The Coolest College Application Essay Ever

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No one can back up “coolest” with facts, but I stand by my statement nonetheless. The non-sheep in me wanted so much for it to have been an actual college admissions essay. Alas, I can find nothing to back that up. The Urban Myth maintains that Hugh Gallagher wrote the infamous essay in 1990 when he applied to NYU and it was then printed up in several major newspapers as well as making the rounds on the Internet. The Internet part is true, which means most people have already read it. If you haven’t, you really should.

Here’s the real story, according to Harper’s Magazine:

“This essay, by Hugh Gallagher, won first prize in the humor category of the 1990 Scholastic Writing Awards. It appeared in the May issue of Literary Calvalcade, a magazine of contemporary fiction and student writing published by Scholastic in NYC. Gallagher, who is 18, grew up in Newtown Square, PA, and will attend NYU this fall.”

He did attend NYU and graduated in 1994. I have no connections in the admissions office, so I have no idea whether he used his essay to get in. The Internet circulation in combination with his essay being published in Harper’s did open some doors for Gallagher’s writing career. He’s written for Rolling Stone, Wired, and his first novel, Teeth, was published in 1998.

Rampant, unfounded optimism usually pisses me off. And yet it’s my dream (which has every chance of not coming true) that someday colleges will choose students because of who they actually are and for their unique potential, not for padded high school transcripts or highly-coached college admissions processes and SAT scores. Whether Gallagher actually sent this in with his application to NYU or not, it still makes me happy and gives me at least a spider web of hope. Sometimes we all need to be reminded that not being a sheep can work in your favor.

ESSAY: IN ORDER FOR THE ADMISSIONS STAFF OF OUR COLLEGE TO GET TO KNOW YOU, THE APPLICANT, BETTER, WE ASK THAT YOU ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTION: ARE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD, OR ACCOMPLISHMENTS YOU HAVE REALIZED, THAT HAVE HELPED TO DEFINE YOU AS A PERSON?
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 Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty 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 prizewinning 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.

Posted by Alexa Harrington

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  1. The last line totally makes it, otherwise it’s just a series of semi-clever claims, some of which are repetitive or even mundane. But when you get to the end, and realize he’s putting going to college at the same level of grand accomplishments it works, even if you don’t want it to.

    Still, it’s more nerd-cool than “cool.” Can’t imagine James Dean writing something this wry.

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