Getting into Columbia University is no picnic. How is it done? What’s the secret? Much of it, obviously, has to do with the application essays. But what would those essays reveal, were we to catch a glimpse? If we knew, would we also be able to get into Columbia?
Fortunately, some of Columbia University’s future class of 2017 uploaded their college application essays into a shared Google doc, making the words that scored them acceptance into one of the country’s most prestigious schools public domain. The essays are packed with masterful (and *cough cough* pretentious and overwritten) prose, such as:
- "All week as I looked at the Drum Circle, waiting for the Flag Ceremony to begin."
- "Who else’s identity can really be constructed by the calculus of fragmented memories? Not mine!"
- "A puppet hidden, a walkway lonely, a pair of scissors cheating, a stone opening, a leaf floating, a door shining."
- “She [my mother] is a wild horse, as erratic as she is gregarious."
It is too late for me to get into Columbia for many reasons, but let’s just chalk it up to the fact that there is no way I’m taking the SATs again. But here is my Columbia application essay, based on what I learned from the acceptance-worthy student essays. The title is: How Will I Put My Pants On? That is also the first line of the essay. Here goes:
How will I put my pants on?
I was enveloped by the feeling of perplexing perplexion, my brain going this way and that. Looking down at my pants one morning, I became aware to the situation that I would not be able to put them on. They suddenly appeared to be a mass of mangled threads, and not one that would fit onto my body. There was nothing about putting your pants on in Finnegan’s Wake, which I’ve read thirty times. By myself. It was not assigned in school—I fancy challenging myself and bending my own oneself mind in exponentially growing ways. But that’s another story. That’s just how I am.
The wind was rustling in the trees when I realized that time was quickly zooming past me like my father’s private plane that I take to volunteer in African villages. We bring them pitchers of water. I like to carry them on my head. But that’s another story. That’s just the kind of person I am. It was then I started wondering, “What is time, really? What is this thing passing me, like the jet?”
It brought me back to the days when I was young and my grandmother would tell me tales of surviving the Great Depression. I just thought I’d like to tell you that my grandmother survived the Great Depression. She used to tell me, “you are not like anyone else, you are special.” She saw something in me, grandma.
But back to the pants. Unlike most people having difficulty with securing their pants on their bottoms, I started thinking with much more awareness. What are pants, really, other than an item of clothing worn from the waist to the ankles, covering both legs separately (rather than with cloth stretching across both as in skirts anddresses)? Why must we subject ourselves to these pants?
Unlike most people who have worn pants, I believe it is unwise to adhere to social norms. Just because everyone is complying to society’s standards doesn’t mean I have to. That is just who I am.
It’s time for a haiku.
Lost in vast abyss,
Pants trousers trousers pants. Pants!
My legs go here, there.
After deciding not to accept the world’s standards of wearing pants, I walked downstairs, where my sister was reading OK magazine. I sat down with her and said something very philosophical that I forget right now, but it really moved her. She was looking at me like there was a wise owl sitting on my shoulder. I left the house.
Walking down the street, I felt a feeling we should all feel. First, though, I saw an old lady struggling to cross the street so I aided her for only $5. That was all she had, so I thought it was okay. But then I had the feeling and thought, “What are pants? What is time? And is this freedom?”
And the answer, I found, to all those questions, was an emphatic yes. Yes there is.
So—am I accepted into Columbia? What would your essay be? And how do you master the humble brag in application essays?