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Dear Brown Admissions,

This being the fifth revision of my college essay, I decided I would try something different. Things you cannot learn about Brie Smith from her high school transcript: the task seemed daunting but I was determined. Sure, it won’t tell you that I have a great laugh or that people watching is my favorite pastime but my essay had to say more than that, and thus the lists started. I made lists of my favorite books, lists of pet peeves, lists of things that make me laugh, lists of things that make me cry, right down to lists of things I want to accomplish in my life (my mother never knew I wanted to learn to fly a plane or count the stars from atop the Eiffel tower).

Eventually I decided that lists weren’t going to suffice. I couldn’t pinpoint a topic that was encompassing enough. If I made a list about how leadership skills play an important role in my life, somewhere it got lost that I would love to write the next great American novel. On the other hand, if I wrote about how a wordless page dares me to write a masterpiece, the fact that as a freshman I was obsessed with Pundit squares rather eluded my reader. If I waxed philosophical about my passion for biology, not only did I sound nerdy, but my passion for tutoring middle school math was swept away. A trend started to emerge.

The lists piling up around me, I began to ‘chunk’ my information. My summer course at Brown huddled with my science fair grants and AP Chemistry at the top left hand corner of my paper, beneath the scrawling title: SCIENCE (I was feeling particularly original). Somehow though, I decided I wasn’t going to use this chunk. Although my success at the school and state science fairs was important to me, it wasn’t going to tell my whole story. AP Chemistry was a great personal accomplishment but you would know I did well from my transcript. The summer course I took strengthened an infatuation with Brown and her campus, but I’ve had my heart set on attending since long before two summers ago. Three weeks on campus wasn’t going to make or break my relationship, but I did admittedly fall head over heels in love once again.

Smushed into the last few centimeters of my paper, the chunk LEADERSHIP told of my middle school math TA assignment, HOBY-RI involvement and position as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper. This chunk seemed more my style, but it wasn’t enough. Being a mentor as well as an educator to young impressionable girls sits at the top of my list of personal accomplishments, but if you cannot see the root of my values then the list cannot be genuine. My community service and involvement in HOBY (Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership), might sound glamorous (I’ve always been a sucker for acronyms) but it’s not so much about what I’ve done, as why I’ve done it. The newspaper speaks for itself as a bridge between my dual loves of linguistics and leadership.

Christmas with the DiPietros, family dinners and my mother’s personal sacrifices stood appropriately on the lines in the middle of my page, a chunk entitled FAMILY. Christmas time with my mother’s family is physically overwhelming but I wouldn’t change it for the world. While my grandmother proceeds to overfeed every known relative, we swap stories from this year and those past while my uncle plays piano in the background. While I might not enjoy being kissed by unknown male relatives, the feeling of love that settles into the room and whispers family in everyone’s ears is what is truly overwhelming. That people who are so varied in their lifestyles and personalities, would share this strong value will always live within me.

My mother has taken this value to heart and every night without fail she, dad, my sister and I sit down and eat together. Maybe it’s chicken pie, thawed with love, hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill courtesy of dad, or chicken Marsala but no matter how you serve it, its family values. Dinner isn’t something you miss in my house; we all eat together, always. Family is the foundation that the rest of life sits on.

Which I guess is where my mother fits in. The greatest lessons I’ve learned about life, I’ve learned from my mother. She’s instilled in me a value for hard work and an appreciation for what truly adds quality to one’s life. Things of value are often those that require the most devotion and perseverance to achieve and sustain. She supported the two of us while in nursing school and waitressing full time. She left her per diem status at the hospital and now works full time as a pediatric home care nurse because my dad is disabled and unable to work. My mother supports our family herself and her strength of character is what holds us together.

The strength she has given me cannot be found in my transcript.

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