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Feedback on my personal statement to the University of Washington


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Hello everyone! Below is my admissions essay to UW for the prompt:Tell us a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.

I would love criticism on how to improve sentence variety, flow, ideas, vocab, etc. Any idea you have on what you believe would make this essay better is welcome :)


My feelings that day were equivalent to abandoning a best friend in the middle of the Sahara. He was utterly helpless, and nothing I could do would save him. The person in question was my foster brother, and also the one person I have been closest too. The likelihood that I will ever speak to him again is low, but he has influenced me more than anyone else ever will.


James was my brother's first best friend, and would always ride the bus home with us in a futile attempt to avoid his aunt. Although my brother and James were nearly inseparable, they did get in fights pretty often considering their stubbornness. After these constant bouts, James would vent to me. One day he told me all about his parents. His father was currently in jail, while his unemployed mother lived a couple hours away with his four half-siblings. Because of his parents, James had been living on the streets before his aunt agreed to take him in. Although his childhood was heartbreaking, I immediately gained respect for how strong James was. My problems were trivial. James helped me to realize just how fortunate my life is.


When his aunt lost custody of him, my family stepped in. We aspired to legally adopt James, but we were only able to take him in as a foster child. He adapted to our home with ease, and I connected to him in a way I never could have with my blood brother. The two of us would sit in my room and talk for hours about life, people, and the future. Then his persona changed entirely. My poor father had to endure countless meetings involving his truancy. Because of his absences, we were deemed unfit to keep him; regardless of the fact that he was fed, clothed, safe, and loved in our home. Custody now belonged to his birth mother.


I remember that last drive down to the slums of Olympia vividly, it was the last day I ever saw James. When we pulled into the deteriorating house's driveway, his mother was already outside. She beckoned us to follow her to the top level of the house. I noticed the dust and grime caked onto the floor. James' older sister was feeding her mother's baby as she sat on a couch crammed beside the kitchen. This was where we were leaving my best friend, my little brother. His mother broke down into sobs once the door closed. She was remarkably grateful that we had kept him safe and promised she would do the same.


Months later my brother finally contacted James. He had just been released from juvenile detention and was living on the streets with his friends. His own mother, the person whom the court decided was a better suited caregiver than my family, had forbidden James to live in her home anymore. My immediate reaction was rage. I could not believe she would give her own child a death sentence by making him live on the street. Once I calmed down I realized it wasn't entirely her fault. His childhood influenced his recent decisions. He was simply going back to what he knew.


Living with James for those few months taught me that I do have the ability to influence people. It may be too late for my brother, but there are plenty of children that will suffer the same fate if no one steps in. Volunteering at Housing Hope is just what I needed to make a difference. Before meeting James I never thought I would be able to change anyone's life, but seeing the children at Housing Hope grow is proof that I am. Because of James, I now recognize myself as a leader.

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