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Disadvantaged Status Essay, South Korean Applicant

My father was an intelligent man who nevertheless made many bad decisions in life. Instead of keeping his job at a prestigious company in South Korea, he decided to invest everything we had in failing business ventures that left us with nothing but debt. My mother even got a divorce in an attempt to protect my brother and me from the harassment of the most aggressive people to whom my father owed money. My brother and I were only five and two years old, and my mother had to begin working full time. Since then, she has never taken a single day off for vacation. My mother has taught me the importance of a positive work ethic to reach one’s dreams.

Despite my parent’s divorce, my mother continued to pay off my father’s bad debts as best she could. I was twelve years old when my mom finally paid off the last of this debt and reestablished her excellent credit rating. By this time, she had a stable—although still low paying—job with enough money to pay our rent and our other monthly bills to live in a very modest apartment in a working-class neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. Despite finally living comfortably, however, when she was allowed to immigrate to America, she seized it.

Our life in America was a great struggle from the very beginning. My mother began working in a friend’s business within a few days of our arrival. When the company closed down, she looked for any work that she could find that did not require her to speak English and soon began working as a seamstress during the day and a janitor at night. I was in middle school, trying to adapt to everything in a new language; yet, I followed her almost every night and helped her clean so that we could both get a few hours' sleep. I remember constantly feeling tired at school, but I always did my best because I knew my mother would not allow me to help her unless I kept up my good grades. By the end of my last semester in middle school, I made the honor roll with all A’s on my report card.

My mom met my stepdad soon after we came to America, and they eventually got married. I was thankful for the marriage since it resulted in my family being granted permission to stay in America permanently and legally. Every other aspect of the wedding, however, was a complete disaster. Lazy, and abusive, my mother ended up supporting my stepdad and my brother, and I, along with my two step-brothers, worked in a restaurant as a server with her broken English. When my stepdad hit my mom, my brother tried to defend her and was kicked (quite literally) out of the house. I just escaped into my studies and emotionally supported my family. I made a promise to myself that one day I would make my success to outweigh everything that my family has been through.

I looked for ways to excel in school and found that I could start my college education in my senior year as a dual-enrolled student. I had to take a few courses online and finish my last semester with all A’s. I pushed myself and consequently became a dual-enrolled student in my final year of high school. This accomplishment gave me an unprecedented confidence, and I set my mind to achieving the sky as the limit. At school, I was made fun of because I couldn’t speak the language like everyone. Even when I began speaking English fluently, I felt like I was different from everyone else with my unique culture and physical appearance. At home, my stepdad constantly told me that I could never become a dentist, that I was not even capable of cleaning the house, much less someone’s teeth. As a young girl, his harsh words attacked me like a sharp objects. Looking back, it has molded me into a person with the strength to persevere and the desire to push for success.

I have never had health insurance. Since my skateboard accident three years ago, I have suffered from a constant fear of someone in my family getting hurt and not being able to get treated because we cannot afford it. This has helped me to more fully realize how important it is to have access to healthcare. My life below the poverty line has inspired my dream of becoming a dentist who can help others who cannot afford dental care.

I have overcome many obstacles and found my passion. My mom and my stepdad are finally in the process of getting a divorce. My brother came back to America and started college recently. I am now a recipient of support from scholarship donors and a mentorship from my professors. My mother and I both still work in the service industry. I am confident that I can continue to succeed academically in dental school with great perseverance and a solid work ethic. Most of all, I will never lose my motivation to become a dentist and give back to others with a strong desire I have developed from the experiences I had to persevere through.

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