Columbia Class of 2017 Post Their Application Essays, Say The Darndest Things

For many people, the college essay is the hardest part of their application, as they seek to define themselves in 500 words or less for a faceless committee of admissions officers. The Columbia Class of 2017, though, has given us an inside look at what exactly it takes to be part of the 6.89 percent to win entry to the school this year. A tipster recently directed us to a Google Drive folder in which newly admitted Columbians are posting their application essays for their peers to see. And, thankfully, they left it public.

Topics range from the deeply personal, to the seemingly mundane, to the blatantly ridiculous. We’ve included a list of some of the more notable entries below; feel free to categorize them yourself:

  • The sub-prime mortgage crisis, told as a tortoise and hare allegory (“There are regulators at every mile to ensure the hare plays by the rules established by the Security Enforcement Commission.”)
  • Sketching a nude model for the first time (“As the model stepped out of her robe, I felt unsettled and self-conscious. I was scared. Where was I supposed to look? Was I ready for this?”)
  • Arrested Development getting renewed (“So ‘Arrested Development’ is the epitome of all things—good, bad, or ironic—coming to inevitable conclusions.”)
  • Imagining literary lunch dates with fictional characters (“Generally, my peers don’t understand my compulsion to inhabit the worlds I read, or my overactive imagination’s ability to project those worlds into its own reality.”)

However, some of the essays deserve a closer examination. Here are our personal favorites:

The IvyGate award for “Most Original Essay (For Better Or Worse)” goes to a mock script of a conversation between the applicant, musical theater heavyweight Oscar Hammerstein II (Columbia Class of 1919), and composer Tom Kitt (Columbia Class of 1996). The alums lead our author on a journey of self-discovery as he finds that, yes, he should pursue his dreams and doggone it, people like him. Here are the opening lines, which subtly set the scene for the author’s insecurity:

Hammerstein: Ok, kid. You’ve seen the school. Now what?
Noah: (HE knew this was coming) I—I really don’t know…Major in Drama and
Psychology or choose something safe…Economics?
Kitt: (Bombastic as always) Oh cut the crap, why don’t ya? You worked your ass off for years to get to this point, and now you finally have; if you get in, you’d have all the resources you could possibly want—
Noah: (Frantically) BUT, I don’t know how to use them. I don’t know how to use them or what to do with them. Musical Theater is my life; I love it more than anything else I’ve ever done. To be up on the stage—the songs—the emotion…but as a career?
Hammerstein: Kid, breathe. Pursue it.
Noah: But that’s easier said than done! It’s just so—so…
Kitt: (Like the Hindenburg, exploding) Christ! SPIT IT OUT!
Noah: …Hard.

As the scene moves forward, our hero is blind to the support that these theatrical luminaries are giving him:

Noah: (With increasing defeat) But I don’t have anything to say! I don’t have some heroic family story, or a liberating experience building houses in the third-world. My entire family has lived in the US, and gone to college, for generations. I’ve never gone to bed hungry…I mean, I’m a reasonably smart, well-off kid who likes Showtunes trying to apply to Columbia…What part of my story hasn’t been heard a thousand times?

Finally (seriously, finally) he gets it. Not only should he follow his dream, but his new buddies Oscar and Tom convinced him that Columbia is the perfect school for him!:

Noah: So I think what you’re saying is that if I am lucky enough to spend the next four years in the City, I should take advantage of the plethora of resources Columbia has to offer, and use the cultural atmosphere to hone those skills. I know it will be plenty of hard work, but I think that if I’m doing something I really love…then maybe it won’t be so bad!

Hey Columbia admissions officers, isn’t that a neat coincidence? Some advice though, for our young artiste: show, don’t tell. Also, learn how to use the red pen (the script is more than twice the allowed length).

We also have the IvyGate award for “Most Columbia Essay.” This honor goes to “The Conformity Paradox: My Rise and Fall in Hipsterdom,” a personal recollection of the applicant’s need to be seen as a nonconformist. However, as he strives to be more individualistic, the author finds that he is unwittingly falling into a “hipster” stereotype. Oh, the agony!

