Why This Woman’s Dislike For The Letter ‘S’ Got Her Into Harvard

This viral TikTok sensation has a story you'll want to hear

Abigail Mack wearing some Harvard merch and posing with an acceptance folder from the university. abigail_vmack / Instagram

A student had her Harvard university admission essay go viral after she shared her story on the social media platform TikTok.

The essay went into her strong dislike of the letter ‘S’ and how it relates to the loss of her mother.

Her heartfelt tale on TikTok has amassed millions of views and thousands of comments as the videos detailed her story and portions of her essay which have left people amazed on social media.


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What was the Harvard entrance essay all about?

Abigail Mack, a high school student at Cardinal Spellman in Brockton, Massachusetts, knew exactly what she wanted to write about for her entrance essay after typing the first sentence. It read: “I hate the letter ‘S’.”


The 18-year-old wrote about how the letter ‘S’ is more than just a letter to her. It serves as a constant reminder of the loss of her mother.

When she was just 12-years-old, her mother, Julie, died of cancer. Since then, she's struggled with one word that she is always trying to run away from.

“Of the 164,777 words with 'S,' I only grapple with one,” Mack wrote in her essay. 

The word is “parents.” The letter ‘S’ at the end of that word is something she can no longer lay claim to as a child with only one parent. 

“‘S’ follows me,” Mack wrote. “As I write this essay, there is a blue line under the word ‘parent’ telling me to check my grammar ... but cancer doesn’t listen to edit suggestions.”


Mack recalls in the essay about the time she filled her schedule with activities such as sports, theater and afterschool activities to fill the “void” left by her mother.

“I stopped running away from a single ‘S,’ and began chasing a double ‘S’ — passion,” Mack wrote, alluding to how she ultimately reduced her life activities to focus on the important ones. “I’ve finally learned to move forward instead of away, and it’s liberating.”

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How social media made her TikTok videos go viral

With the help of her essay and her academic achievements, Mack was accepted into Harvard University in the class of 2025.

Like many students her age, she decided to post on TikTok. She shared her story and even read parts of her essay. The 60-second video has now been viewed almost 20 million times with thousands of comments. While many showed their support, others commented on how they relate to her story as they too have lost a parent to cancer.

“I’ve gotten so many bittersweet comments from people who have had similar experiences, saying I had put into words what they had been feeling,” Mack said. “It’s been so nice to feel like I’ve connected with so many people about that topic.”

Her first video posted on TikTok relating to academics was her reaction to getting admitted into Harvard. Since then, her content revolves around her academic journey and what she has been going through in school.


After her first video about her essay, Mack has posted other parts that serve as a continuation to the first video. The story about her essay has four parts, and each of them has accumulated millions of views.

“I remember sitting down at my computer in English class — it was an assignment to write our college essays — and I thought about the difference between ‘parent’ and ‘parents’ and how much ‘parents’ is so much more common in our vernacular,” she said. “Once I came up with that hook, the rest of the essay wrote itself.”

What her admission into Harvard and her TikTok means to her

The 18-year-old also got accepted into Dartmouth College, Northwestern University, Notre Dame and Georgetown University. 


Mack has thoughts about how her fellow Harvard classmates will feel toward her and her TikTok stardom.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” said Mack. “I’ve been a little bit nervous about my [future] classmates at Harvard seeing the video.”

Mack, who plans on studying foreign policy and international relations, said she always felt like she would write about her mother and about who she was.


Her father said that the reactions to the videos and essay are touching and that he feels his daughter has found some good from a traumatic time in their lives.

“Writing the essay gave her a chance to reflect on this last period of her life,” her father said. “I think it’s good for her to be able to recognize the good things that have come from that.”

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Tomás Diniz Santos is a writer living in Orlando, Florida. He covers news, entertainment, and pop-culture topics.