We’ve never written about this essay on our college admissions blog before. But we figured…why not? If one were to ask us what is the most famous college essay ever written, we know the answer hands down. It’s this NYU applicant’s essay from many, many years ago. To this day, it remains well known in the highly selective college admissions community. But, today, we’d like to discuss it. Look, it’s extremely well written. Rarely — and we mean rarely — have we seen students with this kind of writing ability. Did we say rarely yet? Because we do mean rarely. And it’s quite funny. The guy can make 30-minute brownies in 20 minutes.
And while it was a great essay at the time and the writer definitely has a sense of humor, we strongly discourage students from writing essays in this style. For one, every single admissions officer — from the ones who are first out of college to the veterans of the departments — will know from where you’re taking inspiration. Also, this essay is kind of mocking the entire college admissions process. The writer is essentially saying that he has done all of these amazing things in life and he hasn’t even yet gone to college. Sure, it’s written tongue and cheek but, at the end of the day, the essay says little about the actual applicant. Because, presumably, little or none of it is true. That’s the whole point.
Look, this was a great essay all of those years ago. There’s a reason it’s a famous essay. What we’re saying is don’t even think about taking inspiration from it or writing anything stylistically similar because that is not a good idea for you. Here’s the essay:
“I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently.
Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row. I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing. I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook 30-minute brownies in 20 minutes.
I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.
Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello. I was scouted by the Mets. I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I’m bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.
I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire.
I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal force demonstration. I bat .400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.
I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.
I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life, but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven.
I breed prize-winning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.
But, I have not yet gone to college.”
What do you think about this college essay? Let us know your thoughts by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you! Oh, and if you’re a rising high school senior, now is the time when you should be working on your college essays. So contact us today to get started!