The author identifies his “natural instinct” to be different, which showed in various ways during middle school — Harlem renaissance jazz, Chuck Palahniuk novels, etc. However, then he got to high school:

As my identity shifted, my career as a social renegade flourished, and I found in myself a certain pride in being different and a passion for seeking out eccentric new ways to express myself … With the realization of my newfound passion, my nonconformist qualities were locked in, and I began high school without the usual freshman trepidation about getting labeled or branded. Thereby, I continued my habitual antics, rebelling against the social norm and doing what I could to think freely. In doing so, however, I encountered a particular subculture defined by certain fashion trends and, to some extent, genres of music. This subculture was and still is often associated with the term “hipster” and regarded as having a correspondence with the “hipster lifestyle.”

As a “hipster,” the author ditched his love of jazz for some every Smiths album, sporting a beanie and a cardigan to let everyone know how eccentric he was. He quickly realized, though, the deep and disturbing paradox that lay within his newfound uniqueness. He had, by no fault of his own, become a … conformist. He bravely confesses:

Much of my mental vitality was spent on keeping my appearance and status up to a sufficiently “hipster” standard. The questions I asked myself about who I wanted to be quickly evolved into “How can I fit the ideal?” and “How can I conform?”
Herein lies the continual paradox for people who identify themselves as “hipsters” and the contradiction that brought me much confusion and uncertainty for parts of my high school career: implicit in the definition of the term “hipster” is the prominence of nonconformity in all aspects of a “hipster’s” lifestyle. Individualist ideals permeate his clothes, his music, his social behavior, even his politics. Simultaneously, however, one who seeks to identify himself and be identified by others as a “hipster” undoubtably strives to conform to the “hipster” construct; he tries to fit himself inside an inflexible “hipster” box.
Nevertheless, as with most paradoxes, the problem at hand does not imply a real contradiction. I found the solution after many months of personal struggle with my own identity. It is not that there is something inherently wrong with the qualities of a “hipster.” I have come to understand that a label such as “hipster” must never precede my own actual characteristics, and I can never let such a notion inform my identity by itself.

Don’t worry too much about your individuality, you sound like you’ll fit right in at Columbia. If you still have a burning desire to be seen as different however, just start being good at sports.

64 Responses to “Columbia Class of 2017 Post Their Application Essays, Say The Darndest Things”

  1. CC '14 Says:

    considering psycho parents pay thousands of dollars to see winning essays…

  2. Dealer Says:

    haha well if anyone wants to pay me for any of them just comment here, I got 78 of them downloaded before they went down

  3. Jessica Says:

    What is wrong with you? These are minors. Stop. You’re distributing their personal stories they only wished to share with their future classmates. What kind of sick bastard are you going after kids?

  4. CC'17 Says:

    That is illegal downloading of private content. The students had uploaded their essays because they assumed it would only be shared by fellow students in the group. Trying to make money off of other people’s work without giving them credit is illegal as well. To top it off, there is personal contact information on the drives so stop distributing them as of the moment. By the way, downloading the essays before they went down proves to show that you have no life and are trying to find a shortcut into Columbia. Well let me tell you right now that your very actions convey how much of an insecure writer you are and that you have no individuality which is the very thing that got these students accepted in the first place. Copying others won’t make your essay better. It will be like a pig trying to look pretty by putting make-up on but in the end still looks like a pig, just more hideous looking due to the ill-suited makeup. And that goes for all of you no-lifers that are looking into downloading all these essays.

  5. cc 14 Says:

    “downloading of private content”

    publicly posted? OK mr lawyer

  6. Laura Says:

    It wasn’t publicly posted. It was posted on a private facebook group for accepted students ONLY for other fellow accepted students. Some even changed the privacy setting of their essays so that only those with links could see it. It was leaked from the inside. That is in no way public.

  7. anonyMOUSE, gettit Says:

    no, the link to the google drive was posted on the facebook group. the google drive was publicly accessible

  8. David Moore Says:

    No, the Google Drive folder was only accessible to those with the link (which you can do in sharing settings). Those with the link (hypothetically) were those on the Facebook group, which was (and is) private.

