[MCAT] Circumstances vs. men

This marks a start of a boring series that is the practice of MCAT essay writing. Each essay is allowed 30 minutes of writing time, so I will try to stick to this time for these writing pieces. I suspect that they will be exceedingly boring, because you know how essays for these exams work: no errors, no problem. So I will not take offense if you simply ignore this series of essays.

Men are dependent on circumstances, not circumstances on men


Write a unified essay in which you perform the following tasks. Explain the meaning of the above statement. Describe a specific situation where circumstances might be dependent on individuals. Discuss what you think determines whether or not individuals are dependent on circumstances or vice versa.

Barron’s MCAT Prep Book 2008

We live in an inextricably interconnected web of events, people, and circumstances. What we see, whom we meet, and what happens next in our lives may well be beyond our control. And these circumstances shape us into who we are. We, in other words, are dependent on the circumstances of life that we cannot dictate or decide.

However, this deterministic world view may not always apply. Take a family immigrated to Canada for example. They’ve made the decision to leave their home country in search of a new life, and this decision surely affects their subsequent life journey. They will endure a different climate, learn a different language, and be submerged into a different culture. Their decision to come to Canada changes their circumstances significantly.

Of course one may argue that their decision of immigrating to Canada was determined by other circumstances, be it political pressure, educational outlook, or economical considerations. This argument overlooks the importance of free will: people set goals in their lives, and they make decisions to realize those goals. Whenever decisions are made by free-thinking individuals, they are no longer completely dependent on circumstance; rather, they begin to take charge of their lives, and their circumstances will be dependent on them.


4 thoughts on “[MCAT] Circumstances vs. men

  1. forgot to define the statement… circumstance=? men=? this statement must be pretty old. are all humans=men? maybe a slave or a woman had less influence on their circumstance. does this lead into a nature vs nurture argument about whether the individual reacts to circumstance but is not dependent or changed much by it?

  2. hahaha… yeah these statement from Barron’s are pretty sexist. You missed it in the euthanasia and the “wise men” in the uncertainty discussion, but it’s really hard to miss in this one.

    I think this is more of an issue between passive determinism and free will. It can be argued that everything in a human being, the body chemistry, the electric neural activity in the brain, etc. are based on chemistry and physics, and they obey a set of rules. These rules can determine what we think and what we do, and “free will” is only a delusion.

    But I think in this essay, free will is challenged in a different way. The “circumstance” of a person determines his or her actions, in the way that my education has led me to believe stealing is bad, so when I am presented with the option of paying or stealing something, I choose to pay for it.

    What I do and what I believe in is dependent on what I’ve experienced and what I’ve learned. And much of our learning is dependent on circumstance and not on our wish; we can’t choose who to run into, we can’t choose what comes on the News, and we can’t choose who our parents are.

  3. If we define circumstances as factors in life that one cannot control, such as family, social economic status, genetics, and political stability of one’s country and time, then it is clear that people are heavily dependent on circumstances.

    Put in a wrong time or a wrong country, Churchill would not have been the prime minister as we know him. If born in Iraq, Bill Gates would not have started Microsoft. Their circumstances made who they are.

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