Yesterday, after receiving a link to a Google doc containing several college essays from accepted Columbia applicants (the doc has since been taken down), we pulled the best lines from each essay to create achingly, stunningly movingly powerful personal essays of our own, all guaranteed to get you into Columbia next fall. But maybe you don't want to go to Columbia. Maybe that was our dream for you and not your dream for yourself and instead, you'd rather bleed cardinal red and white like Avatar's Sigourney Weaver and Space's astronaut William Fisher. Maybe you'd rather attend Stanford University. Hey, no problem— we received an anonymous tip last night from someone claiming to have 100 or so Common App and Stanford Supplement essay for the Class of 2016.
Though we won't be publishing this anthology, below are two sample essays that should work, just make sure only two of you use them. Both essays answer the prompt "What Matters to you and Why?"
The gist of their responses? Ice cream. And lasagne. You're damn right those two things matter. They matter a lot. Ice cream is delicious and cooling in the summer and lasagne, beyond the fact that it is one of the few dishes that is just as good served vegetarian, is from Italia and signifies a worldly palate. Class dismissed, hand out the diplomas, have these two speak at the graduation ceremony.
I love its gooey consistency. I love its unique texture. I love its sublime taste. I love ice cream.But I'm picky—no quotidian chocolate flavor will suffice. No, the flavor must be refined and dignified, majestically royal among typical bourgeois varieties. I savor tangy orange-peach and deluxe mango-strawberry flavors. I even revel in the glory of the deceptively simple yet surprisingly delicious pistachio ice cream.
By an early age, I had become a self-proclaimed dessert critic and had developed a reputation as a venerable ice-cream connoisseur. My school's cafeteria offered unlimited supplies of the delicious substance, but its ice cream neither passed my critiques nor matched my snobby standards. So I became creative. I made my own ice cream.
What mattered most to me was the opportunity for creativity, although I did love devouring the finished products. With a starting base of cream and sugar, the flavor combinations were limited only by my own imagination—and the fruits at hand. In the privacy of my kitchen, I imagined myself a Picasso of ice cream, starting with a clean canvasbefore carefully adding colorful ingredients into the blender. I transcended clichéd flavors by creatively concocting my own original ones. And when my recipes failed, I started over. I had an artistic license to experiment and to throw my creativity at blank slates endlessly.
I value creativity in all my pursuits, not just those involving sugar.When I read and write, words assemble themselves into playgrounds formy imagination. In chess and math, where strategies and theorems can be memorized, creativity is the edge necessary to develop original ideas. And when I play violin repertoire, the creative interpretations bring the notes to life. Creativity gives me the freedom to escape from a black-and-white world to one where I create the rules and let my imagination reign. But most importantly, creativity is the secret ingredient in my homemade ice cream.
What matters to me and why? Lasagna matters to me. Why does lasagna matter to me? With its layers of creamy cheese, delicious ragú sauce and filling, all tiered in sheets of golden pasta, how could it not? Even though it seems too trivial at first to really matter, lasagna is highly profound in nature – what matters to me is what lasagna represents, not the dish itself.
In many ways, Lasagna is the result of the interaction of cultures across generations. Though it is of Italian origin, its components are not. The main ingredient, the lasagna sheet, originates from flat noodles that Marco Polo brought from Ming China. Tomatoes, vital forthe lasagna's iconic ragú bolognese sauce, initially came from South America.
Lasagna is an organized combination of different ideas and flavors. It matters so much to me because its many, diverse layers can be used asa metaphor for who I am. Like lasagna, my origins are difficult to ascertain. In the same way that diversity is an integral part oflasagna, it's an integral part of who I am. All kinds of diversity matter to me - being in a 'lasagna-like' environment, full of different, contrasting ideas matters to me because diversity is what makes me thrive.
Lasagna is significant to me for the same reasons as the UnitedNations. Both are highly varied, near-eclectic mixtures of ideas and cultures. Despite initial doubts over their success, both are highly successful today. They're both important to me because they show how different things from different places and ideas can work together cohesively. From the dish to the open-face, Lasagna is always changing with the world around it, as cultures and ideas mix together.This is why lasagna matters to me. It shows how change can help inconstancy, and how it can be accommodated to create a more cohesive unit.
So, like lasagna, let's all accommodate ideas and flavors, and bakethem together to create an amazing final product. The world could dowith a lot more hope, and most certainly with a lot more lasagna.
[A note, FYI: North American English speakers use lasagna. English speakers from outside North America usually use lasagne.]
Update 1/21/2014: A Stanford student writes in:
My name is Nitish Kulkarni, and I'm currently a junior at Stanford. I'm writing to you because the reception at Gawker's office said that you are the contact for Ms. Beckmann's old articles.
I am writing in reference of this article: published on April 7, 2013, regarding Stanford admissions essays. I only noticed the article today when I was looking at the 'suggested reads' from Sam Biddle's vitriolic piece about Stanford. I'm one of the students whose essays you published - my essay, on Lasagna, was indeed an essay that got me into Stanford.
I'd just like to ask if you could clarify that in the article that this was the case - both my essay and the other students' were actual submitted pieces that ultimately were a part of an accepted admissions application. Do let me know if you could do this an maybe attribute it to us. While I know that the writer of the blog post made fun of my writing, I believe that it's a good piece of writing, is on an enormously read internet site, and is written by me.