How important is the college admission essay to getting into the school of your choice? Depending on the college, it might be crucial.
According to The National Association for College Admission Counseling, “a majority of colleges and universities believe the essay to be of considerable or moderate importance in determining which academically qualified students they would choose.”
So obviously, it’s important to take the writing process seriously. But not every prospective student has gotten that particular memo. Some phone it in, while others get downright bizarre. For example, hopefully you’d never try to impress the admission team by telling them that chili changed your life. (See below.)
Here are a few super weird college admission essay stories to remind you of what not to do when you compose your essay:
- “I remember an applicant who wrote at length about how she panics under pressure, lacks leadership skills and can’t stand hospitals. It was a medical school application. I called her to make sure we weren’t getting trolled. Ten seconds into the call she began panicking and said she doesn’t do well with stressful phone calls and hung up. I called later to check up and she seemed to have recovered. No interview for her though.”-needs_more_zoidberg, Reddit
- “One admission officer told me about when he did admissions for UCLA and read one that was written well. But he ended it saying that he always wanted to go to USC. He wrote it for both schools but forgot to change the ending.” -isnowoffline70, Reddit
- “‘The stank of white privilege’ — try to avoid the essays that read like, ‘I helped unfortunate people of color, so you can let me into college now.’” -Bruce Epstein, Quora
- “Also not in college admissions, but I wrote one of my college essays (to the school I ended up attending) as my own obituary. Wrote and styled it just like a newspaper obit. Anyway, after I submitted the application I got a call from their admission’s office saying they got my application but not my personal essay. The woman went through the file with me on the phone listing out all of the docs, then casually mentioned an obituary, at which point I interrupted her saying that the obit was actually my essay. We had a good, semi-awkward chuckle…” -anchormanrulz, Reddit
- “In graduate admissions. Read one essay that was essentially a love letter to the faculty superstar that the student wanted to work with. By the end of it I knew nothing about the actual student. What makes it cringy though is that the faculty member had never heard of her, she didn’t make contact with him before applying and her entire essay was information off his website. Also cringy, his lab is full so he doesn’t take new students.” -TheMapesHotel, Reddit
- “Stanford essay about eating a spicy chili (while burning your tongue) and realizing that life is about experiencing new things.” -Ara Mambreyan, Quora
- “I’ll close with an attempt at metaphor that fell a bit flat, at least in its reception at Occidental. The applicant writes: ‘I believe in jello; a silly greeting, tasty dessert, or the answer to life as we know it? Factor No. 1: Have you ever tried to make jello? It takes patience. First you have to boil the water; then mix it with powder, stirring for two minutes; then finally adding the cold water and putting it in the fridge for 45 minutes. Think about the creation of people…’” –The New York Times
- “The University of Chicago lets applicants choose their own essay question, so my friend decided to write a thousand words debating the question, ‘If a piece of toast always lands butter side down and a cat always lands on its feet, what would happen if you were to attach a piece of toast butter side up to a cat’s back?’ He explained the theory of ‘cat/toast equilibrium’ and went into detail explaining what he believed would happen. He got in.” -crimson-hellfire, Reddit
- “I know someone who told U of Michigan that the way they evaluate students is faulty and that GPAs/test scores are useless.” -OrbitBrazil, Reddit
- “I found my old Princeton application a few years back — was quite horrified to find no less than five spelling/grammar errors throughout it! Somehow they still accepted me. (I was wanting to major in math though — if I had said I wanted to be an English major, it might have been a different story.) To be honest, I think it might have actually worked in my favor, as it made it pretty clear I hadn’t had any help from any kind of college consulting agency, etc.!” -Eve Waddington, Quora
Choosing a college? Learn what alumni earn after graduation in PayScale’s College Salary Report.
Tell Us What You Think
What’s the weirdest college admission essay story you’ve ever heard? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.