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Background story to one the funniest college applications you’ll ever read:
In my senior year of high school, I wondered what would happen if I applied to a college as a joke. My friends couldn’t wait to see what Nathan Chow humor I could sprinkle into something as serious as a college application. They insisted and begged for me to do it. I finally found a university with no application fee, which made me willing to spend time on this extra application.
When I was done, I submitted the application below to a place called Hamline University.
Name: Nathan Chow
Nickname: Nate Dawg Yo
Do you have any family members who are alumni of Hamline?: No, none were that lucky.
High School: Franklin High School, pubic school
Hobbies: soccer, juggling, movies, eating (ham is my favorite food!!!)
Activities you plan to pursue: yes
Proposed area of study: fashion design and criminal justice
Why do you want to attend Hamline?: I like ham.
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[Written in different colored pencils, the evaluation had a brownie smudge on it and was about how I earn good grades only because I give brownies to all my teachers. The “teacher” said that any professor would be lucky to have me. On the side of the recommendation, there was a sticker that you would get at a pediatrician: a cartoon bear holding a ribbon that said “I was brave today!”]
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Essay Prompt: Describe a significant event in your life.
Once upon a time, there was a significant event that shape my life. It changed my view of life like a worm changes into a butterfly. And just like the worm, I change for the good. It was a positive influence. I had always been thinking that people in America don’t like to mix like a salad in a salad bowl.
But then I saw a event that changed my view of the salad in a salad bowl. This was my significant event that shapes my life. A little girl I saw wore a pink outfit that was a dress with white polkadots making her look like a Dalmasion dog except white is pink and black is white. She walked along and hummed a song so happy. All of a suddenly, a squirrel jumped out of a tree and lands on her head.
Wow, I told myself. “She will be scared.”
But it was too late. The squirrel skratched her face like a feirce wolf skratching. In an analogy, the squirrel was to a wolf as his skratch was to this skratch. In pain, the little girl cried out very very loud. The girl was African American.
A white Crustacean man was nearby too like the tree. As soon as the squirrel skratched the girl, the man dropped his hotdog he was eating. He jumped to the girl sideways like a Matrix move. “Nooo!” he cried out just as very loud as the girl. He slapped the squirrel off the girls’ face and risking his hand to be bited or skratched. This was a true hero. The man could’ve been infected with rabies. The man could’ve been a contendor. The man could’ve been dead by dying. But he didn’t care. In alarm of the African girl he tried to save her immedately. He also didn’t care about his new hotdog. To save the girl, this man heroically dropped his weiner.
This is a story of how races can interact to save each other, a African girl and a Crustacean man.
With oration and languor, my ersatz was rashly changed. A persnickety of machination to accost me was such an epiphany. Please, hitherto unknown to me, elegy through zenith was apex unity—fruition sense resonant togetherness. Accept for the sacrilege, the rest of the lugubrious had known sententious existence. Me was no witness, but the raucous event perfidious had insight the powwow, helping precipice realize facsimile races fallacy mingle. America had gamut born, obloquy with occurrence this kibitzer, I lugubrious how zo-o-phyte can rise above differences and save lives. With diversity, a Crustacean man saved an African girl from a fighting squirrel. Wow. God bless America.
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Admitted with an $8000/year scholarship.
Hide yo’ kidz, hide yo’ wife. Seems like everyone is applying to colleges, grad schools, med schools, and so on right now. I hope the teens at my workplace, my freelance clients, and my friends all got a kick out of this!
Below are some disclaimers about my joke, as well as a few notes and lessons about college applications, college, happiness in life, and more.
As usual with my own writing, much of it is super personal and reflective. I hope that what is personal is universal:
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1) Because my guidance counselor had to handle some parts of my application, I was unable to hide my real straight-A’s transcript, higher-than-perfect GPA, class rank of 3 out of 327, a good mix of good to perfect AP scores, a high Writing score, and a perfect SAT II Math Level II score.
Those are the real things that got me into Hamline and all my “real” colleges. I wish I was valedictorian or had a perfect SAT Writing score too. But that’s the point: how much more perfect can someone be?
How can a GPA be “higher than perfect” anyway? Every year, it seems like the threshold for highest GPA gets higher and higher and students are more and more stressed.
When do you have to just tell yourself stop? When can you say, “I’m enough”? When can you just start laughing at it all? For me, I knew I did enough in four years in high school. I didn’t want to spend months writing a “better than perfect” essay. Even my “real” essays for my “real” colleges were written quickly.
If you have a history of academic excellence, stop stressing over every little detail in your applications. That advice might not get you into some top schools, but screw it. #YOLO!!!
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2) The “top” schools may not be the best schools for you anyway.
I hate to say this about my own alma mater, but Boston University was originally one of my safety schools. I got into schools higher ranked on U.S. News, but the more I read about BU after being accepted, the more I fell in love with it. BU’s College of Communication was a great fit for my interest in film, media, and writing. (Ironically, it’s a top school for communication. The strength of your program matters more than the university’s general ranking.) I read a lot about Boston being an amazing college town too.
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3) Your social life and people skills are just as important as academics.
I never hung out in high school. I was unconfident and miserable. I decided to change that the moment I stepped onto the BU campus my freshman year. (See http://bit.ly/ncbuchange for the full story.)
