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My Personal Statement: The University of California, Los Angeles - Matthew P.

03 APR 2021

Matthew got accepted to UCLA with his essay about the role he played as a caregiver and pillar of strength for his epileptic sister. He describes how her diagnosis reshaped his family dynamic, helped him develop a deeper sense of compassion, and redefined his understanding of the word “family”.

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…

"It's time for a serious chat," my dad said. "Your sister has been diagnosed with epilepsy."

I didn't know much about epilepsy at the time. Judging by the somber expression on my dad's face, though, I knew it was very, very serious. My brain, fried from a long day at school, automatically kicked into overdrive. I wondered what effect this had on my family.

The first time my sister had a seizure in front of me, I had no idea what was going on. It frightened me to see her have this out of body experience where she had no control over her actions; all I wanted to do was help. This helplessness made me realize the role I had to play and that I had to make it a priority for me to learn how to care for her when it would happen again. It has been difficult for me to see my parents struggle through this time, one could never wish upon an event such as this in anyone's life. They saw my sister's character entirely change as a result of this condition. She went from being a confident young girl that had an answer ready for any question before you could even ask it; to one that lacked assertiveness and social skills, what were once her defining characteristics. My heart broke for her and my parents.

What was best for Andie was a supportive, stable home life. It forced me to sometimes give up on visiting friends on the weekend, to be there for her when she needed it the most. As time progressed, I soon became a pillar of strength for my sister, whether it be during one of her seizures or in daily aspects of her life. From that day on, my relationship with my parents was never the same. I had transitioned into an adult with the responsibility and capability of taking care of and standing up for others. Our dinner conversations became more mature, and I loved our new dynamic. Having the responsibility of looking after my sister also gave me a greater sense of understanding and compassion for the unknown.

This experience as a whole enabled me to engage more with those around me. I felt as if I had a better understanding of people and their emotions. As a result, I forged deep and meaningful relationships with not only the people around me at school but also with people many years older than myself, many of whom I remain close with to this day. Engaging in meaningful conversations with these varied groups of people, including my parents, allowed me to mature at a young age.

I stopped relying on my parents to take care of everything in my life, soon thinking more for myself. I felt a strong, independent vision for who I wanted to be. I envisioned using my skills and talents to benefit those around me. Many people around me were still on the journey of self-discovery; finding and developing their own identity. I have discovered inner strength and confidence through my role as caregiver. This experience has shown me the importance of my contribution towards the welfare of others.

This is why the word - "family" - means a lot to me. My upbringing ended up so different than I expected. My parents simultaneously exposed me to both life's hardships and rewards by encouraging my sense of responsibility, overall maturity, and how much I value my relationships with others. Not forgetting the hurdles such as my sister's epilepsy which in turn allowed me to forge a stronger bond with my family. I will always remember that chat at the dining room table, for it shaped me and developed me into the responsible and robust character I am today.

NEXT WEEK: Read the essay that got Bluebelle C. into Oxford!

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