  9. Mark disagrees Says:

    Facebook terms would disagree with you

  10. lucy Says:

    “By the way, downloading the essays before they went down proves to show that you have no life and are trying to find a shortcut into Columbia. Well let me tell you right now that your very actions convey how much of an insecure writer you are and that you have no individuality which is the very thing that got these students accepted in the first place.”

    Kids like you make it sooooooo easy.

    I keed, I keed. Welcome. But just remember; the world does not revolve around people’s rejection from/admittance to Columbia, and most people could not give less of a shit if you put them down for not having gotten into Columbia.

  11. Dealer Says:

    okay, okay, no need for the ad hominem, or the made up legal infringement. I won’t distribute the essays, no need to worry, kiddies. But let this serve you as a lesson – we live in a new age and with it come many new dangers — don’t go around posting your information on the internet willy-nilly! And, IvyGate, I know you do not possess a shred of decency, but try and think of the poor little high-schoolers when making blog posts.

  12. Peter Jacobs: Certified Dick Says:

    Just a guess… Columbia rejected you? The tone of this piece of shit article is that of jealousy. I don’t know anything about this site, I don’t know anything about you, and I don’t know anything about what kind of education you had, but I can tell that it didn’t help much – you’re a huge prick. These essays are stolen. Yeah I get that they were put on the internet for anyone to take them, etc, etc, please put your dick in my ass, etc, but without permission, you took some of the most personal pieces of writing these kids have written in their lives so far, and made a mockery of them. Reading over the excerpts you published, they certainly don’t seem very special at all, but the fact that you use those excerpts to imply that they all were like that and they were accepted because of legacy, money, or race is sickening. Your subconscious feeling of insignificance is eased by these poor selections of writing, and your getting off to it, if it is to be done at all, should be done in private. You make your rationale for posting this pretty obvious with your subtle digs at smart kids (classic retarded, pissed off jock ejaculation at the end of your bitchy tirade). Exposing some of the “sappier” or “banal” essays will not make Columbia less prestigious, will not make Columbia admits any less proud of their achievement, and it will not make you move out of your parents’ basement, lose weight, and make contact with a girl (let alone get a girlfriend). It will, on the other hand, embarrass the hell out of HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS who have worked harder in their short lives than you have in your depressing, monotonous, and unfulfilling excuse of an existence. So – your first step should probably be to get a job where a good day isn’t picking apart shit kids wrote. In fact… you should probably stay away from kids. I’m getting tired of how much time I’m wasting, writing this stupid comment on a stupid article, and I’m sure you’re tired of wasting time reading it. Surely you get plenty of hate mail without my addition.

    One more thing… if you’re so damn fucking smart, you should know that it’s 500 WORDS OR ****FEWER****

  13. Trololololol Says:

    u mad bro?

  14. Peter Jacobs: Certified Dick Says:

    ya got me…

  15. Current Columbia student Says:

    Thanks writer, as a current Columbia student i am so mad that these publications are picking on our freshmen. Look, I understand that Peter Jacobs, a senior at the “ivy league” known as Suny Ithaca, has nothing better to do than “co edit” for this lame blog that probably doesn’t even pay a working wage. But just because you are a failure doesn’t mean that you get to pick apart some 17 year old’s hopes and dreams because Columbia rejected you. Literally, do you even remember what it was like to be a freshman, excited about the school you were going to? way to ruin that feeling asshole.

  16. Charles Xavier Says:

    Reading this article was like watching Satan themed strap on porn. Godspeed.

  17. Monkey D. Luffy Says:

    Your anal annihilation is palpable.

  18. Trollololololol Says:

    lol butthurt

  19. TrinityHYPe Says:

    Lol Columbia is a shit school anyways. For people that didn’t get into harvard yale or Princeton :)

  20. nobody really Says:

    is that so? well i hope you aren’t from harvard yale or princeton, because i’m pretty sure the students from those schools and columbia have much more class than you

  21. C '17 Says:

    You ass hole. I have a six figure starting salary job because of Columbia’s powerful reputation and connections.

