THE Yale applicant had terrific test scores. She had fantastic grades. As one of Yale’s admissions officers, Michael Motto, leafed through her application, he found himself more and more impressed.
Then he got to her essay. As he remembers it, she mentioned a French teacher she greatly admired. She described their one-on-one conversation at the end of a school day. And then, this detail: During their talk, when an urge to go to the bathroom could no longer be denied, she decided not to interrupt the teacher or exit the room. She simply urinated on herself.
“Her point was that she was not going to pull herself away from an intellectually stimulating conversation just to meet a physical need,” said Motto, who later left Yale and founded Apply High, a firm that guides students through the admissions process.
When it comes to college admissions, our society has tumbled way, way too far down the rabbit hole, as I’ve observed before. And in the warped wonderland where we’ve landed, too many kids attach such a crazy degree of importance to getting into the most selective schools that they do stagy, desperate, disturbing things to stand out. The essay portion of their applications can be an especially jolting illustration of that.
I applied to two universities and was accepted at both. At one of them, an Ivy, being the daughter of alumni gave me an advantage in the acceptance process. I chose the other school. Getting in at the non-Ivy was no less competitive, but acceptance was based on achievement and not class or an outstanding essay. I am thankful that though I had a few unusual achievements under my belt that could have set me apart from other applicants, I didn’t feel pressured to use them.
I chose the other school because, while the professors I would study under were well-known academics, as a student, I knew would be like any other, and not a part of some elite clique of students, while receiving a comparably excellent education.