Teen’s inspiring Harvard admissions essay about losing a parent goes viral

TikTok | a_vmack

Abigail Mack is attending Harvard University in the fall. While getting accepted to the prestigious college is a huge accomplishment in and of itself, she’s also gained attention for her poignant application essay about losing her mom to cancer. She shared the content of her essay on TikTok, and it has since gone viral, racking up millions of likes and views on her four-part video series.

“I hate the letter ‘S,'” she begins her essay. “Of the 164,777 words with ‘S,’ I only grapple with one. To condemn an entire letter because of its use .0006 percent of the time sounds statistically absurd, but that one case changed 100 percent of my life. I used to have two parents, but now I have one, and the ‘S’ in ‘parents’ isn’t going anywhere.”

Check out the first part in the clip below:


♬ original sound – Abigail Mack

Mack’s essay went on to explain that after she lost her mother, she attempted to distract herself by participating in a number of extracurricular activities:


Reply to @a_vmack My Common App Essay that got me into Harvard part 2 #harvard #fyp #xyzbca

♬ original sound – Abigail Mack

“I got involved really to fill that gap in my life, and then I talked about how I don’t know when it switched, but I stopped running from the letter ‘s’ — my loss — and I start running towards these things that I motivation and love for, like theater, academics and politics. And so I was really overcommitted, but I kept doing everything because I found passions.”

The student, who goes to Cardinal Spellman High School in Massachusetts and was also accepted to top-tier schools like Dartmouth and Georgetown, speaks more about those passions — including theater and politics — and how she juggled them. She says she developed a rhythm that worked for her in the third part of her four-part series.

@a_vmackI hate the letter “S” – part 3! ##harvard ##s ##IFeelWeightless ##ChipsGotTalent ##commonapp ##fyp ##college ##writing ##passion ##ihatetheletters ##loss♬ original sound – Abigail Mack

In the final part of her essay, Mack reflects on how her experience has forced her to learn and grow.

“I’ve finally moved forward rather than away, and it’s liberating. ‘S’ got me moving, but it hasn’t kept me going,” she says.


♬ original sound – Abigail Mack

“I’m not perfectly healed, but I am perfect at navigating the best way to heal me,” she declares. “I don’t seek out sadness, so ‘s’ must stay on the sidelines, and until I am completely ready, motivation is more than enough for me.”

Mack’s mom, Julie, passed away in 2014, and the college-bound teen knows her essay would make her mom proud.

“The fact that I’m so happy that I’m going to Harvard I think is what would make her the most happy and proud that I was able to achieve a dream,” Mack told CBS Boston.

TikTokers have expressed pride and praise in the comments of her videos as well. The college-bound teen’s first video has 17.9 million views, and the others have gotten plenty of attention as well.

Congratulations to Mack on all her success and best wishes in all her future endeavors!

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About the Author
Kate Streit
Kate Streit lives in Chicago. She enjoys stand-up comedy, mystery novels, memoirs, summer and pumpkin spice anything. Visit Scripps News to see more of Kate's work.

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