  22. SEAS 12 Says:

    Yeah so do I it not hard to get if you we’re in SEAS

  23. SEAS 12 Says:

    I meant “are in SEAS”

  24. CC'14 Says:

    Columbia is more selective than Princeton and just as selective than Yale. This HYP obsessiveness of the ’50’s is slowly being overtaken by the truth: HYP aren’t the be all and the end all of an elite American education. Just look at the rise of Stanford, Columbia, and Chicago as proof.

  25. Columbia ChemE Says:

    I am surprised this old timer could use the Internet as well. BUT really HYP is not a big deal any more. My cousin just picked UChicago over Yale for Math/Econ.

  26. rick131 Says:

    Stanford, Columbia, Chicago, MIT are far superior academically to HYP. HYP are the schools of last century.

  27. MRT144 Says:

    Dont forget Caltech and Carnegie Mellon.

  28. Misguided Says:

    You seem to not realize how much having ED affects the acceptance rate.

  29. CC'14 Says:

    It’s only fair considering how much the SEAS acceptance rate brings up the CC acceptance rate. Columbia College’s acceptance rate probably easily surpasses Yale’s and is very close to Harvard’s and Stanford’s.

  30. Yawn Says:

    Who cares? Unless you’re going into finance, undergrad prestige matters little. Plus acceptance rates and yield are subject statistical manipulation. Harvard will always be number one, get over it. I thought Columbia kids were supposed to be above the prestige whoring?

  31. CC'14 Says:

    I’m not prestige whoring, but I cannot simply let Alma Mater be slandered.

  32. CC Says:

    Columbia College has a lower acceptance rate than SEAS but SEAS has a higher average SAT score. Engineering programs have higher acceptance rates than their liberal arts equivalents because engineering is self-selective.

  33. Columbia Engineering Says:

    Uh, you do realize that Stanford, Princeton, Harvard and Yale all have engineering schools, right? Stanford and Princeton have engineering schools ranked in the top 10 nationally. So why should Columbia University exclude SEAS statistics in order to focus on “better” Columbia College numbers when HYP and Stanford all report combined admit and yield rates which include their engineering schools?
    Alone among students and alumni of selective universities, only Columbia people continually try to re-state their selectivity statistics to exclude engineering, in order to create an apples and oranges comparison to Stanford and Princeton in particular, both of which have very highly rated undergraduate engineering schools of meaningful size (relative to their schools of liberal arts).

  34. rick131 Says:

    Columbia does not want to nor should it exclude SEAS in their statistics. Because it is a smaller school, it does raise Columbia’s overall admit rate on paper, but their SAT scores are at or near the top in the US, higher than MIT. HYP and S do not have separate application undergraduate engineering schools like Columbia has, only undergraduate departments.

  35. To Rick131 Says:

    rick131, Each of the engineering schools at HYP and Stanford is a separate school within their respective university structures, with a separate faculty and admission application (though they may use the same form as the college of arts and sciences). Stanford calls theirs the “Stanford School of Engineering” while HYP use the same nomenclature as Columbia does, that is, the HYP schools are called, for example, the “Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.”

    The most recent 25th-75th percentile math and critical reading SAT scores for Columbia’s SEAS cohort is 1370-1550, lower than the corresponding scores for *all* of MIT matriculants of 1410-1560. I’m sure that the scores of MIT engineering students alone, excluding the humanities majors, are even higher.
    Your post contained four assertions and each of them is incorrect.

  36. Counselor Says:

    It has a very small affect on acceptance rate. Just look at MIT and UChicago. Princeton REA is very similar to Columbia ED. Both have 18% acceptance rates early and Princeton knows that the odds of a student getting into Harvard ,Yale or any other top school during the regular round is highly unlikely. The lack of restriction actually lead to a one percent drop in Princeton’s acceptance rate. Princeton is a great school but alumni overly promote it by saying things like Caltech, Chicago and Columbia don’t compare. Even though Princeton has the largest endowment per student its operating budget would not suggest that it is financially stronger than schools like Harvard, Columbia or UChicago. People don’t understand that Columbia uses only a small amount of its endowment gains to cover 9% operating costs where as Princeton must cover 60% its costs via endowment.

