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Name: Megan S.

Hometown: Colts Neck, NJ

Anticipated Majors: Psychology and History

How did you discover Hopkins and why did you decide to apply Early Decision? I discovered Hopkins through the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth in seventh grade. I absolutely loved the biomedical summer program and kept Hopkins on my radar ever since. The caliber of students, the number of opportunities, and the success of graduates were unparalleled. When applying to colleges, I knew that Johns Hopkins was the school for me. I am so grateful to be attending.

Who is the most influential person in your life? My favorite memory of my great grandfather is of him laughing and exclaiming, “Somebody wants cake!” after my four-year-old-self had sampled some of the icing off of his birthday cake with my finger. Grampie Buckley and I only had four wonderful years together before he died, but our souls have known each other for lifetimes. He has always been my inspiration, but it was not until age eleven that I admired him exponentially more. It was then that I discovered his secret journal from WW2 that revealed his hidden torment. Captured at the Battle of the Bulge and imprisoned at the infamous Stalag IV-B, my great grandfather was forced to march barefoot for miles in the snow. Dozens of pages were devoted to recipes alone to help him cope with his starvation rations as a POW. As my research continued, I learned that he was tortured by nightmares for decades to come. The merry old man I thought I knew had never spoken to anyone about his ordeal. I could not imagine the incredible strength it must have taken for him to carry on normally and to bury that story inside of him for the rest of his life. I have since decided to become a psychologist, specializing in helping veterans coping with PTSD. If my great grandfather had had someone to talk to and help him grapple with his trauma, he might have found some semblance of peace. I may have been too young to help Grampie Buckley heal, but I am determined to help others.

Is there a quote or motto that inspires you? What is it and what does it mean to you? As a young girl with a dichotomous interest in military history and Disney princesses, I had developed no shortage of heroes. However, very few of the heroes featured in my favorite stories were women, a fact that I found discouraging and disheartening. This only reinforced every fairytale’s dogma of girls being damsels in distress, waiting helplessly to be rescued by a man. But when General Anne Dunwoody received her fourth star in 2008, the news helped anchor my eight-year-old ambition. Female leaders and role models are so important for impressionable young girls, and I was no exception. Inspired by her example, I went on to learn all I could about leadership and how to follow her example. General Dunwoody changed how I approach the world, teaching me that “The man who says it can’t be done should never interrupt the woman doing it.” To me, this motto means that the only true limitations in life are the ones you impose on yourself. My goal, by fearlessly pursuing my dreams, is to inspire some other eight-year old girl, to prove her fairytales wrong and tell her that she does not have to wait for a brave knight in shining armor to save her if she becomes one herself.

What is the accomplishment you’re most proud of? Age eight was when I had first noticed it – the way my sternum slightly began to cave in. Soon after, it became increasingly difficult to breathe during swim practices. As the years carried on, my sternum sunk deeper, and chest pain regularly forced me to sit out in between sets so I could recover. Age eleven was when I endured the second most painful pediatric surgery, where doctors inserted a thirteen inch metal bar underneath my chest wall to lift up my sternum, correcting my pectus excavatum. Recovery was the most grueling ordeal I have ever had to overcome. For about three months, I could not sit up, laugh, cough, or sneeze due to extreme pain. I became weak and frail. But my resolve was strong, and I knew I had to get back in the water. Thanks to the endless support of my parents and the encouragement of my coaches and teammates, I cautiously began to swim again. Though I no longer had trouble breathing or chest pains from pre-surgery, it was still difficult to keep up with my friends due to my long absence and loss of muscle mass. But, like Dory from Finding Nemo, I just kept swimming, and my stubborn persistence proved invaluable. That same year, I qualified for the Junior Olympics in the 50 yard breaststroke and received my best time ever. It was the most gratifying experience of my life, and I will never forget the overwhelming feeling of triumph.