50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays - Tanabe Gen, Tanabe Kelly 2009
“Addressing injustices” by Mathew Griffin
My reasons for wanting to be a doctor are very similar to why most people choose their career path: I want to make things fairer.
People such as social workers are out to help make the world a little less unjust. It’s not necessarily injustice from other people that I want to fight as these people do, but injustice from other factors. Many people who are close to me have been struck down from their future in ways that it’s impossible for them to recover. My aunt was a great artist and loving mother before she developed severe schizophrenia. She now locks herself in her house for weeks at a time and remains isolated from her family. My friend Eric, who was once in his school’s varsity basketball league, cannot play his senior season because a car accident left him nearly paralyzed. Finally, my friend vince’s depression has stripped him of his will to live, and despite attempts of over a dozen psychiatrists and medications he still spends most of his days aimlessly lying in bed. While I try very hard to cheer him up by talking to and entertaining him I am deeply concerned about his future. This trend is something that I’m seeing almost everywhere. More and more people are becoming depressed and hopeless, and I want to be able to put life and happiness back into them.
not only do I see these injustices in my life, when I’m volunteering at my local hospital my desire to help become even more embold-ened by the people I meet. A new grandmother I met recently had her spine shattered when she fell from a ladder back onto a table. As I talked to her, I remembered how many times I’ve seen pictures of my grandmother lifting me and my cousins and caring for us, and became overcome with emotion. While I don’t believe her ability to care for her grandchildren will be destroyed, I know that she won’t have the same opportunities as other grandparents and the inequality of the situation makes me extremely upset. I want nothing more than to give back her ability to walk and lift her grandkids. I believe being a doctor can allow me to bring this closer.
This essay demonstrates Mathew’s commitment to social justice.
Rather than making justice an abstract or philosophical issue, the essay shows us how it is directly relevant to Mathew’s life by giving this injustice many faces: those of his aunt, his friends Eric and Vince, as well as the people he has met through volunteerism. While a long list of these people probably would not be interesting to read, Mathew has fit them into his essay as characters in stories. He does this by keeping the personal profiles distinct (his aunt has schizophrenia, Eric was paralyzed in a car accident, Vince is depressed). Furthermore, the organization of this short essay helps separate the people about whom he writes into two categories: 1) those who are close to him and 2) those who are in the wider community. In this way, Mathew shows the influences that are closest to home before branching out to the bigger community. As Mathew’s essay demonstrates, writing about one’s personal experiences is an effective way to rein in a topic as all-encompassing as justice.
The beginning of Mathew’s essay makes a generalization. He states, “My reasons for wanting to be a doctor are very similar to why most people choose their career path: I want to make things fairer.”
Mathew might have started with simply: “I want to make things fairer.”
Since the essay questions specifically ask why he is interested in medicine, referencing all professions and careers beyond medicine broadens the scope of the answer rather than narrowing it. Furthermore, it is best to avoid sweeping generalizations in order to respect the plurality of beliefs in the world. For instance, many people may not choose their career paths to make things fairer; some may be motivated by money or fame. “Things” is also a bit vague, as is the phrase “other factors”—
Mathew’s might have clarified these terms so we can have a stronger sense of what sources of injustice he is hoping to fight.
Mathew takes advantage of the essay prompt to write about his volunteer work at a recent hospital. His story about the grandmother he met is heart-touching because Mathew is willing to share his personal reaction: “As I talked to her, I remembered how many times I’ve seen pictures of my grandmother lifting me and my cousins and caring for us, and I became overcome with emotion.” This gives us a sense of Mathew’s deep sense of caring for others.