  37. Basic Math Says:

    So your contention, then, is that rich institutions are at a disadvantage because their large endowments force them to subsidize a greater percentage of their operating costs with endowment income? Really, that’s what passes for logic at Columbia? Better to have less of your operating costs covered by endowment income rather than more? A school with a greater endowment “must” cover more of its costs via portfolio income? How about rich schools “get to” cover more of their costs via endowment?

  38. Yale 16 Says:

    What he means is that these top schools are spending the same amount of money per year. If penn has the same operating budget as Harvard It doesn’t matter how much they have in the endowment. People assume the more endownment money =more opportunities. This not true because harvard is not spending more on your education than Penn, Yale or Chicago would even thou Harvard has more money.

  39. Counselor Says:

    This is why schools like MIT, Caltech, Chicago and Columbia are just as strong as HYP in spite of having a smaller endowment. And as a Counselor at a major college consulting firm I can also report that Columbia, MIT , and UChicago take enough cross admits from Yale and Princeton to be considered peer institutions. Cornell, Penn ,Dartmouth, Duke and Brown are a step below while Harvard and Stanford are a step above. I know that some Princeton alum or student is going to attack me when I say this but Princeton is closer to Chicago and Columbia than it is to Harvard and Stanford. Yale fares slightly better than Chicago, Princeton and Columbia but not by much. This is based on facts and data. Not opinion.

  40. Counselor Says:

    Also Caltech is on the same level as Princeton Columbia and UChicago.

  41. Lolololol Says:

    Haha Cal Tech. Let me guess, you’re Asian?

  42. To Counselor Says:

    Counselor, are you speaking as an objective adviser “at a major college consulting firm” or as an alumnus of Columbia or Chicago?
    If you are speaking as an objective adviser giving your heartfelt thoughts, then surely you would not mind providing the name of your consulting firm. That is, if your post represents the kind of independent, objective advice which your company provides to its clients, then you should be proud of that advice and be willing to sign your name to it.
    On the other hand, if you are an anonymous graduate of Columbia or Chicago trying to talk up your school, then perhaps staying behind a veil of anonymity is appropriate.
    Don’t get me wrong. The comments on this website are filled with anonymous students and alumni trying to talk up their schools. You are absolutely entitled to do the same. But don’t refer to yourself as a college couselor and expect to gain any credibility unless you’re willing to provide the name of your firm. Until then, you’re just another anonymous shill trying to talk up Columbia and Chicago.
    By the way, you further damage your professional credibility when you judge the desirability of any college by its application acceptance rate. Any simpleton knows that colleges can game their admission rate and enrollment yield rate by any number of technques. The only thing that really matters is where the best students are going.
    The winning colleges are not those that get the most applicants to apply, but those colleges that get the best applicants to matriculate.
    By the way,

  43. Columbia Posters Says:

    Any poster who focuses on admission rate as a proxy for school quality is from Columbia. This includes “Counselor” and “Rick131.”

  44. rick131 Says:

    According to US News Columbia and Yale are tied for first for highest combined SAT scores, GPA, and class rank.

  45. US colleges Says:

    “Just as selective than…” English?

  46. Harvard SEAS'14 Says:

    You clearly go to Princeton because people from Harvard don’t believe in the HYP crap.

  47. I didnt get into columbia Says:

    am i the only one who actually downloaded a majority of their essays?

  48. Guest Says:

    I was also able to get a few of them. Wanna share? (

  49. Mike Says:

    The Google drive was deleted. Did anyone manage to download the whole thing and can you post the link? Thank you.

  50. Brown 13' Says:

    Even though I do go to another Ivy League school that isn’t Columbia, I am extremely disgusted at this article. However, I am also very surprised that the students in the Columbia group acted on this idea.