I completely changed my life and made hundreds of friends. I became good at leading people, getting the best out of people’s strengths, networking, making plans, reading emotions, using empathy, diffusing tense situations with humor, understanding needs and wants, forging connections with strangers, making people feel special, and showing gratitude. In short, I understood people.
Those skills are far more valuable in jobs, well-being, and life than anything else. Life isn’t about crunching numbers, writing essays, and memorizing facts.
In my journey to a good social life, I suffered a few late papers, bad grades, and even two F’s my freshman year of college. I was sick of academic perfection in high school and how little happiness that gave me. I was so brainwashed and convinced that social life meant more than academic success that this was my emailed excuse to a professor for having a late paper: “I finally found good friends in college, I’m happy, and I spent the weekend hanging out with them.” She gave me a little bit of leniency.
At the interviews for my last three jobs in education, I purposely mentioned my failures and how much I’ve learned about life balance and also how much I can fully understand a struggling or failing student. I got those jobs. I was happy at all of them. I’m happy at one of those right now.
After my freshman year, I finally learned to balance academics with social life. But who would’ve known that F’s in college would lead to employment?
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4) You get from college whatever you put into it.
By the time I graduated college, my entire life was transformed because of BU, people I was surrounded by, and Boston. I learned more about life than anything else at BU.
I hate to say this too, but no matter how much pride I have in Boston University, I’m sure my entire life would’ve been transformed wherever I went to college. As much as I credit BU and Boston for my current happiness, I think the positivity and eagerness that *I* brought to my first week in college and for four years did more for my life than anything else. No matter where you go–whether it’s an unknown community college or Ivy League school–you have the choice to be open-minded, motivated, and eager or close-minded, bored, and apathetic.
You don’t just *go* to college and wish for an education and life-changing experience. That responsibility is on yourself wherever you go.
If you know you’re a proactive person, be content that the outcomes of your college applications won’t determine your future. Your internal motivation and well-being are things that can’t be taken from you. Life will still be good.
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5) My intention with my Hamline “application” was to mock the college admissions process and see what I could get away with. After being accepted to Hamline with a scholarship, my friends said “You just shat on that school.”
I did not intend to belittle any specific university at any point in this joke. Hamline has a good reputation in the Midwest. It just happened to be the first place I found with no application fee. I hope–and I really think–my application was comic relief even to the admissions officers who read thousands of dull essays.
I may not have attended Hamline, but I thank it for teaching me this enduring lesson about life: Don’t take things too seriously. Laughter runs the world! When life gets tough, just remember ham.
I apologize if any rejected Hamline applicants and the Hamline community thought my application joke was inappropriate or unprofessional. Sorry. I will mail you a pound of delicious ham.
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#college #bostonuniversity #boston #happiness #lifetruthordare #howtospellcollege #humor
Ham photo: Free usage rights courtesy of Wikimedia.
The last paragraph of my Hamline essay was co-written by my then-8th-grade sister Jasmine Chow who I instructed to plug in any random dictionary words she didn’t know.
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Best wishes in your college and grad school applications and all your future endeavors!!
When they go to class the first week…
Upperclassmen wear normal clothes.
Freshmen dress up.
When they don’t know where a building is…
Upperclassmen wander around confidently.
Freshmen pull out their handy-dandy maps.
When it’s time to buy textbooks…
Upperclassmen save money by buying them online. (This is how.)
Freshmen sell their souls to the campus bookstore.
When it’s time to study…
Upperclassmen skim the readings.
Freshmen try to read every word assigned.
When it’s time to walk to the communal shower…
Upperclassmen seem to carry nothing.
Freshmen carry full shower totes.
When they look through their closets…
Upperclassmen have college clothes related to clubs they’re part of or events they’ve attended.
Freshmen have generic college sweatshirts, “senior” shirts from high school, and the always-visible college lanyard.
When it’s time for nightlife…
Upperclassmen are fine with hanging out at a friend’s place.
Freshmen feel the need to explore the city or get into a party.
When it’s time for the parties…
Upperclassmen have all the connections already, as well as access to bars and clubs.
Freshmen are eternally searching for trashy frat houses that will admit anyone.
When it’s time to get from point A to point B…
Upperclassmen travel alone or with one or two friends.
Freshmen travel in packs of 10. Maybe 20. Sometimes 30 if they’re real kinky.
When it comes to dating…
Upperclassmen look for stable relationships, often from people already in their social network.
Freshmen look for hooking up and “whatever they can get.”
When it comes to socializing…
Upperclassmen meet new people through their long-time friends.
Freshmen are not afraid of meeting new people in the elevator.
When they meet someone new…
Upperclassmen ask “You look familiar. You were in one of my classes last semester, right?”
Freshmen ask “Hey!! Aren’t we friends on Facebook?!?”
When they say good-bye to strangers…
Upperclassmen say “See ya around.”
Freshmen say “What’s your last name? I’ll find ya on Facebook!”
When they see someone they know…
Upperclassmen ask “How was your summer?”
Freshmen ask “What was your name again?”
When it’s time to talk to their parents…
Upperclassmen call home at the end of every week.
Freshmen receive calls from home at the end of every day.
When it’s time to talk about post-graduation plans…
Upperclassmen become clueless and scared—and secretly wish they could do the whole college thing all over again.
Freshmen think that graduation is a long time away.
Cherish your short time in college!
– by Nathan Chow
Boston University Class of 2009