Below is the unedited essay that Meka Este-Mcdonald, founder of JoKno and recent Stanford grad, submitted to Stanford where he was subsequently accepted. Simply put: This is an essay that got a student into Stanford.
To view our post featuring Meka’s three insider tips on how to get into Stanford, click here.
I looked down at my hand, a palm of blood. I am surprised, almost affronted. Things like this cannot happen to me. Hand-eye coordination was the problem of someone else− I was the four-square champ, a freshman varsity point guard, a leader in steals for my team due to the speed of my reflexes. My first summer after the divorce of my mother and step-dad, my first summer as the man of the house, and all my illusions are dispelled with one slip of the hand. It is an interesting moment, realizing you are not invincible. I had led a charmed life up until this point. I was Percival in my own personal fairy tale, inevitably overcoming all odds leading to a fulfillment of all my dreams. Prior to the disillusion of my parents I had few worries, and much support.
Now, however I was sitting alone in my kitchen, the soft plink of my blood dripping over the table seeming to thunder in my ears, lambasting myself for trying to cut a slice from a frozen loaf of bread without taking the three minutes to defrost it in the microwave. Visions of my lonely death, or worse, the end of my basketball career, flitted before my eyes. As I felt the pulse of my heart in the gushes of blood streaming from my hand, my most overpowering emotion was shame. I wanted to hide, to somehow deal with this mistake without anyone uncovering the source of my private ignominy. But, I also thought about all that I had to lose if I did not deal with this well. I made my decision, waking my friend’s mother up at two in the morning and asking her to take me to the hospital. The embarrassment may have cut deeper than anything else. The doctor told me that I had severed my tendon. If it was not surgically repaired within ten days, my thumb would be rendered useless. Full recovery of mobility was doubtful, full recovery of feeling even less likely. The extent of recovery was mainly incumbent upon me, and the persistence I showed with my rehabilitation.
Discipline was something I had in abundance, but only for things that I enjoyed. My rehabilitation became, in a way, my atonement, my admittance of fault, my facing up to responsibility. I hated it. Nevertheless, I adhered to the plan of the doctors dutifully, almost religiously. Though it was hard to learn that everything I had was finite, the lesson that the quicker I owned up to my choices, the softer the fallout would be was more important, even empowering. My idea that I was now ready to face all things as an adult, however, would be shattered once again.
I looked down at my hand, and see a palm of tears. My one greatest love was possibly going to be taken from me. Looking at my basketball coach sitting across from me, so resolute in his conclusions about my shortcomings as a person and player, I wanted so badly to hate him. One of the most difficult things I have ever had to do was remove the tint my frustration had put on the world, and see my coach not as a sadistic devil bent on destroying my happiness, but as a human being trying to do what he thought was right.
My high school underwent a coaching change around the time my incapacitated hand was keeping me off the basketball courts. In the months before the season, his mental picture of player roles for the varsity team was created. Unfortunately, my absence made it logical for him to seriously down-size his plans for me. I will always feel, even in my most honest, unbiased moments, that my coach handled the situation poorly. But, I also must admit that I made his decision not to play me easy. His misguided views of my personality were perpetuated when I began to allow them to become reality. My way of dealing with the frustration was pretending I did not care. It was only when I finally pulled him aside and let my true passion reveal itself to the point of tears that my coach and I came to a true understanding of each other. Out of a bad situation came a great trust that can only come when two people see the worst of each other, and are still willing to forgive. Yet it was too late. One of the four precious years of high school basketball had come and gone, leaving the sour taste of dissatisfaction in my mouth.
I looked down at my hands, and see a palm of scars. A faint twinge of regret for time lost, innocence lost, slips like a phantom knife through my subconscious. Opening my hand, I feel the skin of the scar stretch, stunting my hands motion. I run my hand across my forehead, and feel the odd sensations that flow through the still slightly numb appendage.
These are my reminders. Do not conform to the negative views placed upon you by others. So I have become much more centered, grounded, taking control of the moods I am pushed to. This calmness with a tendency towards mirth has allowed me to be a much happier person most of the time. Do not spare anything, or let anyone get in the way of, reaching what you desire. So I wake up every morning before school and play basketball, and play again after school. I am now a team captain, receiving recruiting phone calls from small schools. However, at my height, it is less than likely that I will ever play professionally. Therefore, academics have always come first when making decisions on college. But, if my dreams are to be denied, it will be by me, on my terms.
I knew it all. What adult was that much smarter than me, that much more responsible, that much more disciplined? Then life smacked me, hard, and I fell from my high horse. It hurt. I now have my two feet on solid ground. I have found the balance between school, basketball, and friends. I clench my scarred hand into a fist, then smile ruefully, and relax. Be calm, take my time, and think things out. Needless to say, next time I will use the microwave.