    An admissions letter is an extremely sacred document that is literally a piece of you and should be kept between you and the admissions office that reviews it. If you do want to share it with friends, you should only share it with people that you know extremely well. Personally, I only shared my admissions letter with one of my friends at Brown and another at Harvard, and that’s just because we grew up together and went through the process before the fact. I didn’t mind showing them the one part of my life that they didn’t know about because they knew me so well already.

    Additionally, there is a market for successful Ivy League admissions letters.I wouldn’t be surprised if your letters may be modified and put into a book in the next year or so. I also wouldn’t be surprised if some overambitious members of the class of 2014 may use them to pick out commonalities (i’m sure among some of the letters, some exist) and modify their own essays.

    The bottom line is that it was a bad idea. I’m honestly sorry that you guys had to be exposed in this way but hopefully you’ll learn from it.

  51. Ameenah M. Doumbia Says:

    An extremely sacred document?!? BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA… You have clearly had ZERO life experience to date if you COLLEGE ADMISSION LETTER is classified as extremely sacred!!

    LMBO… IM crying! Lorddd!!

  52. H 14 Says:

    If someone writes about how they were inspired by their mother dying from cancer or how they lived in poverty for most of their lives, how is that not sacred? Do you honestly think that it would be a good idea for them to share that part of themselves with someone else who they didn’t know at the risk of having the world see it?

    Rather than the commenter not having life experience, I think that you’re just pretty fucking stupid “Ameenah”.

    LMBO…I crying! Lorddd!!!

  53. Ameenah M. Doumbia Says:

    Majority of those “sacred documents” were NOT about living in poverty or death…They were about their deeeeepppp passion of musical theatre and other weak meaningless shxt.

    At 17 and 18, there is too much life left to be living so NO, I have no qualms about stating freakin teenagers didn’t write about sacred moments in their lives in their COLLEGE ADMISSION LETTERS! And if you’re writing about your mother dying of cancer to convince someone you should be admitted into a college… thats pretty desperate… Its should be an exhibition of what you have to offer to the school, as an individual….

    Save your sacred thoughts for your fxcking diary you naive lump of teenage loserdom!

  54. H 14 Says:

    “And if you’re writing about your mother dying of cancer to convince someone you should be admitted into a college… thats pretty desperate… ”

    1) Someone close to you dies
    2) You gain the motivation from this to do certain extracurriculars and/or pursue a certain path in life (pre-med for example)
    3) You write an admissions letter to college describing your personal struggle, how you dealt with it and what it taught you.
    4) Colleges see your admissions letter and understand what makes you tick.

    In other words, that is a GREAT exhibition of what you have to offer to the school.

    I can go on and on, but I just checked your twitter and I realized that you go to UChicago. That makes perfect sense, since only someone from UChicago would browse a website for Ivy League undergrads, post things like “shxt”, “Lordddd!”,”fxcking”, and generally dumb points. How about you:

    A) Stop commenting and embarrassing your school.

    B) Realize that this forum isn’t for you.

    C) Go on a UChicago forum.

    Okay? :)

  55. Ameenah M. Doumbia Says:

    Just because theres a see more option on your comment means you give wayyy too many fxcks about this…

    I do not. Thanks but no thanks


  56. jim Says:

    Not to worry. The H says it all.

  57. US colleges Says:


  58. wow Says:

    um. the admission essay you wrote for colleges can be important to you, but the letter of admission is _not_ sacred that’s preposterous

  59. wow_you_need_an_identity Says:

    stopped reading at “An admissions letter is an extremely sacred document that is literally a piece of you”

  60. sddsa Says:


  61. deb cah Says:

    Don’t worry too much about your individuality, you sound like you’ll fit right in at Columbia. If you still have a burning desire to be seen as different however, just start being good at sports.” so funny!

  62. deb cah Says:

    Now that I have read more, I take my comment about that statement being funny back, I thought this entire thread was a joke not actual kid essays.

  63. Goodbye Ivygate Says:

    So… is this site just like dead now?

  64. Says:

    Include quite a lot of complete grains in your nutritious
    diet, including whole wheat, brown rice, millet, quinoa, and barley.

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