack said at the end of her essay. “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.”

After sharing her essay in its entirety, Mack filmed herself opening up the email from Harvard telling her that she was accepted. Completely overwhelmed and on the verge of tears, it shows the complexities inherent in life. That even when the worst happens, we continue to move forward and can find joy existing with sadness.

Abigail Mack wrote a touching college admissions essay that will speak to anyone who has lost a parent.  Watch her talk about it here:

@a_vmackThe Common App Essay that got me into Harvard ##harvard ##ShadowAndBone ##SkipTheRinse ##college ##loss ##singleparent ##fyp♬ original sound – Abigail Mack

@a_vmackReply to @a_vmack My Common App Essay that got me into Harvard part 2 ##harvard ##fyp ##xyzbca♬ original sound – Abigail Mack

@a_vmackI hate the letter “S” – part 3! ##harvard ##s ##IFeelWeightless ##ChipsGotTalent ##commonapp ##fyp ##college ##writing ##passion ##ihatetheletters ##loss♬ original sound – Abigail Mack

@a_vmackI hate the letter “S” – part 4 (the final part)! ##harvard ##s ##IFeelWeightless ##ChipsGotTalent ##commonapp ##fyp ##college ##writing ##passion ##xyzbca♬ original sound – Abigail Mack

The essay helped Mack get accepted to Harvard. Here's her reaction upon learning the news.

@a_vmackI didn’t have a voice for a week after this 🥰 ##harvard ##college ##accepted ##fyp ##foryou ##xyzbca ##MakeMomEpic♬ original sound – Abigail Mack

Abigail Mack: Instagram | TikTok
h/t: [BuzzFeed]

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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