My Personal Statement: Vanderbilt University - Grace P.

29 DEC 2020

In her personal statement for Vanderbilt University, Grace wrote about how moving to a new country as a young teenager challenged her proclivity to meticulously plan everything in her life — and how it taught her to adapt and be more present.

This essay is part of a collection of personal statements written by Crimson students who were accepted to their top-choice universities in the US and UK. By bringing together nearly 25 of our best students’ essays, we want to provide inspiration for future students with the same aspirations and goals. This series will showcase the wonderful variety in our student’s essay creations — powered by their personal voice and supported by their dedicated Crimson essay mentors. Ready to be inspired? Let’s go…

A lot has changed about my back-to-school shopping since sixth grade, but the same item has always topped my to-buy list: my favorite planner, the Whitney English Day Designer.

I love the Day Designer because it includes a full page for every day, complete with an hourly schedule, to-do list, daily quote, and even a small box for gratitude. I write everything in my planner: homework assignments, after-school clubs, birthdays (even my own), and everything else that dares to be forgotten. If it’s flying around in my head, it goes down on paper in smooth black ink. Every summer around mid-July, you can find me meticulously scheduling in important dates for the new school year. Planning for the future transforms feelings of anxiety and overwhelm into a sense of calm and preparedness.

However, all the time and careful attention I had taken to plan out my entire high school journey before freshman year became irrelevant when my mom shocked me with the news that we would be moving from our suburban home in St. Louis, Missouri to Blonay, Switzerland for her new job. How would I fit the enormous weight of moving across the world in a monthly calendar? How could my daily to-do list possibly have enough space to grapple with the knowledge that I would be packing up and leaving the only home I had ever known? The planning system I had relied on and trusted for years failed me, and I had no idea what to do. I never could have planned for this.

Between cardboard boxes, donation bags, and my ever-growing anxiety about moving to a new country, I got to thinking. There was an infinite list of experiences on the horizon I would never be able to plan for: starting a new school, making new friends, and assimilating into a new culture with a different language. This fear and discomfort led to the realisation that my current planning system would not be able to keep up with the realities of my new life. I couldn’t abandon the trusty Day Designer I relied so heavily upon, but I needed to adapt. How could I strike a balance between charting out life’s most minute details and learning to be okay with changed plans?

I began searching for a solution, and eventually found it in the Target stationery aisle: colorful Post-It notes. Not only do they brighten my days by adding visual variety to each page, they make scheduling and planning more flexible. As I settled into my new home and school, it became evident that this system was exactly what I needed. Changes I would have previously viewed as inconvenient and frustrating morphed into exciting opportunities. Tutoring pushed back one hour on Saturday morning became a relocated Post-It note and time to go for a walk in the Swiss Alps. A doctor’s appointment after school was no longer a wasted afternoon, but a chance to improve my French in the form of a neon orange colored Post-It note. Joining an international school and making new friends has not been a daunting task, but an extraordinary adventure.

I feel at ease knowing when (not if) plans change, all it takes is a quick adjustment in my planner and my mindset to stay focused on my goals while avoiding chaos. This addition to my planning routine has taught me it is not only necessary to be flexible and adapt to changes, but it’s also the most efficient way to live.

As the handwritten Theodore Roosevelt quote on the front page of my planner reminds me, “There can be no life without change, and to be afraid of what is different or unfamiliar is to be afraid of life.” Now, instead of the fear, confusion, and worry I felt when faced with an international move, I feel gratitude, hope, and excitement about the changes and challenges my future holds.

NEXT WEEK: Read the essay that got Rae T. into Cambridge!

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