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!!
Dear High School Seniors,
College application season is here. You’ve worked more than three years in planning, shaping, and doing all the amazing things you’ll be putting in your college applications.
Whether you’re proud of what you’ve done or you think you could’ve done better, you have to admit that for the most part, there’s little you can do now to change any of the main application factors or start fresh for any of them (other than writing your personal essays).
Having AP and Honors classes, having a high GPA, having high standardized test scores, having glowing teacher recommendations, and having experience in demanding extracurricular activities—you can’t go back in time and study a bit harder for your tests, get a better teacher recommendation by participating more often, or suddenly join a few more clubs.
But here are some ways to bring out the best in what you can no longer change:
Classes and GPA
– If you didn’t have Honors classes or good grades your freshman year but did in later years, it’s okay. Admissions officers will love how you’re progressing academically and how you’re challenging yourself. Most likely they’ll notice this trend on their own when looking at your transcript, but if you’d like, you can mention your progression in one of your personal short responses or in the optional additional info section (NOT your personal open-ended and creative essay, which should be a specific and focused story).
– If you took an “easy” elective class instead of a traditionally difficult liberal arts class and you honestly had a reason for doing so, mention it in a personal short response or in the optional additional info section. In my senior year, I wasn’t able to take AP English because I wanted to take the Intro to Video Production class. I was applying to colleges as a film major and had every reason to do this.
– It actually may not be too late to retake a test and send in a new and better score. This can even be done after you finish your application and press that “submit” button! You may want to let the admissions office know that they can expect a newer test score later.
– When you ask for a recommendation, be sure to list your specific accomplishments from the class. Don’t assume your teacher remembers everything you did.
– Even if she remembers a lot, what she remembers might not be parallel to the “theme” you want to show in your application. For example, if you’re applying as an art major, you don’t want your English teacher spending so much time saying how great you were at grammar. You want him to talk about the time everyone handed in self-made novellas and yours was so exceptionally and professionally made with full-color drawings on every page and even homemade book binding.
– What was your final grade? Did you regularly outperform your classmates on tests? Was one of your projects or papers exceptional? Were you a leader in discussions and good at drawing out responses from classmates? A good debater? Did you participate when no one else had the courage to? Did you have the commitment and maturity to stay afterschool whenever you had trouble understanding something?
– Turn your “extracurricular resume” from description-based to accomplishment- and number-based. If you were the secretary of a club, don’t say you “organized notes” and “emailed members with meeting times”—everyone knows that’s what secretaries do. Be specific with things YOU did that other secretaries before you or across the country probably didn’t do. Two examples: “increased number of members from 12 to 27 with active Facebook page and Twitter for the organization”, “facilitated smooth communication by electronically archiving notes from meetings to Google Documents for all members to easily access.”
I hope these ideas prompt some of your own creativity in filling out your college applications. Remember that seeing the past with a new set of lens and selecting what to focus on is still being honest. Tweaking the truth or exaggerating is not.
You’ve worked ridiculously hard the past few years. Be proud of everything you’ve done in high school so far and know that it’s normal to wish you did more of this or better at that. But the past is over. Focus on the present. Make the best of what you’ve done. You can and will do even better in college!
I leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; and Wisdom to know the difference.”
– Reinhold Niebuhr
Boston University Class of 2009